So far, it’s incredibly underwhelming.
According to Android Authority, Netflix’s gaming effort consists of two games at the moment: Stranger Things 1984 and Stranger Things 3. Both are just games that you download from the Google Play Store. Worse, you can’t launch the games on their own — you have to launch them from the Netflix app.
Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I expected a lot more. I think other people did too.
Here’s the thing — Netflix kinda hyped up its gaming plans by hiring a former EA and Oculus executive to lead the gaming push. And while the company did previously state it would focus on mobile to start, there was an expectation that Netflix would do more than turn its app into a glorified game launcher.
Several companies are trying to create platforms that are the gaming equivalent of Netflix. There’s Google Stadia, Microsoft xCloud and Nvidia GeForce Now, to name a few. None of these are perfect solutions, but the foundations are there for people to stream games from the cloud instead of investing in pricey computers or consoles and running the games locally on those devices.
What Netflix is testing in Poland doesn’t seem to be anything like that. Of course, a company has to start somewhere and Netflix admitted as much in a tweet about the gaming feature, noting it’s still in an “early stage.” The tweet came from the Polish Netflix account and is in Polish, but you can read a translation below:
“Let’s talk about Netflix games. Starting today, users in Poland can try out two Android mobile games: Stranger Things 1984 and Stranger Things 3. We are at an early stage and we still have a lot of work to do in the coming months, but this is our first step.”
And while the idea of Netflix launching games that only work if you download them and then open them with the Netflix app isn’t great, it is added value for subscribers; in a follow-up tweet, Netflix confirmed the games wouldn’t have ads or in-app purchases.
It also makes sense in a way. Apple effectively blocked game streaming apps on iOS by adding an App Store rule that requires all games to be available as downloads from the App Store, prohibiting companies from launching streaming apps that let users access multiple titles in one place. While Microsoft and Google worked around it by launching progressive web app (PWA) versions of their game streaming service, Netflix’s gaming platform seems to go the other route by putting the games onto app stores but requiring the Netflix app to use them.
Granted, today’s announcement was about Android, not iOS, but perhaps Netflix chose this option to appease Apple and make sure it wouldn’t have issues getting its gaming service onto Apple devices in the future. It’s not entirely clear if that means Netflix won’t offer streamable games as well.
Image credit: Netflix