Netflix Starts Streaming Video Games—Here’s Why It’s a Big Deal

Starting today via a limited test, Netflix is now streaming video games directly to devices, eliminating the need to download entire games or own a powerful console or computer that’s capable of running the games natively.

Netflix is testing out two of its streaming video games for select users in Canada and the United Kingdom, supporting select TV models as well as Windows PCs, macOS computers, and mobile devices. Consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox Series X or Sony’s PlayStation 5 are not among the currently supported devices.

The news was announced today via a Netflix blog post after the streaming giant quietly rolled out an app called “Netflix Game Controller” for iOS last week.

Netflix VP of Games Mike Verdu wrote Monday that while the tech company is still “very early in our games journey,” it will offer its beta testers two games to start. One is Oxenfree, an eerie narrative adventure game from Night School Studio which Netflix acquired in 2021. The second is a gem-mining arcade game called Molehew’s Mining Adventure. 

“This limited beta is meant to test our game streaming technology and controller, and to improve the member experience over time,” Verdu wrote in the post.

Netflix first added downloadable games to its catalog in 2021, but with this new initiative, larger and more robust games can be streamed to potentially any supported device. Since the games are running on a remote server and then are beamed to your screen, you just need a solid internet connection to play.

Verdu said that Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast with Google TV, LG TVs, Nvidia Shield TV, Roku devices and TVs, Samsung Smart TVs, and Walmart ONN TVs will be the television types supported for this limited test, with more devices to be “added on an ongoing basis.” 

There has been no mention of support for video game controllers or any game consoles yet. Given that the current iteration of the iOS controller app only offers a few buttons, it’s unlikely that particularly complex games will be added until the app is refined—or support for physical controllers is added.

Netflix did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

Netflix bets on gaming

Why does Netflix’s big push into gaming matter? Gaming competes for user attention alongside other entertainment options like television and movies, not to mention social video platforms and apps too. Video games, like films, tell stories and can immerse participants in another world—but add choice and interactivity into the mix.

Netflix’s streaming competitors like Amazon and Apple have already dipped into gaming, including Amazon’s various gaming benefits for Prime users and ownership of the video game streaming platform Twitch. Apple also earns gaming revenue from taking a 30% cut of all in-app purchases through its massive App Store’s gaming catalog, and offers its Apple Arcade subscription service with exclusive games.

More broadly, video games have vastly grown beyond the perception of them being a niche hobby for a small group of introverts. In fact, research from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has found that as of this year, 212.6 million Americans play games for at least one hour a week.

It’s not just for kids, either—62% of adults over 18 years old and 76% of children under 18 play video games in the United States. When it comes to platforms, the ESA found that 64% of gamers used mobile devices for gaming, while just 45% of those studied used a computer to play games. 

The bottom line is that video games are a multibillion-dollar industry for Netflix to explore, and casual mobile games are a popular game type. Citing Circana data, the ESA’s gaming report shared that Americans spent $56.6 billion on video games last year—a figure that has grown by $13 billion since 2019. 

Netflix’s expansion into gaming has been years in the making, but by testing the ability to stream playable games to potentially any device that can run Netflix’s core video content, it could vastly increase the number of gamers out there—and perhaps fill the void of new content as the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes rage on.

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