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Netflix planning expansion into the gaming market
According to new report - but can it afford to do it properly?
It's no secret that, in this cross-media world we live in, it makes sense for companies established in one entertainment sector to try their hand in at least one other, maybe more. But historically speaking success is far from assured and, more often than not, the whole effort of expanding a brand to unexplored territories where other brands reign supreme leads to mediocre results, if not downright failure. It seems that nobody has told Netflix that, though, because according to a report over at The Information the streaming giant is looking for an executive to oversee the company's expansion into the video games market.
Netflix has already dipped its toes into game releases, having collaborated with different developers on titles based on the service's Stranger Things and Narcos TV shows. Their quality was questionable. Then there are those "interactive shows", such as Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Minecraft: Story Mode which, let's face it, cannot be called actual games just because they follow the structure of text-based adventures from the 80s. So if Netflix is said to be looking for an executive to oversee the creation of "an Apple Arcade-like service", chances are it's not talking about experiments like those mentioned earlier, but for "full", "proper" video games for consoles, for smartphones/tablets or both.
Netflix may not have fully realized what it's planning on getting into, though. The video games market is notoriously difficult to penetrate as companies like Disney, Amazon or Google can attest, each having failed to make a splash during the last few years despite considerable effort on their part. In order for anyone to make gamers stop playing the games they are invested in (on either console or mobile) for a minute and pay attention to something new, he or she has to offer something truly special - and truly special productions are not easily offered by companies with no experience in this market. It's a vicious circle extremely tough to break regardless of the company, the brand or the funds.
Then there's the question of what would Netflix bring to the table as a games publisher, to begin with. The whole point of a brand making the leap from one form of entertainment to another is to capitalize on already known IPs for launching new products with a better chance of success. Netflix has produced several TV shows and maybe a few movies that could conceivably serve as video game material - from Altered Carbon and The Umbrella Academy to Extraction and The Old Guard - but nothing so wildly popular as to attract high sales all by itself. If Disney had a problem with bringing famous IPs to gaming successfully, won't everyone else?
This report from The Information comes at an uncertain time for Netflix. The company's growth has slowed dramatically, its market share is being threatened for the first time ever by Disney Plus and others, the overall quality of its productions is constantly put into question and its third-party movie catalog is getting thinner as Hollywood studios keep their films for their own streaming services. On one hand, expanding to a new market would certainly help Netflix in the long run - it's always wise to have more than a few revenue streams after all - on the other this is a business decision that cannot be made halfheartedly. Hastings and co, once having made it, will have to see this through despite the probable high expense. Otherwise, it will just prove to be a (very costly) mistake.
Can the streaming giant really afford to make a proper leap to gaming while funding more and more expensive movies and TV shows in order to compete with Disney Plus and the other Hollywood studios' streaming services? We'll all find out in due course!