Netflix’s Next Act Is Investing in Video Games


In 2007, just before DVD sales started to slump, Netflix unveiled its streaming technology. Streaming, which was initially bundled with DVD subscriptions, arrived hot on the heels of widespread predictions about the death of Netflix, which had weathered challenges from giants such as Walmart, Apple, and Amazon. “We’ve gotten used to it,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told The New York Times about the doomsday predictions, before adding that he understood why people were forecasting his company’s demise. “Because DVD is not a hundred-year format, people wonder what will Netflix’s second act be.”

More than 15 years later, Netflix is gearing up for what appears to be its third and most ambitious act: video games. The company has long had its eyes on interactive entertainment: A Stranger Things tie-in game arrived in 2017; the interactive drama Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was released a year later. In its 2021 fourth-quarter earnings report, Netflix admitted that the rise of streaming rivals was affecting its “marginal growth.” Thus, pushing into a new medium makes sense, especially because the company has publicly identified video games as its biggest competition in the cutthroat fight for attention. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” the company stated in its 2019 earnings report. Since then, Netflix has followed the adage of so many smart, merciless companies: If you can’t beat them, join them, and if you need to, buy them.

Sean Krankel, founder of video game studio Night School, sits at the center of this effort. He used to share a building in northeast Los Angeles with the music producer Diplo’s record label, a block away from the Beastie Boys’ recording studio. Now, following the acquisition of his company by Netflix in September 2021, the game maker works out of Netflix’s L.A. building, a space at the heart of corporate Hollywood that he says looks like a “Hype Williams music video.” Rather than brushing shoulders solely with independent creatives, he and his newly enlarged team brush shoulders at lunch with computer engineers and more than a few movie and TV makers. Wednesday was a big day for both Krankel and Netflix: It marked the arrival of Night School’s latest game, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, for PC, PlayStation, Switch, and mobile—the highest-profile game yet produced by a Netflix-owned studio.

Even with positive reviews (“a refreshingly slow-paced adventure,” wrote The Guardian; “spooky sequel tenderly captures the ambiguity of early adulthood,” opined Kotaku), Night School alone won’t take the fight to Fornite. Oxenfree II, like the studio’s other titles, is an artsy, single-player experience. Yet for this very reason, the fit with the streaming giant seems natural. Netflix is one of the planet’s leading producers of narrative entertainment; Night School is a game studio committed to interactive storytelling and adept at wringing compelling mechanics from tools of drama such as dialogue.

Since acquiring Night School, Netflix has bought three additional existing studios outright; it has also established two, one in Helsinki and another in California. There are some 67 games in the Netflix library, playable through its iOS and Android apps; 86 more are in development, with 16 of those being made by in-house studios. Consequently, Netflix Games has swollen to 450 employees, headed up by VP of games Mike Verdu (a former Electronic Arts executive), VP of game studios Amir Rahimi (former president of mobile games company Scopely), and VP of external games Leanne Loombe (who joined from League of Legends developer Riot).

In spite of the new division’s rapid expansion, its ambitions have appeared (at least by the standards of other tech companies moving into the video game space) remarkably sensible—perhaps even cautious. Indeed, distinguishing Netflix from the likes of Google and Amazon—the former of which recently shuttered its cloud gaming service, Stadia, while the latter has suffered a string of failed projects—was part of Netflix’s pitch to Krankel when negotiations took place in 2020. “We’ve seen many players come into the space and attempt to take a big swing,” Krankel says. “[We heard] early on that the approach was going to be very careful and measured and that it would not be, ‘Let’s climb to the top of the mountain and plant a Netflix flag in there and [say] we’re changing the industry.’”

For the time being, Netflix is doggedly sticking to its mobile-first message: The company declined requests to interview Verdu and Rahimi, the two executives whose work will arguably bear fruit further down the line. Nor has it allowed access to anyone at its newly established studios in Helsinki or California, the latter of which is working on an all-new “AAA multiplatform game” led by game makers with considerable chops: Joseph Staten, a key creative on the Halo and Destiny franchises, and Chacko Sonny, former Overwatch executive producer. Netflix appears disinclined to reveal too much of its hand before it’s absolutely ready to do so.

