Netflix won't become a hub for game streaming anytime soon, if recent comments by CEO Reed Hastings are anything to go by.
Hastings was speaking at the New York Times' Dealbook conference (opens in new tab), and made it clear that, despite increased interest in game streaming by many major players in the tech and entertainment worlds, Netflix wasn't planning on getting in on the action.
"We're really focused on doing incredible series and films and unscripted," Hastings said, shutting down the idea of Netflix setting up a standalone platform just for streaming games. But why wouldn't game streaming be part of that?
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Streaming games is a lot harder than TV
We've seen a huge surge in investment from big technology companies in game streaming, not least in the form of Google Stadia, which launches on November 19.
While it's been widely described as a 'Netflix for games', the Google-owned service is set to work more like existing online game marketplaces that sell titles on a buy-and-keep basis, rather than offering access to a wide library for a single subscription fee in the vein of Xbox Games Pass or PlayStation Now.
While Stadia is hopping on a wider tend in how games are distributed (via streaming), it's not the market disruptor it might have been.
So why isn't Netflix getting involved? It certainly has the streaming infrastructure in place, even if pivoting its use to gaming might require some expensive development work (not that it doesn't have the budget).
Netflix has a massive user base to leverage, too - and the platform has previously experimented with interactive forms of fiction, such as the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch movie and Bear Grylls: You Vs Wild.
One issue Netflix has been mindful of is the quality of users' internet connections - it offers a low-resolution basic plan that lets viewers watch its content without needing a high-speed fibre optic connection, while more recently we've seen Netflix offer mobile-only streaming plans to ensure that subscribers can gain easy (and cheap) access to low-resolution content on a small screen.
Gaming requires more bandwidth to stream than TV content, with content being rendered and created in real time: the equivalent of a computer creating CGI Hulk second by second as you watch Avengers: Endgame. And that's before you consider the input lag between controller inputs and what you see on-screen.
This is becoming less of an issue as the heavy processing lifting is moved to external servers (as with Google Stadia), but it's still an obstacle to gamers getting the same lag-free experience as today's TV streamers - and why would Netflix expand into a field where it didn't feel it could maintain the same standards of quality and service?
If you can't beat them, don't join them
Hastings has acknowledged the draw of big games like Fortnite, acknowledging that the battle royale shooter is a bigger competitor for users' time than any of the other big TV streaming services: “We compete with (and lose to) Fornite more than HBO.”
One option for Netflix may be to collaborate rather than compete. We've just seen the platform announce some new gaming collaborations, with Stranger Things skins coming to the Fortnite shop, and two characters from the show (Jonathan and Nancy) now being playable in the online horror game Dead By Daylight.
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First off, Fortnite is bringing back the Hopper and Demogorgon skins so that you can bring that chaotic dad energy back to battle royale. @FortniteGame pic.twitter.com/4sjm2lmvhbNovember 6, 2019
It's not surprising that Netflix is focusing on what it's good at. And while we've seen the streaming service toy with some more interactive elements befitting a game-savvy audience, we don't really need Netflix to offer the same thing that several other platforms are already doing, and doing well.
You do you, Netflix.
Via GameSpot (opens in new tab)