As part of its efforts to establish itself in the gaming industry, Netflix is establishing its own video game studio.
Marko Lastikka, a former Zynga and Electronic Arts executive, will lead the company from its headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.
Netflix has previously acquired small gaming companies such as Night School Studio, the developer of Oxenfree.
However, the streaming giant is now going a step further and building a studio from the ground up. Lastikka is a well-known figure in the gaming industry, having co-founded the Zynga studio in Helsinki, which worked on FarmVille 3 under his direction.
In a blog post, Amir Rahimi, Netflix’s VP of Game Studios, announced the “vision to build a world-class games studio.”
“[It] will bring a wide range of delightful and deeply engaging original games with no ads or in-app purchases.”
Netflix announced a 200,000-subscriber loss in April, its first quarterly loss since 2011. Its share price fell by 35%, erasing more than $50 billion (£46.5 billion) from the company’s market value. Netflix then lost nearly a million subscribers between April and July 2022, the most in its history, despite having more than 220 million subscribers worldwide.
In March 2022, Netflix acquired Helsinki-based Next Games. It already had a collaboration with a game developer who created a mobile game based on the Netflix hit series Stranger Things.
Netflix VP of Games Michael Verdu described Next Games at the time as “a core studio in a strategic region and key talent market.”
Annakaisa Kultima, a gaming researcher, based in Helsinki, told the BBC that this acquisition would have influenced Netflix’s decision.
“They know how Helsinki works,” she explained, “and how the Finnish development culture works.”
“Hundreds of games are published on the app stores on a daily basis, so in order to truly make it there, you must have critical knowledge of how to make it happen.”
“We have a reputation for doing pretty well in the game industry over the last decade or so, but games are not labeled where they were made.”
“From that standpoint, I believe that’s why; they know that talent is based in Finland – [Clash of Clans developer] Supercell is in Helsinki’s city center, and [Angry Birds developer] Rovio Entertainment and [Control developer] Remedy Entertainment are in Espoo, which borders the city.”
Just for mobile?
In recent years, Netflix has shown growing interest in gaming.
It has produced several game-based series, including Arcane (based on League of Legends) and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (based on Cyberpunk: 2077).
Netflix is also collaborating with Ubisoft on a live-action Assassin’s Creed television series as well as a Netflix-exclusive mobile game.
It is unclear whether the Netflix studio will focus solely on mobile games or will also target the home console market.
According to Eric Seufert, an independent industry analyst, Netflix is making “pretty substantial investments” in the gaming industry.
“If they want to use a lot of their IP, they’ll have to build a lot of those games themselves,” he said, “because working with external publishers on IP licensing deals becomes very tedious and complex.”
“They have so much data on customer preferences for video-streaming content that I believe they can use some of it.
“I believe they ultimately want to use these games as part of the product content package, and then funnel them into the Netflix universe.”