Still, even as Krankel talks up the company’s slow-and-steady approach, he’s visibly animated about what the mid- to long-term future at Netflix holds. On the subject of “transmedia storytelling,” surely the buzziest term in all of entertainment, he says “the momentum is real” and that it’s “always” on his mind. As for cloud gaming, which has the potential to shake up the industry more than any other technology in the coming years, he says he’s “excited” about the “ubiquitous, simple, and frictionless” possibilities it offers. Between these two pillars of Netflix’s strategy, Krankel and his team arguably find themselves at the nexus of not just the future of video games but entertainment at large. If they have a counterpart, it’s perhaps the TV and movie creatives who must have felt something similar a little over a decade ago, just as video on demand was poised to upend how we watch, what we watch, and how people who make what we watch get paid.

Time may be the most important factor in understanding how Netflix is approaching its push into video games. Loombe frequently stresses how “early” in the process the company is. “We don’t want to assume that we’re going to get every single member to play overnight, or that we’re going to be able to provide a game to every single one of our members straightaway,” she says via video chat. “We’re really thinking about this as a long-term play.”

To put into perspective how long a play this might turn out to be, consider Netflix’s streaming drive of the 2000s and 2010s. The investor, author, and essayist Matthew Ball dates the development of Netflix’s streaming software all the way back to 2001. It would take six years for streaming to be made publicly available, and even then, it wouldn’t become its own stand-alone service for another three years. Netflix as we conceive of it today began life in 2011 with the announcement of a two-season order for House of Cards. That’s a full decade Netflix spent building up its streaming and production capabilities. According to Loombe, there are definite “parallels” between what Netflix has done with streaming and how it’s approaching its game strategy.

So where do those gaming efforts stand? Netflix’s mobile titles are a notably disparate bunch. Among others, they include a Hello Kitty rhythm game, a SpongeBob cooking game, and a handful of titles licensed from mobile juggernaut Gameloft, including arcade racer Asphalt Xtreme. There are mobile ports of prestige indies such as Kentucky Route Zero, Immortality, and Twelve Minutes, as well as a handful of similarly ambitious games that, if you were browsing for a TV show or movie, would be grouped under the “Only on Netflix” header: charming platformer Poinpy, open-world flying game Laya’s Horizon, and Ubisoft’s recent Valiant Hearts sequel. Finally, there are the adaptations of Netflix’s own IP: Too Hot to Handle, based on the salacious reality TV show; the aforementioned Stranger Things game; and Queen’s Gambit Chess, which will arrive on July 25.

Apple Arcade, another mobile subscription service, initially cultivated a slate of titles that shared an elegant, refined aesthetic and innovative interactivity (from vaporwave rhythm game Sayonara Wild Hearts to mechanical tinkering simulation Assemble With Care) before pivoting to more casual titles in an effort to mitigate so-called “churn” (i.e., the loss of subscribers). Netflix, by contrast, has aimed for a broad audience from the get-go. After all, the company’s remit couldn’t be wider: “We want to entertain the world,” states the marketing spiel on its website, an ethos reflected in its TV shows and movies. For every Roma there is an Extraction; for every Mindhunter, a Love Is Blind. Now, for every Laya’s Horizon there is a match-3 Strangers Things game.

The current pitch to developers is similar to that of Apple Arcade: In the highly competitive world of mobile gaming, where a monetization strategy known as “free-to-play” reigns supreme, Netflix pays for games to come to its subscription platform, thus freeing studios of the financial risk involved in development and allowing them to pursue something close to their unfettered creative vision. “As with film and TV, our game deals are based on flat fees,” Loombe told Axios in March, shutting down what many fear is a slippery slope for games and subscription models: the introduction of performance-based payment deriving from metrics like “engagement.”

Mark Hickey, VP of mobile at Devolver Digital, the publisher behind Netflix titles Poinpy, Terra Nil, and Reigns: Three Kingdoms, won’t dish on deal specifics, stating only that Netflix has made it “viable” for his company and developers to release premium games on mobile. “The realities of the premium market up to say, 2018 or 2019, made it very prohibitive,” he says. “With services like Netflix coming online, that’s sort of cleared a bottleneck, at least in terms of the business opportunity.”

For Ryan Cash, CEO of Snowman—the maker of serene, flow-based experiences like Netflix exclusive Laya’s Horizon, and mobile hits Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey—the lack of ads is another big perk to signing with Netflix. If you’re flying down the mountain in Laya’s Horizon, “ads popping up” would “really take people out of it,” he says. “With services like Netflix, we just worry about doing what we do best, which is making a killer experience.”

