Netflix Gaming Is Failing. So What Will Happen To The Game Developers?
Netflix isn't getting what it wants right now, and it seems to be throwing its toys out of the pram.
The last few months have seen controversy for the streaming service, as it has begun to raise its prices for consumers, cracking down on those same consumers for sharing their accounts, and cannibalising its own editorial and animation projects.
The end of the Tudum site spelt a catastrophic brick wall for writers, canning its blogging efforts with immediate effect and brutal efficiency, and purchasing The Lego Movie team Animal Logic after stripping its own animation teams for parts was an embarrassing, negligent spit in the face of the teams that helped to push the service to the grand cultural heights it has enjoyed. And with little to offer right now beyond Stranger Things and The Sandman, they're failing to keep up with their own hype, and consumers are beginning to bow out in favour of other services that appear more directly to them.
And it's not just here that the company is struggling - because their gaming foray is disintegrating before our very eyes. And one pocket of game developers could be destroyed in the process.
Netflix Gaming Has Flopped. Hard
Netflix has long expressed its excitement to get involved in gaming, with its first real foray being its introduction of interactive entertainment. Minecraft: Story Mode was the first notable example that made it, serving as a direct port of the console game with the television remote or touch controls performing quicktime events. It really kicked off with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, though, with the sci-fi satire using its format to act as a meta-commentary of the modern man's obsession with technology.
Since then, Netflix has wanted to go deeper, introducing Stranger Things mobile games baked into the service's mobile app and letting consumers engage with games with but a single tap, and as it introduces more games from third parties, it's clear that Netflix is getting serious about its gaming side. But it isn't working.
A new report has suggested that only 1% of Netflix users have opened a game in the app, serving as a deeply disappointing shock to Netflix's system that indicates that gaming may simply fail to function for its users. After all, when users are so used to downloading games from the app store, and the gaming side of Netflix has been so poorly advertised to its consumers that many just don't know it's there.
Netflix gaming is in trouble. But Netflix will survive. Its developers might not.
Night School Studio Could Be On The Line
Back in September 2021, Netflix announced that they'd made their first official big purchase in preparation to foster their own games. They had purchased Night School Studio, the team behind the indie darling Oxenfree and its sequel, as well as a myriad of other creative titles.
According to Night School's Sean Krankel, Netflix had "shown the utmost care for protecting our studio culture and creative vision," and he insisted that work on Oxenfree II would go ahead just as their other works would. As of right now, we're yet to see the fruits of the partnership, and whether it boils down to just another point of income for Netflix or an exclusivity deal for the team's games.
But, that's where the historic flippancy of Netflix comes in. The company has developed a habit of gutting the things it doesn't like just to completely rebuild, much like it did with its in-house animation studios, and just as it did by completely severing its Tudum writers to then advertise the now-vacant roles mere days later. Netflix doesn't seem to understand the real-world impact that these scrappings have on individuals (or it knows and does it anyway, and it's hard to say which option is worse), and though Night School Studio has confirmed that Netflix was excited to let them run the ship when the acquisition was made official, we know that the company has undergone a lot of change since then.
Netflix is, as of right now, in the middle of a crying fit, screeching, kicking, and taking its subscriber downticks out on the least deserving. Their attitude reeks, and there's little that we can say when it comes to Night School. They could be on the line, and for a team as talented as they are, to be dissolved into Netflix at large would be a travesty.
The Acidic Belly Of Netflix Could Dissolve Talented Dev Teams
There are no promises at Netflix. Whether you're Santa Clarita Diet or a writer on their editorial team, there's nothing stopping the company from decimating your job because it's tired of not seeing immediate profit from you. And that very same attitude could come down on their entire gaming adventure, dragging publishers, developers, writers and animators into the pits of redundancy.
Nobody deserves the fate that Netflix has dealt out to many, and yet, even with impressive development feats under their belts, there are no promises for the future of Night School Studio. The team hasn't yet responded to our request for comment on their future with Netflix, which doesn't exactly spell success for them. The Oxenfree team deserve better than what Netflix is almost certainly going to give them.