DUBAI: Netflix is launching an in-house video games studio that will be based in Helsinki, Finland, and headed by Marko Lastikka, a former Zynga and Electronic Arts executive. The move was announced in a blog post by Amir Rahimi, the streaming service’s vice-president of game studios.
Netflix recently acquired three existing games studios. Last year it bought Night School Studio, known for supernatural graphic adventure Oxenfree, and followed that up this year with the acquisitions of Next Games and Boss Fight Entertainment.
The new studio is the first internal launch that Netflix will “build from scratch,” said Rahimi. Helsinki was chosen as the base for the studio because it “is home to some of the best game talent in the world,” he added.
Each of the four Netflix game studios have their own “strengths and focus areas” and they “will develop games that will suit the diverse tastes of our members,” Rahimi said.
Netflix in April reported a quarterly loss of subscribers for the first time since 2011. Its share price fell by 35 percent after the announcement of a 200,000 reduction in subscriptions. Between April and July, it lost nearly a million more subscribers.
Many streaming services have lost subscribers recently because, industry experts say, viewing habits are normalizing following a surge in subscriptions during the pandemic. However, the Netflix slide seems to extend beyond the wider churn being experienced by other streaming services as consumers cut back on subscriptions.
This year, Netflix began to crack down on password sharing, which might have provided further motivation for some users to cancel their subscriptions. Just this week, users in Argentina took to social media calling for a boycott of the service because of the resultant additional charges, with the hashtag #ChauNetflix, or #ByeNetflix, trending locally on Twitter.
Meanwhile Netflix is exploring additional sources of revenue and content, including video games, to help attract and retain users. Soft-launched 10 months ago, its gaming service now has 28 mobile games in its library.
And this month it announced a deal with games developer Ubisoft to create three games based on the company’s successful video game franchises, including one based on the smash hit Assassin’s Creed franchise. It was previously announced that an Assassin’s Creed TV series is in development at Netflix.
The company said its growing investment in gaming reflects an evolving view of its future.
“We think the great opportunity that Netflix has is connecting our universes together,” Leanne Loombe, head of external video games at the company, told Arab News this month.
Gaming is a “natural progression” for a company that aims to provide “a broad spectrum of entertainment” for its users, she added.
“You need a few hours to sit and watch a movie or a TV show at the weekends or in the evening but with games, you can play for five minutes in your break or you can play on your commute, especially on mobile,” Loombe said.
“That makes Netflix properties that much more accessible and they can fit within your lifestyle.”
The announcement of the new in-house gaming studio suggests the company is further ramping up its games-related operations.
Rahimi said the move is “another step in our vision to build a world-class games studio that will bring a variety of delightful and deeply engaging original games — with no ads and no in-app purchases — to our hundreds of millions of members around the world.”