Krankel, now firmly settled in the Netflix nest, speaks exuberantly of the recording facilities he and his team have access to (crucial for a fully voice-acted game like Oxenfree II with a script of branching dialogue options), as well as the branding and marketing departments that cut each flashy trailer. Perhaps most important is the translation of Oxenfree II (and its cult forebear) into more than 30 languages, which Night School wouldn’t have been able to achieve independently. Netflix operates in 190-plus countries, spanning 60 languages; ensuring its games remain accessible is a big deal.

For developers, the tantalizing elephant in the room is Netflix’s ready-made audience of 232.5 million subscribers. As it stands, though, the company’s games are reaching only a small fraction of those viewers, according to the figures from mobile analytics company Sensor Tower shared by Omdia lead games analyst George Jijiashvili. Since the launch of Netflix games in November 2021, its titles have been downloaded 44 million times. That’s an average of 2.3 million downloads per month, or approximately one for every 100 Netflix subscribers. The two most popular games are those that make use of Netflix’s own IP: dating sim Too Hot to Handle and retro action-adventure Stranger Things: 1984. Compared to leading mobile titles like Subway Surfers (over 20.5 million downloads in May 2023 alone) and Garena Free Fire (20.3 million), the Netflix figures are tiny, making clear, Jijiashvili says, “the scale of the mobile games business and how small Netflix’s share of that total market is.”

The straightforward explanation for why Netflix’s games service hasn’t resonated with those who enjoy its TV shows and movies is the way it’s accessed. Once you’ve selected the game you want to play in the Netflix app, you’re redirected out of it to either the Apple or Android store to download the game, at which point you’re asked to log into your Netflix account to verify that you’re allowed to play. It’s a far cry from the company’s ultimate goal, which is to have Netflix games “playable on every Netflix device that you have.” This is one of the reasons that, among those I’ve talked to informally, there’s a sense that the current mobile iteration of Netflix games is but an aperitif to a main course that’s at least five and, more likely, closer to 10 years away.

In 2006, MIT’s then-codirector of comparative media studies, Henry Jenkins, coined the term “transmedia storytelling.” In the book Convergence Culture, he painted an evocative picture of “consumers” assuming the “role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience.”

This vision of storytelling spanning books, movies, TV shows, augmented reality games, and, of course, traditional video games, is now pervasive, and few companies appear to be exploring its possibilities more seriously than Netflix. Loombe says this is one of the reasons she joined the company—to create experiences that are “cohesively connected” across mediums in such a way that they have a “direct correlation or impact” on one another.

Transmedia storytelling has already arrived on Netflix. Think of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and Arcane, animated television shows based on the hit video games Cyberpunk 2077 and League of Legends, respectively. These aren’t fairly faithful adaptations like The Last of Us TV show, but works set in the same universe as their source material that tell their own discrete stories. Each has been effusively received: Arcane won Best Animated Program at the 2022 Emmys, and Cyberpunk won Anime of the Year at the 2023 Crunchyroll Anime Awards.


There’s a lot of TV out there. We want to help: Every week, we’ll tell you the best and most urgent shows to stream so you can stay on top of the ever-expanding heap of Peak TV.

This is a notable shift from the shoddy film and TV adaptations or licensed video game tie-ins of yesteryear. The thoughtful execution is wildly different from the previous approach, which Krankel calls “mercenary.” The more instructive analogy is to the extended Matrix universe devised by the Wachowskis. The Animatrix, an anime series featuring shorts by filmmakers including Cowboy Bebop’s Shinichiro Watanabe, and video game Enter the Matrix, were released to accompany the premiere of The Matrix Reloaded in summer 2003. Even if Enter the Matrix was a merely competent third-person shooter for the era, its storytelling was notably ambitious, interweaving with the film’s plot with surprising grace. As Jenkins wrote four years later, “There is no one single source or ur-text where one can turn to gain all of the information needed to comprehend the Matrix universe.”

Yet for all the immersiveness of this playfully meta approach to storytelling, even the most successful transmedia experiences can feel more than a little coercive. Take Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, whose opening moments are emblazoned with the logo of CD Projekt Red, cocreator of the show and developer of Cyberpunk 2077. Like the game, the anime is hyperviolent and stylish, as much a fantasy of cyberpunk as a forewarning. The show was so successful at depicting its fictional dystopia that with the roll of each episode’s credits, I could feel a prickle in my thumbs to pick up the controller and step into the interactive version. Rather than a critic or even an algorithm guiding my entertainment habit, it was something closer to “big IP,” and all the market forces underpinning it.

