Netflix embarks on game development
Netflix has hired former Oculus vice president of content Mike Verdu as vice president of game development, the company confirmed to PC Gamer. The Bloomberg business newspaper, which also spoke to an anonymous source at Netflix, called the rental Netflix’s “first big step” towards an expansion in video games.
In May, Netflix said it was “excited to do more with interactive entertainment” following a rumor that it was planning to do exactly what we hear today: hire game development managers and create video games. The Bloomberg source now says Netflix hopes to release games within a year.
It’s unclear what exactly that will look like exactly, but one thing is clear: Everyone is getting into gaming these days, eh? Amazon and Google have apparently struggled with the company (Amazon hasn’t released anything good yet, and Google shut down its Stadia studios before doing anything), but to its credit, Netflix has already released something. what you might call a blockbuster video game. He produced Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film that we really liked. You vs Wild may have been less successful, but James liked to feed Bear Grylls bear poop.
Videos with choices don’t quite compare to New World, Amazon’s repeatedly delayed attempt to make an MMO, but I wonder if Netflix will shut down with a “bear poo” button: can -will be following in the footsteps of other movie companies and getting a big game studio before selling it to EA or Disney, who later shut it down. It would be the traditional approach.
Seriously, Bloomberg suggests that Netflix’s push into gaming isn’t just about interactive shows, although it can start small and ramp up. The post also notes that Netflix is accepting applications for an interactive product innovation director. This job listing specifically refers to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, however, and says the department is working on “gaming experiences and different ways of interacting with stories.” It doesn’t look like a Sex / Life MOBA, that’s what the streaming service has in mind right now; I would expect Bandersnatch-alikes for now.
Even if Netflix starts slowly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took big swings in the years to come. There are many streaming services with movies and TV shows out there, so Netflix’s value currently lies in acquiring and developing exclusive hits. The addition of game streaming would differentiate it from HBO, Disney, Hulu, and the rest in a more fundamental way. And if game streaming is the future, like Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia and everyone seems to be thinking, why wouldn’t Netflix be the Netflix of games? This is what I would think if I were the kind of person that investors trust to make them the most money possible.
It is perhaps interesting that Netflix has recently shown a general interest in the gaming audience. He teamed up with CD Projekt to host WitcherCon the other day – the Netflix Witcher series benefited greatly from the popularity of games, and vice versa – and did a lot of game-based shows. Netflix’s Castlevania series is the best of them so far, and there are more to come. The Dota series that Netflix helped produce was average, but another season to come as well, and there’s also an ongoing League of Legends series and a few Ubisoft shows in development, including an Assassin’s Creed live-action show and a Far Cry anime.
About today’s big hire: Verdu was VP of VR / AR content on Facebook at the last check, but making deals for Oculus games is only part of his total career. He co-founded the 90s adventure game studio Legend Entertainment and continued to lead it after its acquisition by Atari. He then oversaw EA Los Angeles for almost seven years, went to Zynga for a few years, founded a mobile developer, and then headed EA’s mobile games division for a year and a half. Verdu appears in the credits of Unreal 2, Command & Conquer 3 and 4, and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, to name a few games. (Trivial note: EA LA was one of those old closed movie studios I referred to; it started out as DreamWorks Interactive.)
Netflix will release its financial results for the second quarter of 2021 next week, Tuesday, July 20, and it could make some noise about its plans then.