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Netflix’s gaming plans take shape with big-name hire

Netflix is currently the biggest name in subscription video streaming, but it appears that the company is looking to move beyond films and television and into video games.

Bloomberg reports that the company has just appointed a VP of games development, and the name should prove an interesting one to those that believe games have no place on the streaming video service. Mike Verdu has previously been chief creative officer at Zynga during the Farmville boom days, worked at EA bringing big franchises to smartphones and at Facebook helping push games to the Oculus VR platform. 

Facebook, smartphones and VR: all three of these platforms were once dismissed as areas where gaming couldn’t flourish, and Verdu’s CV proves that that’s not always the case. Even if Farmville wasn’t to your tastes, there’s no denying it wasn’t hugely successful, after all.

Bloomberg reports that the gaming team is currently being built up, and the plan is for gaming to be introduced to Netflix in the next year. What form this will take is, for the moment, something of a mystery. 

Will it be more interactive movies like the innovative Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, or something more traditional to rival Apple Arcade or Xbox Game Pass? The latter would require actual hardware capable of running games, but it’s not like Netflix doesn’t already live on devices capable of outputting decent graphics, from smartphones to Fire TV sticks, while Google, Nvidia and Microsoft have all independently proven that cloud-based gaming is perfectly possible with a decent internet connection.

Then there’s the thorny issue of pricing. Will this be part of the overall Netflix package, or an optional extra? If it’s included by default, then can it work without an unwelcome price hike? Bloomberg’s source says the company doesn’t currently plan to charge extra, but the word “currently” could be doing a lot of heavy lifting here. 

All of these questions should be answered in the next couple of years, and it will be fascinating to see the decisions Netflix takes along the way.

When approached for comment, Netflix confirmed the hiring of Verdu, and pointed us to comments made by Greg Peters, chief operating officer and chief product officer at Netflix, during the company’s Q1 earnings call.

“We’re in the business of creating these amazing deep universes and compelling characters and people come to love those universes and they want to immerse themselves more deeply and get to know the characters better and their back stories and all that stuff,” he said. “And so really we’re trying to figure out what are all these different ways that we can increase those points of connection, we can deepen that fandom. And certainly, games is a really interesting component of that. So whether it’s gamifying some of the linear storytelling we’re doing like interactive, Bandersnatch, and the kids interactive programs, that’s been super interesting.”

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