This is the common critique of transmedia experiences—that for all the rich potential of such symbiotic storytelling, it is driven by a relentless capitalist logic, resulting in, as Will Bedingfield put it for Wired, a popular culture liquidized into “one money-flavored corporate soup.”

Regardless, the commercial potential is obvious. Ball believes that Netflix sees video games as a crucial part of the wider IP landscape, now and likely even more so in the future. “Whether or not Netflix remains a video-centric business, it’s clear that just thinking about a franchise as a single medium isn’t sufficient to maximize the value of that franchise economically with its fans,” he says. “You need to be multimedia, multimodal, and gaming happens to be a particularly fast-growing, and though competitively intense, more permissive category.” According to Ball, gaming is the medium generating the most new IP with genuinely devoted fan bases. Thus, he says, “For a company that thrives on franchises, and has a mixed record of producing them over the last 15 years, building a capability in gaming … has perhaps the best odds of creating a new tentpole.”

You only have to cast an eye over the roughly 60 known game-based TV or movie productions in development to get a sense of how far this can go. Netflix has green-lit a good many of those, including an animated version of Tomb Raider and an “epic, genre-bending” live-action TV adaptation of Ubisoft’s open-world action franchise Assassin’s Creed. Loombe refuses to divulge whether the TV show and the Assassin’s Creed game it’s developing will be released synchronously, but the possibility has almost certainly been discussed. If you believe we’re nearing “peak IP,” it may be time to think again.

If anything could expedite this transmedia future, it’s arguably the cloud. Loombe describes Netflix being in the “R&D” phase of cloud gaming which lets players stream games across the internet to any display rather than using a console or PC. “Early conversations have happened with our developers,” she says. “It’s important that we have partners on this journey with us because we want to make sure the technology we’re building and the platform that we’re building is connected to how developers are making games.” The use case for cloud gaming Loombe cites is not a hard-core gaming experience, but a casual one. “We really want members to be able to watch television and then be able to switch into playing games,” she says. “Maybe it’s a Friday night where they can sit and play with their friends or their family … much more of a social game.” The company has recently posted a number of job ads that appear tailored to what it’s calling “a new class of hilarious, social party video games.”

Krankel sees an opportunity for Night School’s slower-paced, narrative-focused games to shine through the cloud. “Our games, certainly the ones so far, have not been so twitchy,” he says. “We’re less concerned [with latency], I would imagine, than some crazy multiplayer game.”

Currently, though, fast-paced, multiplayer games with shooting mechanics like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto Online are precisely what resonate with the vast majority of hard-core gamers, and Netflix arguably needs them along for the ride as well as more casual players. Despite the recent rise of services like Microsoft’s xCloud (which is bundled with Microsoft’s own subscription service, Game Pass) and Nvidia’s GeForce Now, the jury is still out on cloud streaming’s capacity to accommodate such experiences. A recent New York Times article assessed many of the services, and the results were mixed at best. Even for Microsoft’s xCloud (still in its beta phase), running on the company’s own Azure data centers, “the performance varied drastically and randomly.” For some testers, game performance was “flawless,” and for others “completely unenjoyable.”

Opinions on the technology appear to be as variable as its performance. On the one hand, David Linthicum, a cloud computing expert and chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting, describes the technology as essentially having already “proven itself.” There are “not trivial” issues, he admits, such as latency, bandwidth allocation, and the changes required to infrastructure (including fitting data centers with state-of-the-art GPUs to handle the real-time rendering of graphics), but he says these are problems he and his industry colleagues know how to solve. “It’s more of a marketing problem than a technology problem,” Linthicum says, alluding to the failed cloud gaming businesses of the past 10 years, such as OnLive and Stadia. “In our view, the technology’s surmountable.”

Others disagree, including Jacob Navok, the former head of Shinra, Square Enix’s cloud gaming division (which closed in 2016). Navok, the cofounder and CEO of a company that’s developing a new type of interactive cloud experience, points to many of the same issues but describes them as fundamentally prohibitive to the widespread adoption of cloud gaming. First, there’s the “massive cost” of investing in the rendering infrastructure, which may be underutilized. Picture the scenario: an army of expensive, highly specialized GPUs installed in a Boston data center firing up to meet the peak demands of 10,000 concurrent players on a Friday night. But those GPUs can’t be used for players in, say, San Diego, because the GPU needs to be close enough that players won’t detect a loss in frame rate. Thus, that hardware might sit idle for large portions of the day, perhaps failing to justify the cost of its installation.

