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Media Brand Strategy Future of TV

Is Netflix’s foray into gaming doomed? Not if it learns from others’ mistakes

By Naomi McAleer | Digital marketing manager



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September 6, 2023 | 6 min read

Netflix is dipping its toe into the lucrative (but risky) waters of (casual) gaming. Some are already calling the attempt doomed – but Brandnation’s Naomi McAleer says that early signs are good.

A hand holding a remote control in front of a television, turning on Netflix

What are Netflix's chances of breaking into gaming? Brandnation investigates / Freestocks via Unsplash

The news of Netflix’s expansion into gaming is back in marketing headlines, with debates about whether this is a smart or totally misguided move.

The streaming giant’s ventures into gaming actually date back to 2021, when it introduced on-platform mobile games. Recently, the brand has been getting serious with its testing. It announced in mid-August that it’s rolling out a limited beta test to a small number of users in Canada and the UK on select TVs, followed by PCs and Macs over the following weeks.

At face value, the move feels like a bit of a stretch from what we typically associate Netflix with: binge-watching our favorite series until you become part of the sofa (or waking up from said binge in almost total darkness apart from the dim light of the ‘Are you still watching?’ screen).

Are you not entertained?

As a play, Netflix delving into gaming undeniably poses questions, like ‘Does Netflix have the expertise to compete in such a competitive market?’ and ‘Would acquisition of an already established gaming brand have been a better route?’

But we can’t forget that Netflix is in the entertainment business – and this expansion of its offering will undoubtedly entertain.

It’s important to note that Netflix doesn’t see gaming as an additional offering, but rather an extension of its core product. Therefore, its success will likely be measured not on the performance of gaming as an individual service, but rather how it contributes to the success of the brand as a whole.

This move will allow it to differentiate from other streaming providers, and added value never goes amiss in this extremely crowded and fiercely competitive market.

I’m sure Netflix will also be taking lessons from other tech companies that didn’t quite hit the mark when attempting to enter the world of games. There’s the cautionary tale of Apple’s Game Center app, which launched in 2010 and was shut down in 2016 for multiple reasons including a lack of features. Another poignant example comes from Amazon, which has tried to launch gaming on Fire TV. Needless to say, it never really took off.

Winning the boss fight

What will be key for Netflix will be to nail the user experience, for experienced and new gamers alike. For those used to full-service platforms like the Sony PlayStation, expectations will undoubtedly be high, but Netflix’s goal will be to appeal to a wide audience and demographic.

What should work in its favor is that it seems so far to be taking a measured approach, giving itself time to understand gamer behavior and make any changes needed before fully launching across all devices.

It also has the opportunity to use this new video game offering to generate hype around new TV and movie releases, fueling engagement with its primary offering – a smart marketing move.

It’s early days for Netflix’s expansion into gaming. So far, the brand is making all the right moves, from launching this new offering incrementally to ensuring user experience remains at the heart of its decisions. Which as we know, is key to any brand’s success.

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