🖤 Donations of all sizes power our public service journalism Give Now

Netflix looks to drive growth with games after boost from password crackdown

Meghan McCarty Carino Apr 18, 2024
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Netflix’s booth at the Gamescom video game fair in Cologne, Germany, last year. It's putting capital into its video game operation, but faces high-powered rivals. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

Netflix looks to drive growth with games after boost from password crackdown

Meghan McCarty Carino Apr 18, 2024
Heard on:
Netflix’s booth at the Gamescom video game fair in Cologne, Germany, last year. It's putting capital into its video game operation, but faces high-powered rivals. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Netflix updated investors Thursday on its efforts to continue attracting subscribers to the streaming platform. It’s been about a year since the company started cracking down on password sharing, leading to a nice bump in paying users. But only so many freeloaders are left to convert. One of the platform’s longer-term strategies to drive growth is the video game business it jumped into in late 2021.

If you haven’t logged onto the Netflix app on a mobile device lately, you might not even know there are games. More than 80 of them now. And many are what you’d expect of a free mobile game, said freelance writer Ian Campbell, who’s tested a bunch of them.

“There was a game called Knittens, where you’re matching yarn to make hats for cats. You know, not superserious or superhighfalutin’ stuff,” Campbell said.

There are some games based on Netflix series like “Stranger Things.” And some licensed third-party games, including Grand Theft Auto and one called Kentucky Route Zero.

“It’s sort of like a magical realist road trip through the United States. But the story is very emotional and serious in a way that a lot of those early Netflix games are not,” Campbell said.

The expansion of higher-profile games last year helped drive an increase in downloads, according to data from Apptopia. But only a tiny fraction of Netflix subscribers are playing, said analyst David Cole at DFC Intelligence.

“I don’t think it would be fair to, at this point, to really assess it based on that,” said Cole.

He said three years in the video game world is nothing. It often takes longer to develop an original project. Netflix has bought several game studios, hired some big names and is piloting cloud gaming on TV and PC. But it’ll need more than that to go up against competitors like Sony, Microsoft and Apple, said Joost van Dreunen, who teaches the business of video games at New York University.

“This is always going to be a high-stakes table. What that’s going to cost to compete with these companies is tons of money,” said van Dreunen.

But Netflix is used to writing big checks for content to grow its audience, he added.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.