Netflix’s Cloud Gaming Unveiled: What Are the Features and Will It Succeed?

What Are the Features and Will It Succeed

Not only can you binge-watch on Netflix but also binge-game now.

Once upon a time, Netflix began its journey as a DVD rental venture. However, with ever-growing digital alternatives, it pivoted to streaming. This shift completely changed the entertainment industry, swiftly emerging as the epitome of over-the-top (OTT) services. But this is not all. Today, Netflix is ready to redefine entertainment once more, expanding its horizons to become a holistic entertainment provider. So, what do they have on their plate now? Cloud gaming across various devices— a technology that allows users to stream and play games directly from the cloud without the need for expensive hardware. 

A deep dive into Netflix’s gaming ambitions

Netflix made its initial gaming foray in 2021, launching five mobile games on its app, drawing inspiration from its signature shows. The line-up comprised titles like Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Shooting Hoops, Card Blast and Teeter Up. The same year, Netflix expanded its gaming prowess by acquiring Night School Studio based in California. Fast forward to 2022, Netflix acquired three additional studios—Next Games (Finland), Boss Fight Entertainment (Texas) and Spry Fox (Seattle), while also inaugurating two of its own gaming studios in Helsinki and Southern California. With these additions, Netflix now boasts six in-house gaming studios.

The goal, however, was broader than just mobile screens; it encompassed PCs, tablets and Macs. By 2023, as articulated by Mike Verdu, Netflix’s VP of Games, the vision was clear: simplify gaming for its audience. 

Currently, the feature is still in its beta stage, available only to select users in the U.K. and Canada. Though in its nascent stage, Netflix’s gaming venture promises an immersive experience for its audience. The Verge even remarked that launching cloud games might be a game-changer for Netflix, allowing them to vie for substantial gaming time on TVs and PCs. 

Preceding this gaming initiative, Netflix had dabbled with interactive storytelling through offerings like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) and You vs. Wild (2019), allowing viewers to decide the course of the story. These interactive ventures, especially Bandersnatch, received acclaim, with The Wired heralding it as a “new storytelling era”, while The Verge lauded it as a potent marketing tool for Netflix.

Distinguished features of Netflix’s cloud gaming 

Gaming line-up 

Netflix’s cloud gaming roster features titles like Night School Studio’s Oxenfree, a supernatural thriller where players navigate a ghostly mystery as the character Alex. Another is Molehew’s Mining Adventure, a gem-mining arcade game. 

If you are interested in mobile gaming, Netflix offers a total of 70 games inspired by Netflix’s original shows for its subscribers for free. Notable titles include The Queen’s Gambit Chess (2023), Sonic Prime Dash (2023), Narcos: Cartel Wars Unlimited (2023) and Too Hot To Handle: Love is a Game (2022). A significant chunk of this collection resonates with the “cozy game” genre, emphasizing relaxation and comfort over intense gameplay.

Netflix Game Controller app

Say goodbye to traditional wired or Bluetooth controllers for Netflix gaming. In August 2023, Netflix introduced its app-based game controller in the App Store for beta users. The layout is reminiscent of Nintendo’s GameCube controller: a virtual stick-and-button configuration with an enlarged “A” button flanked by smaller “B”, “X” and “Y” buttons. 

Netflix Game Controller’s beta layout Image Courtesy of EuroGamer

While the app is not yet fully operational, users can familiarize themselves with its basic functions. To dive into gameplay, select a game on the TV screen and adhere to the on-screen prompts, utilizing the app controller.

Device compatibility

Netflix’s gaming services shine in their extensive device support, partnering with Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Roku devices, Samsung Smart TVs and Walmart ONN. As each of these platforms has a dedicated following of consumers, Netflix will be able to appeal to a large geography and demographic.

Whether you’re lounging with an LG TV, relaxing with a Roku in the bedroom or immersing in gameplay via Nvidia Shield TV, Netflix ensures its gaming content remains at your fingertips, wherever you are.

Challenges ahead: Netflix’s foray into cloud gaming service might be bumpy

Netflix’s move into cloud gaming is certainly promising, but potential challenges loom large. As tech editor Daniel Howley noted in Yahoo Finance, traditional gaming often demands high-end hardware. Cloud gaming, aiming to bypass this need by streaming games from robust servers, may not ensure a smooth transition for all users.

Also, the cloud gaming arena is fiercely competitive. While Mike Verdu emphasized Netflix’s unique model in 2022, contrasting it with giants like PlayStation and Xbox, it’s essential to acknowledge the hurdles previously encountered by major players, including Google’s Stadia, which folded after struggling to attain mainstream adoption. Giants such as Microsoft, Sony and Nvidia also occupy large segments of the market.

For Netflix, understanding gamers’ intricate preferences and meeting their expectations is crucial. Lewis Ward, Research Director of IDC Research, accentuates the imperativeness of a top-tier gaming experience; anything less could be detrimental.

Howley posits that Netflix, by starting with a curated game library, might be sidestepping some pitfalls that doomed Stadia. Yet, the introduction of features like multiplayer gaming can introduce a slew of complexities.

Nevertheless, Netflix’s venture into cloud gaming does signify a merge of traditional content and interactive entertainment. The beta tests and game streaming initiatives highlight Netflix’s commitment to innovation and superior user experience. Given their track record, this new venture might just redefine entertainment.

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Header image courtesy of Netflix

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