Netflix tests ‘game controls’ on select mobile titles amid development of social gaming features – TechCrunch

Netflix is ​​developing features that would allow members to play their mobile games against each other and rank competitively on gaming leaderboards. The company, starting last month, quietly rolled out the ability for users to create unique “game IDs” in a subset of its mobile games, including Into The Breach, followed by Bowling Ballers, Mahjong Solitaire and Heads Up!. Additionally, references discovered in the Netflix app point to further gaming ambitions, including the ability to invite other users to play with you and a feature that would allow you to see your ranking on the leaderboards, among other things.

The company confirmed that it is exploring various gaming features in a statement provided to TechCrunch, but was unable to discuss which features, beyond game IDs, would be publicly rolled out to users or when that would occur.

“We are always looking to improve our members’ experience on the service and are exploring different features to enrich the Netflix mobile gaming experience,” said Kumiko Hidaka, a Netflix spokesperson. “We have nothing else to share at this time.”

The additions suggest that Netflix is ​​looking toward a future that isn’t just about making mobile games available to its subscribers, but one that encourages members to engage in games by playing with others. The news follows the recent revelation that Netflix has been hiring engineers and product managers with experience in cloud gaming.

According to the findings, first discovered by the developer Steve MoserNetflix allows users to set up something called a “game identifier,” which is described as “a unique public name for playing games on Netflix.”

Netflix first began its game drive tests on the Into The Breach game starting on July 19, 2022, before expanding the option to other titles.

Additionally, Netflix explains to app users that: “Your profile icon and name will not be visible to other people playing Netflix games.” (In other words, you may be known by a nickname instead of your Netflix name and identity.)

While the game test drive has been implemented, the app code suggests Netflix plans to allow users to see where they are on the leaderboards and represent the user in Netflix games. And the handles will be used when “playing with other members”, the code says.

Another section refers to the possibility for users to show others if they are online, if they want to play and also offers the possibility to invite members to play with them.

Adding more social components is probably one of the ways Netflix aims to better attract and retain subscribers.

But, so far, Netflix hasn’t seen a huge demand for its mobile games.

App data firm Apptopia recently found that Netflix games alone averaged 1.7 million daily users, CNBC first reported. In total, the more than two dozen games in Netflix’s catalog had seen just 23.3 million downloads to date. Netflix, by comparison, has 221 million subscribers.

Of course, some of Netflix’s games had built-in user bases before Netflix acquired them. But while that might account for some uncounted downloads, engagement levels are pretty low.

It remains to be seen if Netflix has made a strategic mistake by moving into games, as it’s still early days.

To its credit, Netflix found a solution to Apple’s rule that apps on its App Store platform can’t host their own app stores: Netflix lists its games as separate downloads and only points to them from its main app, which is permitted. The games then require your Netflix credentials to sign in.

However, mobile consumers may not think of seeking out this type of entertainment on Netflix any more than they think of launching Netflix when they’re in the mood for short-form videos like TikTok; the latter Netflix promotes in its main navigation as “Quick laughs”.

The streamer’s premise seems to be that it should increase its number of lagging subscribers by offering more avenues of entertainment. But the broader feedback from critics and users alike is that what they really want from Netflix isn’t games or TikToks, but more quality shows.

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