No-one is playing Netflix’s games. Well, no, that’s not true – 1% of Netflix subscribers are. But that means that over 200 million people have access to, say, one of the best strategy games out there… and probably don’t even know about it.
For the more casual players, interested in less intensive and more cosy affairs, there’s the likes of Poinpy, Krispee Street, and Knittens. If you’re a nut for Stranger Things and have been humming Running Up That Hill and Master of Puppets since the one-two punch of those musical finales, you’ll probably find the likes of Stranger Things 3: The Game and Stranger Things: 1984 both worth your time.
But the odds are you don’t even know these games are available as part of your subscription fee. Until I started writing this piece, I didn’t even know how difficult it was to access the games on various platforms – Netflix hasn’t exactly been communicative about promoting them to its still-humongus user base, has it? To make matters more complicated, you can’t play the games via the app, but instead you need to head to the mobile store of your platform of choice (iOS or Android) and download the games from there. Anything viable with your Netflix subscription will be indicated with that trademark red N logo , and listed via a dedicated in-app tab on the homescreen. Clicking that – or finding a relevant game in your storefront of choice – will prompt a Netflix log-in, and from there you can play the game. For free.
It’s not exactly an ordeal, but it’s certainly a few steps more than required to watch the latest show or movie. So perhaps it’s no wonder 99% of Netflix users haven’t even made the effort to get one game via their sub. But that 1% – let me tell you, they’re living the good life. They get to work through the genuinely incredible indie roguelite-cum-shop management sim Moonlighter for free! They get to kiss the tarmac in Asphalt Xtreme. They get to save the earth, over and over again, in Into the Breach. I’m telling you, if you’ve ever played Exploding Kittens in real life with your mates, you need to check the Netflix games list out – there’s something for everyone.
Taken alone, the download numbers and actual audience metrics for Netflix don’t look that bad: a CNBC report suggests that the games have been downloaded some 23 million times worldwide, by an average of about 1.7 million users. There are some indie publishers and platforms out there that would probably kill for that kind of engagement. But, in the grand scheme of things, that’s peanuts for Netflix: those numbers represent a mere 1% of the company’s 221 million subscribers.
Things are only going to get better for gamers with Netflix subs, too: there are currently 24 – mostly excellent – games on the service. By the end of the year, that number will more than double to 50, per plans outlined by the platform. If even two or three of them are of equal or better quality to what we already see in Netflix’s blossoming catalogue, it’s a no-brainer to get them on your mobile devices and start playing. But will Netflix bother to keep making deals with publishers and developers if no-one is taking advantage?
It’s not even been a year, yet, of Netflix moving into this market. As our pals over at GamesIndustry.biz note, 1% of Netflix subscribers downloading games is “not a bad start”. I just worry that, with such low reach, the games arm of the company – that has had some well-documented subscriber retention and redundancy issues lately – will decide it’s not worth it and shutter early. It won’t be a disaster of Ouya proportions, but it’d certainly sting for those of us in the UK paying out £15.99 per month for the 4k-tier subscription to lose out on (easily) £100s worth of games without even knowing it.
Netflix has never been big on marketing, or going overboard in showing off its wares (so says Sensor Tower mobile insights strategist for EMEA, Craig Chapple, in the linked GI.biz article). But, with games especially, that’s really starting to sting the platform. In terms of the future, it’s hard to see what Netflix wants: we know the studio acquired Oxenfree developer Night School Studio back in 2021, and then picked up mobile developer Next Games and Boss Fight Entertainment in March 2022. The TV and movie side of things continues its infatuation with games, too (just look at all The Witcher, Arcane, and Castlevania content already up, not to mention the Cyberpunk 2077 and Tekken shows to come).
It’s clear that Netflix has many irons in the fire when it comes to its integration with the gaming world – I just pray that more people heed this call and start downloading mobile games with their Netflix logins so we all get to enjoy this well-catered, superb offering of iOS and Android games for years to come.
You can check out the full list of games available on Netflix here.