Netflix Forays into Video Games with Night School Studio Acquisition

Netflix

Gamers alert! Soon, you will be able to play video games on Netflix.

On September 28, 2021, streaming service Netflix announced its first game-related acquisition: Night School Studio. The studio is best known for its game “Oxenfree”, which is a supernatural teen thriller. In a bid to diversify its offerings, Netflix has also released five mobile-friendly video games in Europe (i.e. Spain, Italy and Poland). The company expounded in a press release, “Like our shows and films, these games will all be included as part of your Netflix membership—all with no ads and no in-app purchases.”

Celebrating the merger, Night School Studio tweeted, “Small team of story-loving game people joins [a] big team of game-loving story people”.

Transition to video games–four months in the making

In July of this year, the company announced its plans to incorporate video games during an earnings call. The Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer of Netflix Greg Peters shared, “We think we can deliver more entertainment value through [games].” In a letter to the company’s shareholders, he noted that they think “the time is right” to learn more about how “our members value games”. For Netflix, it is just another “new content category”. In the letter, they likened it to their expansion into creating original films and unscripted television shows. 

Slow business growth boosted support for video games

In the second quarter of 2021, Netflix’s subscriber count fell by 400,000. Given the slow growth, the company realized it had to do something to drive people to the platform. Enter video games. The co-Chief Executive of Netflix Reed Hastings said during the earnings call in late September, “The reason we’re doing them is to help the subscription service grow and be more important in people’s lives.” During the call, Peter noted that this move was a “core part” of the company’s subscription offering. In keeping with their plans, they got Facebook executive Mike Verdu on board as the Vice President of Game Development

Acquiring Night School Studio

In 2014, cousins Sean Krankel and Adam Hines founded Night School Studio. It develops video games that follow a “player-driven” narrative. With four video games under their belt, the company will design original video games for Netflix. Of the acquisition, Krankel wrote in a blog post, “Netflix gives film, TV, and now game makers an unprecedented canvas to create and deliver excellent entertainment to millions of people.” Revealing his excitement, he added, “Not only do we get to keep doing what we do, how we like to do it, but we get a front-row seat on the biggest entertainment platform in the world.” He also mentioned that the company would keep creating independent games alongside this new venture.

On the decision to get Night School Studio onboard, the Netflix press release noted, “We’re inspired by their bold mission to set a new bar for storytelling in games. Their commitment to artistic excellence and proven track record make them invaluable partners as we build out the creative capabilities and library of Netflix games together.”

What the future holds

In a blog post, Verdu said, “We’ll continue working with developers around the world and hiring the best talent in the industry to deliver a great collection of exclusive games.” In addition to that, Peters hinted at the possibility of creating video games inspired by Netflix shows—Stranger Things, Black Mirror, and the like—in the future. He shared, “That would be an amazing place to get to, to really see the rich interplay between these different forms of entertainment.”

The company plans on kicking off with games only for mobile devices. 

Header Image by Flickr

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