Apple, Microsoft, Sony and Google have all tried to create a “Netflix for games”, offering unlimited access to a library of titles for a flat monthly fee. But a growing number of reports suggest they may be about to face stiff competition from the streaming company itself.
Netflix has been approaching senior game industry executives about joining it to lead the creation of a subscription games service, according to reports from the tech news site the Information and Reuters.
Video games are not completely alien to the streaming service. It has licensed some of its in-house properties, including Stranger Things and The Dark Crystal, to developers to create tie-in games in the past. And the company has produced a growing range of “interactive movies”, including Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs the Reverend, which employ simple video game mechanics and mild interactivity to create an accessible experience.
Those movies and games were the company’s first tentative steps into the market, and a Netflix representative said user response was positive. “Members also enjoy engaging more directly with stories they love,” a spokesperson said, “through interactive shows like Bandersnatch and You vs Wild, or games based on Stranger Things, La Casa de Papel [Money Heist] and To All the Boys. So we’re excited to do more with interactive entertainment.”
However, the new offering is at a very early stage, with executives focusing on Apple Arcade as the potential competition. Users of that service, exclusive to Apple’s iPhones, iPads, Macs and AppleTV, pay a flat monthly fee of £4.99 for access to a library of downloadable games, spanning genres and target audiences. Apple sets strict rules on developers, banning them from monetising their games through in-app purchases or advertising, in order to try to keep Arcade a premium service.
One key decision that has not yet been finalised is whether a game subscription service would also require Netflix to develop games itself. Apple Arcade is filled entirely by third-party developers, but other gaming subscriptions rely on first-party exclusives to drive signups. Microsoft, with its Game Pass service, and Sony’s PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus tempt users in with access to hits such as Halo and God of War. Google’s attempts to enter the market, with its Stadia video game streaming platform, have been comparatively unsuccessful, a fact blamed by many on the lack of exclusive titles.
Similarly, Netflix has not yet decided whether its gaming service would use streaming technology, like that pioneered by Stadia and used by some of Microsoft and Sony’s services, or create apps for download to devices.
Either way, the company will have a fight on its hands. Apple, in particular, has been firmly opposed to gaming companies creating subscription services on its platform. In its high-profile clash with Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, the iPhone maker found itself trying to explain why it did not allow companies such as Microsoft to sell their own games subscriptions on the App Store, even while it let Netflix sell TV subscriptions.
Emails published in that case revealed how desperately Apple tried to keep Netflix offering in-app purchases for its subscriptions. But if the streaming service enters gaming as a comparatively new player, the balance of power would be reversed and Apple could find it much easier to dictate terms.
Netflix remains a force to be reckoned with, however. The company reached more than 200 million subscribers in January this year. Microsoft’s Game Pass, by contrast, has just over a tenth that, at 23 million.
Source : Guardian