According to Navok, an even bigger problem—one he describes as a “hidden secret” except to the tech companies themselves—is that bandwidth is even more expensive than GPU infrastructure (“three times” as much, he stresses). Gaming, which relies on a seamless, unbroken, and up-to-date stream of visual information, simply takes up more bandwidth than video, and relies to a greater degree than video on local “edge data centers.” Most tech companies, like YouTube and Microsoft, own the so-called “dark fiber” they use that’s buried beneath our streets that constitutes the internet, but Netflix is reliant on a third-party provider: Amazon Web Services. “You’re paying them for the toll,” Navok says. “That cost is tremendously expensive.”

The last problem Navok highlights is literally the “last 10 feet in your home”—the poor-quality routers that tend to drop packets of data. “That is the real issue,” he says. “And you don’t have a way to fix that because it’s not important to almost anything that you do, except for cloud gaming.” Of course, the irony is that millions of homes already have a game console, thus negating the demand for the technology.

Taken together, these are the technical issues that likely caused Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida to refer to cloud gaming as “very tricky” in an interview last month with the Financial Times. Navok’s forecast for when these problems might get fixed is gloomier than most of his industry peers’: 2040. “I used to think 2030 back when 5G was going to be a thing,” Navok says. “But none of that promise has been fulfilled.”

Sony and Netflix are not tech giants on the scale of Microsoft or Amazon, so they can’t necessarily solve these issues by themselves. The future of cloud gaming (and thus, the viability of Netflix’s push into it) is likely to be determined by the negotiations between such infrastructure-owning companies and those reliant on them—and the former probably won’t be inclined to make things easy for the latter. Indeed, the potential of cloud gaming to transform the industry isn’t lost on either game makers (it’s the “most exciting and scariest” part of upcoming changes, Mike Rose, founder of No More Robots, told Wired) or regulators: The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority’s concerns about cloud gaming are the only thing holding up the Microsoft-Activision merger.

Over the past few years, developers have spent a lot of time pondering what the “Netflix of games”—that is to say, the subscription model—might mean for the industry. In what’s still the fledgling phase, there’s an opportunity for developers and publishers of all types to foster relationships with companies like Netflix and Microsoft that are trying to build out their libraries of content. Xalavier Nelson Jr., head of indie studio Strange Scaffold, says this represents another “healthy addition” to game makers’ available revenue streams (which include actually selling games, private investment, bespoke deals with platform holders, and smaller pots of arts funding). “All of this means that distribution-wise, games is arguably the healthiest entertainment medium out there,” he says. “The subscription model contributes to that.”

Times might be good now, but there are concerns from prominent industry figures, particularly within the indie space, that this might not always be the case. Speaking to Protocol in 2021, Rami Ismail, maker of hits including Nuclear Throne and Luftrausers, outlined the risk subscription services posed to indies should they actually replace the purchasing of games. “That’s where we’re headed, whether we like it or not,” he said. “On Xbox, people pay $9.95 or $15 [for access to a large library]. How am I going to compete with my $10 game?”

Rebekah Saltsman, CEO of Finji, the studio and publisher behind acclaimed indies such as Tunic, Chicory, and Night in the Woods, has concerns that revenue derived from subscription platforms won’t keep pace with the rising costs of making games. “If we turn a buying population into a subscription population, that means we have to rely on subscription fees and buyouts,” she said to “And in general, subscription buyouts don’t pay for that many years of a team’s developments, unless your team is very small.”

Savvy developers will likely also have one eye on what’s happening in Hollywood with the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. Writing for Vulture, Josef Adalian and Lane Brown reported that many writers felt the last decade was an elaborate “bait and switch.” In its early days, the streaming age appeared to herald a plethora of exciting possibilities for writers. As the number of shows ballooned, so did the number of writing jobs, and the streaming platforms, including Netflix, started paying more money up front. In essence, “every show [became] a winner—just not a very big one.” Performance-based incentives were offered for future seasons, but most shows got canceled before those were triggered.

