Netflix looks to captivate users on the second screen, as it prepares to bring mobile games to the service
Previously dabbling in gamified content in the form of interactive videos such as Black Mirror Bandersnatch, Netflix now looks to level up its efforts by developing its own games. The company asserted in its Q2 2021 earnings report that games will be included in the Netflix subscription, at no additional cost, and will initially focus on mobile. The mobile gaming space is like Netflix’s content library – there’s something for everyone. And, even though most Netflix subscribers watch the service on TV sets in the US, Netflix will make it easy for customers to try out its mobile games at no cost or risk to them. Netflix’s foray into mobile gaming unlocks a world of opportunity for the streamer to extend subscribers’ big screen consumption to second screen interaction, ultimately building enhanced, multidimensional experiences that drive greater appeal, engagement, and stickiness.
Broad appeal, easy access
Simpler game mechanics and convenience make the barrier to entry significantly lower for mobile games than they might be for console or computer games. As a result, mobile gaming tends to engage people with all types of interests and skill levels. While men and young adults tend to dominate the worlds of console and computer gaming, more than half of Gen X and older adults play mobile games and there is almost no gender gap. According to Mintel research on gaming, the share of adults who play video games on their smartphones rose from 39% in 2018 to 57% in 2021. Further, three in five mobile gamers watch ad-free streaming services in a typical month.
Netflix’s positioning of gaming as an added feature rather than an additional revenue stream makes it easier for subscribers to give these games a try and, therefore, helps Netflix further engage its subscriber base. Users can try a game within the Netflix app without consequence, broadening the appeal of any new mobile games while also encouraging users who primarily use TV to interact with Netflix’s mobile app.
To earn money, many free mobile games include in-game purchases, where users can pay a few dollars at a time for incremental upgrades (i.e., new costumes, better weapons). However, the pressure to make money in the game can force game developers to make compromises when building new games. By eliminating the need for direct revenue, Netflix can also appeal to game developers in the same way it enticed broadcast/cable writers when it started developing original movies and TV. Netflix will be able to expand its creative reach to appeal to different types of mobile gamers in the same way it appeals to different movie/TV lovers. Giving game developers the keys to Netflix IP with little creative interference can help further Netflix’s brand identity as a bastion for original storytelling and creative freedom across different entertainment platforms.
Second screen differentiation and dominance
A key opportunity for Netflix to differentiate and drive engagement with its new gaming offering is through second screen engagement. In the 2021 Telecom & Media Trend ‘Multidimensional Engagement,’ Comperemedia anticipated that 2021 would see streaming media platforms implementing new in-platform features and second-screen engagements that enable rich, multidimensional experiences, especially those pertaining to gaming and sports betting. Netflix’s new investment in gaming exemplifies this trend. By using mobile devices to gamify viewership and offer further engagement with fictional worlds, Netflix can extend the experience of its content beyond the TV, making for deeper, richer engagement.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously said in 2019 that Netflix competed more with Fortnite than HBO. One of the things Fortnite does well is offer incredible virtual worlds where users explore or compete. Netflix is in the unique position to root its gameplay in the worlds of its popular original content and to encourage mobile play—alone or with others—alongside big screen viewership, simultaneously. Talk about increasing “minutes viewed”!
Additionally, if Netflix ever decides it wants to get into live TV, second screen engagements would help drive subscribers there, by enabling voting and betting capabilities for Netflix reality competition shows, or even other types of episodic content dropping once per week. Netflix has experimented with weekly episode metering before, and second-screen options could drive greater on-time viewership of and engagement with this content.
The drive for attention
With its new gaming offering, Netflix is clearly hoping to bring a new dimension to its original content, capture greater minutes of engagement, and drive consumers deeper into the Netflix ecosystem to keep them around. Netflix stated in its Q2 2021 earnings report that its “goal is to continue to increase [its] share of screen time in the US and around the world.” Adding mobile games could certainly accomplish this goal. The challenge for Netflix will be to create compelling gaming content for its subscribers to engage with and also to drive awareness of these options in a way that is not obtrusive for those who just want to sit back and watch a show.
Emily Groch is Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.
John Poelking is a Senior Analyst on Comperemedia, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights for technology, media, and telecom brands.