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Netflix readies video games push with hire of Oculus exec

Netflix is expanding into gaming opportunities

Netflix is set to bring video games to its platform next year having made its first key hire to lead the push.

Mike Verdu was previously head of virtual and augmented reality at Facebook, where he worked with developers to bring games and other content to Oculus.

Prior to that, he spent his career leading the gaming efforts at companies including EA, Zynga and Kabam.

He will now lead Netflix’s push into creating content beyond TV shows and films. Netflix hasn’t been shy in talking up its ambition to be a major player in the $90bn video games industry.

It’s likely that some games will be tied to its most popular shows, such as Stranger Things. On its most recent earnings call, chief operating officer Greg Peters – who Verdu will report to – said its users “want to immerse themselves more deeply and get to know the characters better and their back stories and all that stuff”.

He said: “Really we’re trying to figure out what are all these different ways that we can increase those points of connection, we can deepen that fandom. And certainly, games is a really interesting component of that.

“And there’s no doubt that games are going to be an important form of entertainment and an important sort of modality to deepen that fan experience. So we’re going to keep going, and we’ll continue to learn and figure it out as we go.”

According to Bloomberg, which first reported Verdu’s hire, the first games are slated to appear on the platform within the next year. Rather than sitting on a separate site, they will appear alongside current content as a new programming genre. It is not expected that users will be charged extra to access games.

The move into gaming comes as Netflix continued to battle it out against Amazon Prime and Disney+ for new users in the competitive streaming market.

Netflix reported a dramatic slowdown in subscribers for the first three months of 2021.

As a result of the pandemic, it added 36 million subscribers in 2020 to pass 200 million subscribers worldwide. It predicted the surge would continue this year and said it expected to add six million users to the platform in the first quarter of the year. However, it only managed to add four million and now expects to add about one million subscribers in the current quarter, which would be its slowest growth on record.

Read next: The Drum’s Deep Dive into Gaming. From the metaverse to mobile, catch up on everything you need to know about gaming and the opportunities open to marketers.

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