Data: Netflix Mobile Gaming Push Off to Modest Start

Data: Netflix Mobile Gaming Push Off
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+; Adobe Stock

If Netflix thought slapping its brand name on its new mobile games was enough to make its mark, the streaming service should think again.  

None of the games Netflix launched on Nov. 2 have caught fire in the marketplace as of yet, according to data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform by Sensor Tower. 

But that’s not necessarily cause for alarm at Netflix, which is just dipping its foot in games for the first time. Netflix in early November launched its first slate of mobile titles, made up of two “Stranger Things” games and three other casual mobile games not based on Netflix IP, like a simple basketball game (“Shooting Hoops”) and card game (“Card Blast!”).

Of the first five mobile games Netflix released, consumers worldwide have mostly gravitated toward the two “Stranger Things” games.

Aside from a small fraction of exceptions like overnight sensation “Genshin Impact,” which counted 16.3 million worldwide downloads during its first full month in October 2020, mobile gaming apps usually aren’t able to rank among the most downloaded gaming apps during launch month, Sensor Tower told VIP+. 

But “Stranger Things: 1984” and “Stranger Things 3: The Game” still stand as the streamer’s globally most downloaded mobile gaming apps between Nov. 1 and Dec. 12, per Sensor Tower.  

You’d expect apps that launched earlier to have more lifetime downloads than apps that have been out for less time. But Sensor Tower’s data also shows that of the 10 mobile gaming apps Netflix has launched (which includes titles like "Asphalt Xtreme" and "Dominos Cafe"), the “Stranger Things” titles had the two highest download totals in the first week following debut. 

The mostly simple swipe-and-tap puzzle/strategy games not based on original IP from Netflix may hint at who the streamer is hoping to initially attract to its mobile titles. For example, perhaps it is interested in having its mobile games appeal to subs in international markets of priority where mobile gaming is growing quickly, like India.  

The Boston Consulting Group and VC firm Sequoia India in November predicted mobile gaming revenue in India will reach $5 billion by 2025, up from $1 billion in 2020. Netflix has said that it doesn’t plan on charging for its games, but it could still capitalize on this growing mobile gaming market in India by having titles of its own available for download there.  

And targeting users abroad is a necessity for Netflix, which can only attribute about 1% of its net paid subscriber growth during the first three quarters of 2021 to subs in the U.S./Canada region. 

Meanwhile, Netflix may also be looking at some of its initial mobile games as something that can be attractive to parents to let their younger children play. It might be easier to occupy a few minutes of a young kid’s time here-and-there with some casual “Bowling Ballers” or ”Shooting Hoops,” rather than a complex role-playing game that requires minutes just to walk a player through a tutorial. 

Of course, it’s been less than two months since Netflix officially launched its initial slate of mobile games to Android and iOS users globally.  

And there are currently some more complex Netflix mobile games that follow a story or have more sophisticated graphics, like the “Stranger Things” titles and “Asphalt Xtreme” in particular. It’s likely Netflix will eventually release more elaborate mobile games tied to its bigger originals, such as “Money Heist” or “Bridgerton.” 

Moreover, the company did indicate it would take a measured approach to gaming. In the Q2 earnings report confirming a push into gaming, Netflix said that “we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”