Recent discussions among Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) executives, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, indicate the streaming giant’s interest in turning its video games into a profitable venture. Currently offered free to all subscribers as a strategic move to retain user engagement during idle periods or between favorite show seasons, Netflix is contemplating a shift towards pay-to-play models.
Sources familiar with the discussions reveal potential strategies, including incorporating in-app purchases, charging premium rates for more sophisticated games in development, or providing access to games with ads for subscribers on the ad-supported tier. This marks a departure from Netflix’s previous stance of avoiding ads or in-app purchases within its gaming platform.
These discussions represent a pivotal moment, suggesting a potential change in Netflix’s gaming monetization strategy. In April, Netflix Co-CEO Peters emphasized a desire for a distinct gaming experience, allowing game creators to focus on player enjoyment without concerns about alternative monetization methods like ads or in-game payments.
Netflix’s foray into the gaming industry is a long-term strategy, starting with the introduction of mobile games for free download in 2021. Additionally, the company licenses popular games such as “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” contributing to 11% of Netflix’s game downloads in 2023. While the number of users downloading Netflix games has grown significantly, with 81.2 million downloads globally in 2023 compared to 28.7 million in 2022, the daily engagement remains low, with less than 1% of global subscribers playing the games daily as of October, according to Apptopia.
In recent years, Netflix has acquired several small gaming studios and focused on developing games tied to its original shows and movies. The high cost of video game development, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, is prompting Netflix to explore the possibility of charging customers to play. Despite investing approximately $1 billion in acquiring gaming studios and building the gaming business, analysts question Netflix’s move into the video game industry. Capital Group, a major stakeholder in Netflix, has raised concerns about the value of this venture and its potential diversion of resources away from core programming, given that Netflix spends $17 billion annually on shows and movies.
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