What should Netflix Games do to stay on top?

We look at how it works, why it needs to change and how it could or should change

  • Netflix Games remains one of the most undervalued parts of the streaming giant’s subscription
  • A part of that is that most subscribers don’t even know it exists
  • So, now that there are rumblings about changes, how could, or should, it change?

At a time when it seems like everyone is trying to gouge you for more money, it’s rare to find a service that offers dozens of great games at no additional cost, all as part of an existing subscription. Netflix Games, for the last few years, has been that service. But with things set to change, how could they, or rather how should they?

Subscription services for gaming like PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass have become an increasingly important part of the gaming landscape. But Netflix Games remains an underrepresented part of these services, and that’s got execs over at the streaming giant in a bit of a tizzy.

Essentially, the struggle has been how to start making more money. So changes have been made, like raising prices or cracking down on password-sharing. But one aspect of the Netflix Subscription has remained ironclad, the Netflix Games service.

Netflix Games’, well, games are released on app stores as free to download and play, the only requirement is a Netflix subscription to log in with. It boasts dozens of games from different genres, some coming to mobile for the first time via this subscription.

Games like Samurai Shodown, Into the Breach, Sonic Mania Plus, Football Manager 2024, Bloons TD6 and more. We’ve even got a whole list of them, and many are absolutely exclusive to the Netflix storefront, at least for play on mobile.

We think it’s been well worth it, so what’s the issue?

The logo artwork for Dead Cells.

The big problem

While the steadily rising price of Netflix has been a sore point for many, especially with many series and films being lost to competing streamers, Netflix Games really should be a great selling point.

But it goes without saying that one of the major issues of Netflix Games is that few people know it exists. It’s squirrelled away on the app and barely ever advertised outside of outlets like ours already devoted to these sorts of mobile games.

So, it’s no surprise then that the idea of monetising, whether that be via making it part of its own subscription or adding in-app purchases, is an idea that’s been floated around Netflix HQ.

But we think there are other options, let’s lay them out and what issues they might have in turn.

Charging for games

“But you just said – ” Yes, yes, but what we mean here is that games would be charged either as part of the existing subscription or as one-time purchases of their own. Netflix Games has some great exclusives, like fighting game Samurai Shodown, Sonic Mania Plus and Into the Breach, games that many players would gladly pay for on their own.

The advantage here is that you wouldn’t need to lock yourself into an existing subscription, and it means these games can be sold based on their existing appeal rather than as part of an overall package.

So what’s the issue there? Well, it’s mainly rights-related. We’d hazard a guess that many companies leasing part of their catalogue to the Netflix Games service have specific clauses for them to only be on a subscription. Changing that overnight would be next to impossible, and doing so for new games would change the behind-the-scenes negotiations entirely.

The logo and artwork for Slayaway Camp II.

Charging for Netflix Games

This is the most likely course Netflix would take, and probably the one that would kill Netflix Games entirely. Right now the service thrives as being a neat little addition to the main Netflix subscription, a bonus. So if you start charging it rapidly becomes something to be immediately discarded for already cash-strapped viewers.

The fact is, Netflix the tv and film platform has a very different core audience to Netflix Games. And separating the two only means the latter is going to become something more expensive to the parent company and thus, liable to get cut to the bone, making it less appealing for the gaming audience.

Promote it

This is another solution, and what we think is the most agreeable, and it’s the course Netflix seems to be pursuing. Right now Netflix Games has some of the best games to come to mobile and a good deal of exclusive content. For us that’s what the main appeal is, all the good parts are there, it’s just making people aware of it.

We don’t think that focusing on adapting their series or reality TV shows into games will do that, however. Many of these are ill-suited to games or end up competing against existing titles outside the service.

The logo and art for Rogue Palace.

Fingers crossed!

Netflix Games has the potential to be really great, but it’s also in an odd spot. Subscription gaming services need big games to bring in loads of paying customers. And while some, like Game Pass, are great ways to emulate older titles, the entire conversation about having big (usually best-sellers) titles on these services makes it seem like a potential pitfall. That’s without going into what the issues with Xbox’s recent big layoffs have been.

Put simply, Netflix Games should change, but only because we don’t expect a good thing like this to last forever.

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