Netflix opens new California studio for game development

Netflix has opened another in-house game development studio, this time in Southern California. Mike Verdu, its vice president of games, announced the news at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, and the studio will be led by Chacko Sonny.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Sonny previously worked at Blizzard Entertainment and served as an executive producer on the Surveillance franchise. In his internal email to Blizzard staff, he wrote that he wanted to “take some time off” after spending five years on Surveillance.

“We are building a team around [Sonny] and counts on him to help reinvent what games can be,” Verdu said at the conference.

Netflix Games first launched in late 2021 and has nearly 40 titles (out of 50 planned by the end of 2022) for users to play. When the “Basic with Ads” plan rolls out on November 3, games will be included ad-free in the package.

Currently, there are games based on hit Netflix shows such as stranger things and The Queen’s Bet on the service, as well as previously released game ports such as Without beef and Spiritfarer. It also recently entered into a partnership with Ubisoft and three mobile titles (including one for Assassin’s Creed) will be released exclusively on the platform.

The Southern California studio follows the establishment of a studio in Helsinki, led by former Zynga Helsinki general manager Marko Lastikka. Earlier this year, Netflix also acquired independent developers Boss Fight Entertainment (Dungeon Boss) and Next Games (The Walking Dead: Our World).

Netflix doesn’t stop at mobile, it’s also eyeing up the cloud

During that same Disrupt conference, Verdu said Netflix was “seriously exploring” a cloud gaming service. Technology has become the talk of the town, with Microsoft in particular going to great lengths to make its Xbox Cloud Gaming service available in as many ways as possible.

Verdu didn’t go so far as to announce a name or say anything definitive, but he did say the streaming service wouldn’t just dive in headlong. small, be humble, be thoughtful, then build,” he said.

Such a service would be a “completely different business model,” Verdu continued, from other offerings such as Xbox Cloud or Amazon Luna. “We are not asking you to subscribe in lieu of the console. […] The hope is that over time it becomes this very natural way to play games wherever you are.

With the way cloud technology is getting bigger and bigger, and even with the impending shutdown of Google Stadia, Verdu thinks this is an area where Netflix Games can shine. “It’s a step we think we need to take to meet members where they are, on the devices where they’re consuming Netflix.”

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