Nobody Seems to Care About Netflix’s Games

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Netflix may have big hits like Stranger Things and Squid Game, but it’s seeing its first subscriber losses in its history. One of the ways Netflix hopes to staunch the bleeding is with a cache of mobile games accessible only to Netflix subscribers. However, app tracking data shows that under one percent of Netflix subscribers are playing those games. 

The streaming behemoth began its exploration of mobile games in 2021, hiring former EA executive Mike Verdu to lead the effort. It’s hard to make money on mobile games, but Netflix isn’t charging for them, at least not separately. Most of the games are exclusive to the Netflix ecosystem, but a few are just premium re-releases of games that non-subscribers can purchase on the App Store or Google Play Store. There are a few Stranger Things games, as well as the Exploding Kittens card game, shooter Into the Dead 2, and more. 

Netflix is forging ahead with its gaming plans, as it intends to increase its 20-something games to about 50 by the end of the year. CNBC used data from third-party app tracking firm Apptopia to see how popular these games have been with members, and the answer is not great news for Netflix. Apptopia’s data shows that Netflix’s games have been downloaded a total of 23.3 million times since the platform launched. All the company’s titles together are only attracting 1.7 million users per day. 

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Some outfits would consider that a success, but Netflix has 221 million subscribers, and these games are available at no extra cost. It does not bode well that less than one percent of subscribers are interested in free mobile games. Mobile gaming development has become mired in avarice, with even the simplest titles often packing in $100 in-app purchases and multiple premium currencies to gate your progress. The Netflix games are unencumbered by such monetization strategies, making them a rarity. 

Netflix initially saw mobile games not only as a way to attract and retain subscribers, but also as a potential future revenue stream. However, their slow growth puts such plans in doubt, even after the company has gone to the trouble of acquiring multiple indie game developers. The company is already treating its subscriber loss as an emergency, announcing plans to begin charging for password sharing and the availability of a cheaper ad-supported tier. Netflix does love to cancel things, so you have to wonder how long this mobile gaming push has to prove useful before it gets canned.

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