Netflix’s idea to expand its services in hopes of appealing to the gaming community is something no one saw coming. However, the video game industry has seen quite a few unusual twists in the past decade and a half. From the satirical Cow Clicker that included a paid skin to have the user’s cow gaze in a different direction to the recent Attack on Titan and Rick and Morty collaborations with Call of Duty and Rainbow Six franchises, gaming is an industry that never fails to innovate.

The streaming juggernaut announced its plans regarding several gaming integrations with Fortnite and Roblox during E3 2019, and one of the reveals also included the company’s desire to bring about exclusive Stranger Things games. Netflix then began collaborating with the Texas-based game studio, BonusXP, on two Stranger Things titles, which would go on to become the first two games to be tested on the European market before the introduction of Netflix’s mobile games in the last quarter of 2021.

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Aside from the two Stranger Things entries that added substantial value to the first batch of Netflix’s game offerings, the remainder of the introductory titles were underwhelming. Given the fact that this was not necessarily Netflix’s first attempt at navigating the murky waters of the video game industry, the company probably could have done better. However, that is not to say that it should have. Netflix approached its vision of “building a library of games that offers something for everyone” with due caution, and for a good reason.

According to semiannual reports of Ampere Analysis, Netflix experienced a visible drop in the number of young adult subscribers over the last year. The streaming giant tried to fix this by introducing the “Fast Laughs” section first, and likely saw the opportunity to improve its standing among other entertainment services with a timely addition of a dedicated “Mobile Games” section.

From a technical standpoint, a slew of complex introductory titles outside of the casual and hypercasual genres would have been seen as wasted potential, especially considering Netflix’s initial target audience. The prevalence of the golden “reuse and recycle” rule in the mobile gaming market further attests to this, as it allows developers to safely test the waters by borrowing other successful ideas while devising a more strategic approach for future releases.

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By and large, subscribers who enjoy the versatile experience video games usually promote are not likely to be impressed with Netflix’s first mobile game offerings, even with the newly included titles that operate outside of the hypercasual niche. While entries such as Asphalt Xtreme add some color to the current selection, they also pose a question: Why would Netflix bother reviving Gameloft’s long-running title that was recently shut down? On the other hand, partnering up with Riot Games to bring Hextech Mayhem to the mobile platform free of charge is not likely to push any fans of its parent game or the genre to subscribe to Netflix, despite the seemingly increased value of a recurring subscription.

Although Netflix’s approach to its mobile games might seem somewhat confusing and disjointed at times, it does uphold the company’s idea of a multifaceted library. Thus far, Netflix has introduced over a dozen titles that appeal to all genders within the select age range while building the framework to expand the service’s outreach to a broader demographic. If procedural marketing strategies are anything to go by, lackluster entries such as Shooting Hoops, Card Blast, Teeter Up and Knittens are but steppingstones in a grand scheme that will unfold based on the collected user data during the (ongoing) initial stages of the project.

While the promise of free games void of microtransactions and advertisements is a welcome change that may result in an increase of temporary Netflix subscriptions, it is not something that intrinsically appeals to hardcore gamers because the available content is lacking in contextual quality. Netflix’s current mobile game offerings may not add significant value to an active subscription, but they are likely to catch the eye of casual gamers and fans of Stranger Things. That said, the company’s interest in licensing more recognizable titles in the near future should not be overlooked, and its acquisition of Oxenfree developer Night School can only mean that more exciting entries are brewing in the background.

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