Bloomberg reports that Netflix has hired Oculus vice president of content Mike Verdu as vice president of game development. The business newspaper characterizes renting as Netflix's "first big step" toward an expansion into video games.
In May, Netflix said it was "excited to do more with interactive entertainment" after the rumor that it planned to do exactly what we're hearing today: hiring game development executives and making video games. We said then what we’re saying now, that it looks like Netflix is starting to develop games, but apparently the pace is picking up. The Bloomberg source says the hope is to offer games on Netflix within a year.
What exactly will look like is not clear, but one thing is clear: everyone is getting into games today, huh? Apparently, Amazon and Google have struggled with the business (Amazon has yet to release anything good and Google close their Stadia studios before they did anything), but to their credit, Netflix has already released something that could be called a successful video game. He produced Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film that we really enjoyed. You vs. Wild may have been less successful, but James liked to make Bear Grylls eat bear poop.
Videos with options are not very comparable to the New World, the delayed attempt by Amazon in an MMO, but I wonder if Netflix will stop with the button "bear poo": maybe follow in the footsteps of other film companies and get a large game studio before selling EA or Disney, which will later close. This would be the traditional approach.
Seriously, Bloomberg suggests that Netflix's push toward gaming isn't just about interactive entertainment, although it may start small and increase. The publication also notes that Netflix accepts requests for director of interactive product innovation. This list of jobs refers specifically to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, however, and says the department is working on "game-like experiences and different ways to interact with stories." It doesn’t look like a MOBA sex / life service is what the transmission service has in mind right now; Bandersnatch-alikes is waiting for me for now.
Even though Netflix is starting to slow down, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has undergone major changes in the coming years. There are many streaming services with movies and TV shows, so the value of Netflix today depends on acquiring and developing exclusive hits. The addition of game streams would differentiate it from HBO, Disney, Hulu and others in a more fundamental way. And if game streaming is the future, as Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia and everyone seem to think, why shouldn’t Netflix be the Netflix of games? This is what you would think if you were the kind of person investors trusted to make as much money as possible.
Perhaps notable is that Netflix has recently shown a general interest in gaming audiences. He teamed up with CD Projekt to put on WitcherCon the other day – the Netflix Witcher series benefited greatly from the popularity of the games and vice versa – and has been doing many game-based shows. Netflix's Castlevania series is the best of them all, and there's more to come. The Dota series that Netflix helped produce was like that, but there’s also one more season, and there’s also a League of Legends series on the way and some Ubisoft shows in development, including a live action show Assassin's Creed and a Weeping Anime Lighthouse.
As for today’s big hiring: Verdu was vice president of VR / AR content at Facebook in the last control, but bidding for Oculus games is just a bit of his career. He co-founded the adventure game studio Legend Entertainment in the 1990s and continued to run it after Atari acquired it. He then oversaw EA Los Angeles for nearly seven years, went to Zynga for a few years, founded a mobile developer, and then headed EA's mobile gaming division for a year and a half. Verdu appears in the titles of Unreal 2, Command & Conquer 3 and 4 and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, to name a few. (Trivial side note: EA LA was one of those old closed-door movie studios I referred to; it started as DreamWorks Interactive).
Netflix has not publicly announced the rental, but has confirmed it to Bloomberg and CNBC. We contacted Verdu and Netflix for feedback.
Netflix will release the financial results for the second quarter of 2021 next week, Tuesday, July 20, and may make noise about its plans then.