Netflix will open a video game studio in Helsinki, Finland

Netflix will open a video game studio in Helsinki, Finland

Netflix is ​​starting a game studio in Helsinki as the next step in establishing its presence in the gaming industry. It’s a first for the streaming giant, which previously bought up three other studios to make mobile games and hired executives from notable game companies.

The in-house games studio will be led by Marko Lastikka, a former Zynga and Electronic Arts executive. Lastikka recently worked at Zynga’s Helsinki branch on the Farmville franchise.

Netflix said it chose Helsinki because of its proximity to other gaming talent, such as Next Games, a Finnish studio acquired earlier this year that produces titles like “Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales.”

“Helsinki’s gaming industry is in many ways a ‘mobile-first’ gaming industry, led by companies like Rovio and Supercell,” said Laine Nooney, assistant professor at New York University and historian of the game. game. “That makes sense when you consider the outsized importance Finnish company Nokia played at the dawn of the mobile phone industry. The popular game “Snake” was preloaded on Nokia mobile phones from the late 1990s and is widely considered to be one of the first games for mobile phones.

Video games have become more prominent on the streaming service, whether with a TV show-turned-game like “Stranger Things” and “Stranger Things: 1984,” or a video game-turned-TV show like “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” series. anime based on “Cyberpunk 2077”. Netflix has also dabbled in third-party publishing and original games, though the release schedule for new in-house titles is much further away.

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“We started very small at the end of last year. There were very, very few games. And we’ve been pretty clear with our members that it’s going to be a long journey,” said Mike Verdu, Netflix’s vice president of games, of the company’s approach to games in a September interview with the Washington Post. “The rate at which we deploy games is definitely increasing.”

“Netflix doesn’t take a lot of big hits like this, but when they do, they support it and they engage with it,” Verdu added.

Netflix plans to add 50 games to its platform by the end of the year. The company declined to share adoption numbers for its current games. The platform said it won’t include ads in its games and the titles will be available to Netflix streaming subscribers.

Although the streaming service has primarily released mobile games under its brand since its launch last year, it’s been vague about whether it might dabble in console or PC titles. The latest announcement simply states that it plans to build a “world-class game studio”, with no platform specification.

Netflix’s games live in its mobile streaming app and use an inelegant workaround for Apple’s rules prohibiting app store distribution in its own app store: users can click on a game on the Netflix app, where they will be redirected to the app store to download the game. If users already own the titles, tap the game icons in the Netflix app to launch those games.

While Netflix blames password sharing and stiff competition from platforms like Disney Plus and Hulu, it sees gaming as the next big opportunity. As the company focuses on making more hit shows like “Squid Game” and “Bridgerton,” it’s also buying game studios with a plan for the future.

Analysts note that Netflix’s moves in the games industry come as the streamer has lost nearly a million subscriptions.

“Netflix is ​​slowly delivering on its promise to grow a 50-game pipeline by acquiring and hiring established companies and in top locations,” said Joost van Dreunen, lecturer in games business at New York University Stern. School of Business. . “Soon it will face the challenge of properly managing a growing portfolio of concurrent projects as its core video streaming business takes a financial hit. Developing its own games division won’t save Netflix, but it may drown it out.

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