Netflix is not going to start a streaming service for video games because it provides a very different format of entertainment, as stated by CEO Reed Hastings (via WccfTech).
At DealBook 2019, Hastings chatted to Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times about the direction that Netflix will take in the future and how television audiences have changed. Last year, Netflix explained that one of its most significant competitors for screen time is Fortnite, rather than citing other streaming services like Amazon Prime or television channels like HBO. An audience question referenced Apple’s and Google’s streaming services for video games and asked whether Netflix intends to jump on the bandwagon.
Hastings had a short and sweet answer. ‘No. We're really focused on doing incredible series and films,’ he replied. He continued to explain that people spend their free time in lots of different ways; some play Fortnite, some watch Netflix, and some go outside. Ghastly, I know. Epic Games’ incredibly successful battle royale was brought into conversation because it subsumes a lot of consumers’ free time and therefore Netflix is in direct competition with it.
‘Ultimately it's about competing for those hours of viewing. But we don't compete with Fortnite better, say, by doing something like [a streaming service for games] because we're not very good at that. We compete by doing the most amazing TV shows you've ever seen, so you put down Fortnite and you come to watch our shows,’ Hastings concluded. This competition is healthy and encourages all forms of entertainment to produce higher quality products, he added.
Film, television, and video games are at an intersection. Of course, there are the aforementioned Apple Arcade and Google Stadia that mimic the structure of streaming services. Microsoft has gotten in on the action with Project xCloud. But, Death Stranding’s cast list is studded with stars so bright that it occasionally befuddles its players. Margaret Qualley, Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro, and… Conan O’Brien dressed up as a sea otter?
In 2018, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch premiered on Netflix as an interactive film, or choose-your-own-terrible-fate-for-these-poor-characters. It was very well received, so Netflix went on to experiment with interactive storytelling in a special for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Even if Netflix has no interest in the gaming market, it does have an adaptation of The Witcher coming out very soon. It’s based on the books, I know, but I’m sure a chunk of its audience will have been charmed by the CD Projekt Red games. Henry Cavill was.