Netflix has been testing a gamified streaming experience for children with a subset of its audience over the past few weeks, letting them collect so-called patches for watching episodes of select shows. The test was first spotted by users on Twitter, and has since been confirmed by a Netflix spokesperson, who sent Variety the following statement:
“We are testing a new feature on select kids titles that introduces collectible items for a more interactive experience, adding an element of fun and providing kids something to talk about and share around the titles they love. We learn by testing and this feature may or may not become part of the Netflix experience.”
Eligible shows are being marked with red locks for users who are part of the test. However, collecting patches doesn’t actually unlock any additional content, and is more of a reward in itself. That seems to confuse at least some users on Twitter, who can’t quite figure out what to do with their “Series of Unfortunate Events” patches.
What the heck are #Netflix patches?! pic.twitter.com/Mv2XG2XA3D
— Kaley (@KaleyBela) February 24, 2018
Some Twitter users also seem to be concerned that this type of gamification could promote too much TV viewing among kids. “As if getting my son to stop watching Netflix wasn’t hard enough,” remarked one Dad. Not all feedback is negative, however. “Netflix patches: making me feel like a binge watching girl scout,” tweeted another user.
And some tweets seem to suggest that the patches are indeed working, for better or for worse:
You now get badges for watching certain Netflix kids shows and yeah, it’s totally working considering we’ve watched all 6 episodes of Trolls at least 3 times today.
— mia mac (@mrsmiamac) March 7, 2018
Netflix is known for obsessively testing potential new features, not all of which end up being part of its service. The company is also conducting thousands of interviews with users every year, and at times finds that people don’t really use the service like they say or think they are.
Case in point: During a press briefing this week, Netflix employees recalled that U.S. users had told them over and over again that they would prefer to watch foreign originals with English subtitles as opposed to dubbed versions. However, when Netflix tested dubbing as the default option for a foreign show, it found that it led to more viewing than subtitled versions of the same show.
Update: 4:13pm: This post was updated with a statement from Netflix.