Now, the grievances go, the residuals the WGA fought for are declining, and writing staffs are shrinking. Maybe the most ominous sign for games is the fact that Netflix, like its rivals, has cut spending on content, reducing its tab by more than $1 billion in the first quarter of 2023 compared to last year in an apparent bid to boost cash flow. The new streaming economic model is now so deeply ingrained that creatives are beholden to the whims of companies like Netflix, which over the past 10 years have eroded other means of getting paid.

Adam Hines, cofounder of Night School and cousin of Krankel, isn’t overly concerned about the fate of game makers in this new subscription landscape, despite their lack of unionization. “I’m not worrying too much yet about it crippling video game creators’ ability to make an earning,” he says. “[In] Hollywood, to be on staff of a TV show, or to get a movie made, there’s very few avenues available to be able to do that. You kind of have to work with the major studios to get a job and maintain a job. You have a very narrow pathway. But for games, it’s still so open for any configuration of what a developer looks like. It can be one person who made a video game in their basement, a midsize team, a really small indie studio, and they’re all capable of signing deals with the platforms that make the most sense for themselves.”

It’s not just concerns about technology and the subscription model that pose challenges for Netflix in its mid-term future, but also potential labor blowback to transmedia storytelling. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, The Last of Us game cocreator Bruce Straley bemoaned the lack of credit he received for HBO’s hugely successful adaptation, seemingly causing the game designer to rethink his attitude toward worker organization. “It’s an argument for unionization that someone who was part of the co-creation of that world and those characters isn’t getting a credit or a nickel for the work they put into it,” he told the Times. “Maybe we need unions in the video game industry to be able to protect creators.” Video game companies are notoriously lousy at crediting their workers. As a result, it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where greater numbers of video game makers feel short-changed as the franchises they helped create migrate to other mediums, and the companies they work for make bank.

In addition to these legitimate anxieties of the development community, Netflix must now prove itself all over again in an entirely new medium. It has produced many great movies and at least some great TV shows. The video game, though, is a notoriously complex, finicky beast, one whose production timeline, at least at the blockbuster level, far exceeds that of TV and film. Can Netflix deliver the quality that brings players of many different stripes to the platform? “I don’t worry about them making something great,” Ball says. “The bigger challenge, and this is a challenge that’s faced by all large-scale tech companies, is really one of the definition of needle moving.”

Ball argues that while Netflix makes much of its 232.5 million subscribers, the actual number of users, with three-and-a-half to four per subscription, is closer to 1 billion. This is an eye-watering audience, one that far surpasses what even the most successful video games can muster. Ball refers to Candy Crush (273 million monthly players), Roblox (214 million), Minecraft (161 million), Fortnite (80 million), Grand Theft Auto Online (19 million), and Call of Duty (7 million). “There are relatively few games that reach tens of millions of users on a recurring basis,” he says. “Netflix has said its objective is for games to add value to their membership, but what it needs, by definition of being a subscription service which has thousands of movies, is a broad portfolio in order to reach tens of millions, if not hundreds [of millions], out of their billion-plus users. The question is how long does it take to build a large and rich portfolio.”

A recently disclosed email written by Xbox Game Studios head Matthew Booty in 2019 (and made public in the Microsoft FTC case) hints at the scale of the challenge Netflix is facing. “Content is the one moat that we have, in terms of a catalog that runs on current devices and capability to create new,” Booty wrote. “Sony is really the only other player who could compete with Game Pass and we have a two year and 10m subs lead.”

Netflix is clearly not starting from scratch. Its streaming technology is robust; it has a gargantuan bank of IP to work with (even if it’s not as widely beloved as legacy media companies like Disney), and it has already fostered relationships with some of gaming’s biggest companies.

As Loombe says, she was hired to help make video games the “next big thing” for Netflix. It may be that the company has alternative ideas about how to achieve this kind of success. The external games boss pushes back against the notions underpinning traditional, hard-core gaming.

“The Triple-A label these days is interesting, because I think there’s a lot of things out there that have the Triple-A quality but not necessarily the Triple-A title,” she says. Seemingly spitballing, Loombe imagines a Bridgerton video game (“exploring that world would be great”) and an Emily in Paris “fashion game.” Those examples speak to the company’s view that its games, like its TV shows and movies, should be built for the biggest audience possible. In this sense, Netflix appears to be lining up a video game push that goes far beyond traditional “gamers.” Its far-flung vision of the future is one gaming executives have long dreamed of—one where video games finally go massively mainstream.

Lewis Gordon is a writer and journalist living in Glasgow who contributes to outlets including The Verge, Wired, and Vulture.

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