Netflix Turns to ‘Stranger Things’ for First Test of Gaming Strategy

Stranger Things - Netflix Mobile Games
Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix launched the first test of its plan to use mobile games to boost its core streaming-subscription business, with the introduction of two “Stranger Things” games for Android, available — for now — only to users in Poland.

“Today members in Poland can try Netflix mobile gaming on Android with two games, ‘Stranger Things: 1984’ and ‘Stranger Things 3,'” the Netflix Geeked account tweeted Thursday. “It’s very, very early days and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the months ahead, but this is the first step.”

It’s no surprise Netflix tapped the Upside Down for its initial games foray. For starters, the company already launched games based on the popular show, which features sci-fi and otherworldly elements. “Stranger Things” debuted on Netflix in 2016, and it has been among the most-watched originals on the service, according to Netflix. Season 4 of the supernatural drama is slated to debut in 2022.

Netflix said its games will have no ads or in-app purchases, and the titles will be included with a Netflix streaming plan. In the Android app, available game titles will show up under a new menu that says “Play Mobile Games”; users who click on a title will be directed to the Google Play store to download it. Presumably, over time, the games will be more tightly integrated into the Netflix app itself.

Adventure game “Stranger Things 3: The Game,” developed by studio BonusXP, is a companion game to Season 3 of the series, letting you play through familiar events from the series while also “uncovering never-before-seen quests, character interactions, and secrets!” according to its description. “Stranger Things: 1984” is described as a stylized, retro action adventure similar to the arcade games from back in the ’80s, letting players solve puzzles and collect Eggos and gnomes along the way.

In announcing second-quarter earnings last month, Netflix officially unveiled its plans to enter the video game market, staring with mobile games, seeing it as a new content category that will help it attract and retain customers. “[W]e think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games,” the company said in its letter to shareholders. Netflix hired video game veteran Mike Verdu, formerly at Facebook’s Oculus Studios and EA, as VP of game development.

Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings has made it clear that the company isn’t looking to generate revenue from games per se.

Asked on the Q2 earnings interview which of the new areas Netflix is developing would become significant profit pools, Hastings replied, “None of them — they’re not designed to be.” Initiatives like video games are about “enhancing the big service that we have,” he added. “We are really a one-product company.”

Netflix plans to create games based on its original TV shows and films, as well as introduce completely new games and license some titles, chief product office Greg Peters told investors on the Q2 earnings interview.