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Netflix is ​​accelerating its foray into video games with plans to double its catalog of offerings by the end of the year, but so far few of the streaming giant’s subscribers are playing.

Since last November, the company has been rolling out the games as a way to keep users engaged between editions of the show. Games are available to subscribers only, but must be downloaded as separate apps.

The games have been downloaded a total of 23.3 million times and average 1.7 million users daily, according to Apptopia, an app analytics company. That’s less than 1% of Netflix’s 221 million subscribers.

The importance of gaming to Netflix’s overall strategy has likely increased in recent months as the company faces increasing competition for users’ attention. In the second quarter, Netflix lost nearly one million subscribers after losing 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter — the first subscriber decline in more than a decade.

In a letter to shareholders last year, Netflix named Epic Games and TikTok as among its biggest competitors for people’s time.

“One of Netflix’s many advantages in pursuing the strategy is the ability to drive engagement after a show first airs on the platform,” said Prosek Partners analyst Tom Forte.

Still, Netflix COO Greg Peters said last year that the company had been “many months and really, frankly, years” into studying how games could keep customers on the service.

“We’re going to experiment and try a bunch of things,” Peters said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call. “But I would say that the eyes we have on the long-term prize are really centered more around our ability to create properties that are connected to the universes, the characters, the stories that we’re building.”

The company’s current catalog of 24 game apps spans a variety of genres and Netflix shows like “Stranger Things: 1984.” Several are modeled after popular card games, such as Mahjong Solitaire and Exploding Kittens.

The catalog will grow to 50 games by the end of the year, including “Queen’s Gambit Chess,” based on the hit Netflix series, according to a company representative.

Intentionally vague

Netflix has been coy about how it plans to make video games a core part of the company’s strategy, not just a side hobby.

“We’re still intentionally keeping things a little quiet because we’re still learning and experimenting and trying to figure out what kind of things are actually going to resonate with our members, what kind of games people want to play,” Leanne Lumb, head of Netflix external games, said during a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival in June.

Netflix hinted earlier this year that it would license popular intellectual property for its new gaming additions.

“We’re open to licensing, access to a big game IP that people will recognize,” Peters said in January. “And I think you’re going to see some of that happen in the next year.”

Netflix has brought in outside developers for its current catalog, but has acquired three video game developers in the past year.

All this contributes to growing investments. Netflix doesn’t disclose how much it’s spending to grow its video game segment, but the effort is capital-intensive. Netflix’s acquisition of Finnish developer Next Games cost the streamer about $72 million.

Forrester analyst Mike Proulx noted that Netflix has been slow to invest in games and that it still appears to be what he considers “more of a test and experiment at this stage.” He noted that most people don’t associate Netflix with gaming.

So far, Netflix’s game download numbers are far below the leading mobile games – Subway Surfers, Roblox and Among Us, to name a few — each of which has more than 100 million downloads, according to Apptopia. However, downloads have been slowly picking up since May after a downward trend that began in December.

“We need to please our members by having the absolute best in class,” Netflix co-CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings said in January. “We have to be great at it. There’s no point in just being in it.”

Netflix is expanding its push into video games, but few subscribers are playing along – Digital Tech Blog

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