Netflix just make its biggest strategic move into gaming yet, acquiring Night School Studio, the developer behind the acclaimed story-based adventure game Oxenfree.
The streaming service said the move reflected "the early stages of creating a great gaming experience for our members". Netflix touts Night School's past games – which also include the TV show tie-in Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n and the drinking in hell game Afterparty – and "artistic excellence" as reasons for entering the partnership.
Netflix has already started rolling games out to its members, starting with Poland, which was first to get Stranger Things games (opens in new tab) on Android devices starting last month. Those games already existed, however – and the acquisition of Night School is intended to improve Netflix's capabilities and extend its library of titles.
Night School is already working on a new game for 2022 – Oxenfree 2, the sequel to its biggest game to date. Night School's Sean Krankel explained the deal with Netflix in a blog post.
"Night School wants to stretch our narrative and design aspirations across distinctive, original games with heart," Krankel writes (opens in new tab). "Netflix gives film, TV, and now game makers an unprecedented canvas to create and deliver excellent entertainment to millions of people."
Krankel says Night School gets to keep doing what it's doing, but now with the reach of being on Netflix.
"Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices," is how Netflix explained its strategy to investors. Its games will not feature in-app purchases or ads, and they will be included as part of users' memberships.
The streamer has also expanded the countries that get to try it out: Spain and Italy now have access to games on the service. New games have been added to the platform, too, called Teeter Up and Card Blast – suggesting we'll see offerings that don't have close ties to Netflix shows in the future.
Analysis: What could Night School make for Netflix?
The obvious connection to make here is that Night School would be perfectly positioned to create a Stranger Things game. Oxenfree is a game about teenagers exploring a spooky island, with choices that let you form relationships with different characters.
Still, given that Stranger Things season 4 is coming next year and that the show isn't expected to last for many more years, the boat might've sailed on that one. Plus, Netflix already has a couple of games based on that series.
Rather than being limited to tie-in games, though, Netflix will give the studio the flexibility to stretch its creative muscles. "We’ll keep cooking up new game worlds," is one of the promises Krankel makes in his blog post.
It's likely Netflix just wanted a studio with a strong storytelling perspective and an eye for beautiful settings as a starting point for gaming. If nothing else, the acquisition demonstrates excellent taste.