While the launch of new games could herald a new phase in Netflix’s gaming career, there still remains a fair bit of work to do.
Netflix Games was launched in 2021 | Photo: Getty
By Akriti Rana and Nimish Dubey
There had been a lot of buzz and excitement when Netflix announced that it was going to enter the gaming world. The brand, which is known for revolutionising the video industry with its OTT platform, came out with a gaming library exclusively for its members in November 2021. Its core concept was very similar to Netflix’s content streaming strategy — you got a membership and then simply downloaded and played as many games as you wanted, without having to put up with any pesky ads or in-app purchases.
Apple had done exactly the same with its Apple Arcade gaming service, and Amazon too had a dedicated gaming library in some of its markets. Considering how well Netflix had done in the OTT space, it seemed an idea made in gaming and entertainment heaven, especially as the brand offered the service to its subscribers without any additional charge.
Things, however, did not quite work out as expected. Netflix Games was launched with much fanfare but surprisingly limited game titles. What’s more, as we pointed out in an earlier article, none of the titles could remotely be called compelling. Yes, there was a version of Asphalt (Xtreme) that could be called mainstream, but by and large, there did not seem anything on Netflix Games that could tear people away not just from intense titles like Call of Duty and PUBG, but also simpler addictions like Candy Crush Saga and Ludo King.
Netflix Games needed “something just as entertaining and binge-worthy as some of its series and movies”, we had written way back in November.
Netflix gets its first FPS
After a rather ordinary few months, Netflix finally seems to be getting into serious gaming mode. The brand announced three new titles recently. One of these was Shatter: Remastered, a makeover of a 2009 classic, which kind of stuck to Netflix’s thus-far slightly retro-casual portfolio. The other two, however, were the ones that made gamers sit up and take notice. These were This is a true Story, and Into the Dead 2: Unleashed.
Into the Dead 2: Unleashed is the better known of the two titles. It is the much-hyped sequel of Into the Dead which ran up over a 100 million downloads, and a version of it (Into the Dead 2) has also been an Editor’s Choice on Google Play. The game is a typical zombie apocalypse title, but has been acclaimed for its graphics and its fast paced action.
It is not quite clear how the Netflix edition of the game will be different from the one currently on Google Play and the Apple App Store, but what is significant is that this is the first first person shooter (or FPS, in gamespeak) to appear on Netflix Games. The FPS genre is one of the most popular among hardcore gamers, with famous titles like PUBG and Call of Duty. Into the Dead 2: Unleashed, is expected to arrive on Netflix Games in the coming days and it certainly adds a lot of weight to its rather slim portfolio, in terms of quality as well as popularity. It also shows that Netflix is ready to bring major franchises to its gaming platform.
‘This Is A True Story’ Is Truly Magnificent
Popular though the Into the Dead series may be, we think that it is This is a True Story that adds a whole new dimension to Netflix Games. It is unlikely to run up massive download numbers but in terms of sheer quality, this is one of the best games we have played for a while. That is because it is one of the few titles we have seen that targets awareness rather than adrenaline. The game is all about the effort to find water, and has been developed in collaboration with Charity: Water, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to bringing clean and drinking water to people in underdeveloped countries.
The game is based on true life experiences and shows you how hard a woman living in the Sub-Saharan region has to work just to get some water for her family. She walks miles, dodges predators, climbs mountains, overcomes obstacles, catches poachers and does a whole lot more — all just to get something that so many of us take for granted. Developed by Frosty Pop, This is a True Story is stunningly presented, complete with beautiful and hand painted scenarios. The narration and music might seem a little sombre and the gameplay at times is not as smooth as we would have liked, but take it from us, this is one game every person should be made to play. Simply because it makes us all aware of how many people have to struggle for something as basic as clean drinking water.
This is a True Story is also a Netflix exclusive. It is not a game that has been released in the past but is a game that only Netflix users can access. Which shows that the gaming platform could host not only popular titles but also innovative and educational ones. If Into the Dead is like a box office blockbuster, This is a True Story is the equivalent of a brilliantly narrated documentary. Both address different audiences, and both are important, in terms of masses as well as classes. And both are on Netflix Games.
Work to be done…but work in progress!
While the launch of these games could herald a new phase in Netflix’s gaming career, there still remains a fair bit of work to do.
Most importantly, gaming needs to integrate more deeply with the Netflix app itself. Right now, you can see the games on offer on the Netflix app, but clicking on any of them takes you to the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. This is not the most elegant solution, as it literally takes the user out of the Netflix zone. There is also the little matter of the number of games in the library. Five months after its launch, the Netflix game library stands at a rather modest sixteen-seventeen if you add the soon to be launched Into the Dead 2: Unleashed.
Of these, most are casual or slightly older games, many of which were earlier available as independent titles. Not exactly the kind of titles that will make someone with a Netflix account hit the games tab on their phone. There also seems to be very little synchronicity between Netflix’s film and show content and its games apart from a few retro-looking Stranger Things titles.
That said, Netflix is known for pursuing long-term growth rather than chasing short term gains. And if its slow and steady approach results in more titles like This is a True Story or franchises like Into the Dead coming to Netflix Games, then before we know it, we might be recommending that folks game on Netflix, because Netflix finally seems to be getting its gaming mode on!