Netflix Games Can't Be The Netflix Of Games (2024)

When you hear that “Netflix has games” what do you think of? Probably Netflix, but for games, right? You pay a subscription fee, get access to a wide variety of games, and get to play the ones you want and maybe expand into some other games you wouldn’t have tried before.

There’d certainly be a market for it. There’s Xbox Game Pass but currently that only works for Xbox games or Windows PC, while Netflix is on a greater variety of platforms.

Instead what Netflix has is a series of mobile games based on popular console games and their own properties that you can download and play with a Netflix subscription which is somewhat mediocre at best considering very few people know about it.

To their credit, they got some big names. The port of Hades recently dropped, and if for some reason you couldn’t play Hades on any other platform, it’s perfectly serviceable.

But it’s not going to set the world on fire, or really make a dent in Game Pass or console games as is. Maybe if and when they roll out games for browser and TV that could work, but even then it’s a little odd that the beta doesn’t allow you to use a controller to play the game.

The question here is: who is this going to appeal to?

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The hardcore player market isn’t going to leap to play mobile ports of games they probably already own, and games like Dead Cells, Hades, and Kentucky Route Zero aren’t my first pick for casually introducing new people to games, and odds are good anyone enticed by the established games already has them.

There’s an argument for them being for people who are fans of Netflix properties. There are games based on Queen’s Gambit, Shadow and Bone, Stranger Things, and more. But if that’s the case it’s not going to drive subscriptions, and considering they’re looking for ways to monetize their games that would seem to be a priority.

In Netflix’s defense, there are some problems with the existence of a “Netflix for Games” at least in terms of getting a broader audience that’s used to Netflix interested.

For one it’s not as simple as just clicking the show on the menu and starting it, you have to download the game and have that data be saved to your device and the cloud.

This is of course necessary so you don’t have to always be online and in the case of Xbox Game Pass prevents you save data from being wiped if the games leave the service, but it also means you have to download individual games that take up storage space on your phone or tablet, something that Netflix generally helps you avoid having to do.

There’s also the amount of time and active attention games require. The Sopranos runs for about 78 hours across all its seasons. There are games where you might not even be finished with the main story in that time, and you have to be way more on than someone who just wants to kick back and binge a show.

(That isn’t to say games can’t be relaxing, I’m just saying that they’re relaxing in a different way than binging a show.)

And finally, well, Netflix isn’t really Netflix anymore. At least it’s not the Netflix from when I was a kid. There was never a point in time when every movie ever made was available, but you could find a lot more things all in one place when I was a kid. Then everyone had to have their own streaming service and started segmenting their catalogs, and tracking something down is a matter of scouring five or six different services.

And video games -- ever the innovator of terrible business practices -- have been in that situation for a lot longer. If you want access to Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance, Starfield, and God of War: Ragnarok, that’s three different subscription services on three different consoles that all cost upwards of $300, or two $70 games and one subscription service on three different consoles that all cost upwards of $300.

Video games are expensive, and more than that, people are very against the idea that games exclusive to one console will be ported to another because the console war broke a generation of people’s brains.

(That’s not even getting into the fact that the odds of Nintendo ever porting their first-party games to other systems are hilariously low.)

It’s just not a market one can break into haphazardly and seek to make an actual dent. If they genuinely wanted to get more subscriptions from people who play games, launching without TV and browser play was the death knell before anyone even had a chance.

I said already that Netflix is available on multiple platforms, but that’s the problem. Why would Sony make a deal to have their games on Netflix with XBox games when they can just require people download games through their own store with their own subscription service.

Maybe if they can swing some massive exclusive, Netflix can drive up subscriptions, or they can make revenue by trying to monetize their games, but as it stands, Netflix Games is a weird little experiment that’s a dip in the pond in the larger gaming space, unable to appeal to its existing audience and not good enough to entice new people.

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Netflix Games Can't Be The Netflix Of Games (2024)

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