Bloomberg reports that Netflix has hired Mike Verdu, VP of Oculus content, as VP of Game Development. The business journal describes the hiring as Netflix’s first big step towards expansion into video games.
Back in May Netflix said that it is “excited to do more with interactive entertainment” after a rumor was raised that doing exactly what we hear today: hiring game development executives and making video games.
Everyone is interested in games these days, right? Amazon and Google are apparently struggling with business (Amazon hasn’t released anything good, and Google has closed its Stadia studios before they even did anything), but Netflix has already released what could be called a successful video game. It produced Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film that we liked it very much. You vs Wild may have been less successful, but James enjoyed it Get Bear Grylls to eat bear poop.
Videos with choices are not entirely comparable to New world, Amazon’s repeated delayed attempt at an MMO, but I wonder if Netflix will stop with a “Bear Poo” button. Maybe it will follow in the footsteps of other film companies and get a big game studio up and running before one day it is sold to EA or Disney, who then shut it down.
Seriously, Bloomberg suggests that Netflix doesn’t limit itself to interactive shows, although it can start small and ramp up. The publication also indicates that Netflix is applying for a Interactive Product Innovation Director. However, this job posting is specific to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and says the interactive department is working on “game-like experiences and different ways of interacting with stories”. So it doesn’t sound like you’re thinking of a Netflix MOBA right now.
Even if Netflix starts slowly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes some big swings in the years to come. There are many streaming services of movies and TV shows out there, so Netflix’s value currently relies on acquiring and developing exclusive hits. Adding streaming games to the mix would set it apart from HBO, Disney, Hulu, and the others in more fundamental ways. And if game streaming is the future, as Google and Microsoft and Nvidia and everyone else seem to think, why shouldn’t Netflix be the Netflix of games? That’s what I would think if I were the kind of person that investors trust to make them as much money as possible.
It is perhaps noteworthy that Netflix has shown a general interest in the gaming audience lately. It teamed up with CD Projekt to recently host the WitcherCon – The Netflix Witcher series benefited greatly from the popularity of the games and vice versa – and more and more shows are being made based on games. Netflix’s Castlevania series is the best of them so far, and there is more to come. It is Dota series was so-so. There are also some Ubisoft shows in development, including a live-action Assassin’s Creed show and a Far Cry anime, as well as a League of Legends series on the way.
About Today’s Big Addition: Verdu was VP of VR / AR content on Facebook, but deals for Oculus games are only part of his overall career. He co-founded and ran the 1990s adventure game studio Legend Entertainment after it was acquired by Atari. He then headed EA Los Angeles for almost seven years, went to Zynga for a few years, founded a mobile developer (which was acquired) and then headed EA’s mobile games division for a year and a half. Verdu appears in the credits of Unreal 2, Command & Conquer 3 and 4, and The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, to name a few.
Netflix did not publicly announce the discontinuation, but Bloomberg confirmed and CNBC. We asked Verdu for a comment. Netflix will be releasing its financial results for the second quarter of 2021 next week, Tuesday, July 20, and could be making more noise about its plans at that time.