Netflix is secretly establishing a service with the top mobile games, hinting at something greater.
We’ve seen Silicon Valley types “do games” before. Stadia failed fast for Google. Apple Arcade is…good, but fading rapidly. Amazon’s MMO, streaming service Luna, and other initiatives look scattered.
Netflix differs. It sells entertainment, not commercials, phones, or free next-day delivery on tiny modifications of goods you’ve previously bought (Amazon). The first 18 months of Netflix games show a more critical eye. Over 50 and growing weekly.
Netflix games are also ad-free. They’re on the iOS and Android Netflix app you undoubtedly already have and cater to casual players and trendy, charming, sophisticated Eurogamer readers.
Into the Breach, Kentucky Route Zero, Immortality, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, and Oxenfree are familiar to you, a connoisseur who liked Four Tet before he became famous. With some restrictions, Netflix has all those games. Slippery-fingered people may struggle with TMNT’s virtual controls, and I’ve yet to download Immortality on my beaten-up iPhone 11 since it takes too long and takes up too much space, so it may only be for high-end handsets.
Netflix-exclusive games are also available beyond these indie hits. You, longtime Charlie Kaufman fan, might like it.
Geoff Keighley’s summer livestream revealed Poinpy, Netflix’s most famous original. Ojiro Fumoto’s second game after Downwell.
Poinpy is a cartoon fantasy about bouncing higher and collecting fruit for a gigantic blue fire-breathing cat-thing, whereas that game is an almost-monochrome classic platform shooter about elegant fall. The slingshot-and-slam play loop, visuals, and soundtrack make it Netflix’s must-play game.
Tomb Raider Reloaded, which puts Lara Croft in Archero, may have grabbed your eye. It’s a frenetic top-down bullet-fest where Lara only shoots when you raise your finger off the screen. Excellent.
League of Legends spin-offs are included. Bit.rhythm-runner Trip’s Hextec Mayhem continues the “indie deep cuts” motif.
Frosty Pop’s four fast-paced arcade games are Netflix’s casual game pillar.
Shooting Hoops is a high-scoring hoops game with a gun; Teeter Up requires you to lift either end of a platform to guide an untamed ball through dangers and into the goal; and Bowling Ballers is a basic but lively runner. Krispee Street, a pleasant hidden object game, is set in a cartoon universe around those “Oh no” and “Strange Planet” comics.
Frosty Pop’s delicate style, intricacy, and character in all four games demonstrate the studio’s creative skills, which were spun out of a design agency.
Let’s fit more. Skies of Chaos, Wonderputt Forever, and a new Reigns game set in the Three Kingdoms era provide more wicked choose-your-own-adventure fun. This organ says environmental builder Terra Nil offers “lingering moments of real perfection.” Whew!
Ustwo Games’ newest, Desta: The Memories Between, is more complicated. In this beautiful turn-based strategy game, dodgeball-like bouts are dialogues between the central character’s childhood friends, acquaintances, and foes.
Let’s dwell on this last one since it tells us a lot about the cold war between incumbent Apple Arcade and newcomer Netflix.
Remember: Ustwo Games won Apple’s 2014 iPad Game of the Year. In 2017, Apple utilized Monument Valley 2 to open the new App Store, and Ustwo Games’ nostalgic fix-em-up Assemble With Care launched Apple Arcade. (Disclosure: I was somewhat engaged with all three)
Desta launching on Netflix instead of Apple Arcade felt like mobile gaming’s Square Enix going from Nintendo to PlayStation in the nineties. The joke is that Netflix is adding both Monument Valley games. As part of that presentation, the streaming site boldly suggested that it has signed the third game.
Moreover, top mobile game developer Super Evil Megacorp is part of Netflix’s “major bet” for its gaming platform, a transmedia project that will include a game, TV show, and maybe more in a new Netflix-owned world.
Netflix also spends a few pennies. It has acquired four firms in a year: Oxenfree developer Night School Studio, mobile game developers Spry Fox, Next Games, and Boss Fight Entertainment. It is noted for paying exorbitant wages.
It also recruited former Overwatch director Chacko Sonny to run a new LA studio, the same one that hired a game director for “a brand-new AAA PC game.” Previous Netflix employment advertising have suggested an Unreal Engine-powered third-person action-RPG. Huh!
Netflix will make its games cloud-playable “wherever you have Netflix” shortly. Netflix on your laptop, phone, and TV.
Netflix won’t compete with Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus until console-style games launch, which will take years. In less than a year, it’s overtaken Apple Arcade as the leading mobile subscription service, and it seems to receive games faster than the other tech titans. (It’s rich too)
If things goes horribly wrong? Poinpy at least.