Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
I enjoy games and have long wanted to carve out more time for my hobby. However, adulting is hard, and eking out time for gaming amongst all my other responsibilities and interests isn’t easy. Plus, when I do manage to take out some time to sit down and enjoy some gaming goodness, decision fatigue sets in. My list of unfinished titles is lengthy and even more time-consuming. And that’s before we get to my love-hate relationship with the Netflix-like PlayStation Plus service. As appealing as having access to hundreds of titles sounds, it just adds to my woes and makes it harder still to commit to a game. First-world problems, I know.
I’ve often scoffed at smartphone games, but Netflix Games helped me change my perspective.
On the other hand, I’ve never been much of a mobile gamer. I’d scoff at the diluted gameplay experiences, microtransactions, and limited graphics. Sure, some of the best Android games promise full-fledged indie experiences on my phone, but I don’t want to spend top dollar for something I might not enjoy.
But this year, I took a gamble on Netflix Games, and I’m surprised to say that it’s helped me get through some of my favorite titles and has been my most used gaming service of the year. Here’s why.
Do you play games on Netflix?
Why does Netflix have games?
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
That’s the question I struggled with when I discovered the relatively undiscovered catalog earlier this year. The streaming service hasn’t been particularly pushy about advertising its gaming ambitions and only recently started showing a carousel of titles that might interest me in the mobile app. The list of titles includes a wide range of indie games, titles that tie in with the best Netflix exclusive shows like Shadow and Bone, and licensed AA games like Shovel Knight, Dead Cells, and more.
Netflix Games isn’t just a collection of existing titles but also includes exclusive upcoming games.
It’s worth noting that the Netflix Games catalog isn’t just a best-of collection of old titles. The company is actively adding fresh and upcoming games to the service. I’ve had a blast playing old favorites like Oxenfree, but it’s been a pleasant surprise discovering games like Raji on the service, too. The latter was a timed exclusive on the Nintendo Switch and has won several awards for its gameplay loop. It’s also a title I’d been interested in buying. However, I wasn’t quite ready to commit $24.99 towards it. So, having access to it for free via Netflix has been excellent.
Similarly, I’d previously picked up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on my PlayStation. But the game is perfectly suited for short bursts of gameplay, and I’ve put in several playthroughs already on the Netflix version of the game.
Netflix claims its investment in gaming is meant to keep viewers invested in the Netflix-verse. Sure, it makes sense, as shows like Stranger Things require a production timeline as long as any other blockbuster movie and goes years between seasons. That reminds me of the tie-in game for Lost that I enjoyed on my iPod way back in the late 2000s. However, it’s clear that Netflix’s ambitions stretch far beyond keeping interest levels high in its TV shows. As of today, the platform has about 86 games, with an additional 92 in development. And only a few of those titles are direct tie-ins with television shows or movies. The selection of games is curated enough not to be overwhelming and wide enough to cover all sorts of interests.
Accessing Netflix Games is as simple as downloading the title from the app store, and signing in with your Netflix account.
Plus, accessing and playing games via Netflix couldn’t be easier. The titles are all listed on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Once downloaded, I just sign in with my Netflix account and start playing. All games part of the Netflix library are absolutely free for existing subscribers and have no ads or in-app micro-transactions.
Now, before you suggest that I should look into picking up a Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch for on-the-go gaming — I already own a Switch. However, my Switch mostly stays put in the dock because of its not-so-great battery life and the sheer size of the console. Meanwhile, my phone is always with me, and I’ve had a blast playing games like Football Manager Mobile 2024 and Terra Nil in between meetings, while taking cab rides, or on a plane.
How does Netflix Games compare to Cloud Gaming?
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
Netflix’s endeavors in the gaming space are the polar opposite of Xbox Cloud Gaming and PlayStation Cloud Streaming. While intermittent internet connectivity and data caps can put a dampener on accessing the catalog on those services, Netflix is circumventing that by creating an offline-first experience.
Mobile gaming accounts for over 50% of all gaming revenue, and Netflix is focussed on offline-first smartphone experiences.
Mobile gaming accounts for 50% of the overall revenue games generate annually. While much of it is via micro-transactions and gacha-style games, it’s clear that everyone, from smartphone brands to publishers, is seriously looking at the smartphone as a console-class portable platform. The recent release of Resident Evil Village for the iPhone proves that. In addition to high-profile titles from third-party publishers, Apple’s own play in the gaming space with Apple Arcade is similar to the Netflix model in that it gives subscribers access to a selection of high-quality games for a monthly subscription fee. Apple, too, is investing in exclusive titles like Fantasian for its platform. Similarly, Google’s Play Pass offers a selection of popular titles as a bundle. However, both these services require an additional monthly fee — Netflix games is bundled with your monthly video streaming subscription.
Netflix, too, is investing heavily into bespoke gaming experiences and exclusive titles — in addition to porting award-winning titles to smartphones. The recent addition of the GTA collection is bound to give the platform some much-needed visibility. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s not all about popular existing titles.
Netflix is also investing in porting over fan favorites like Hades, developing an exclusive title in the Valiant Hearts series, and has even committed to a full-fledged Assassin’s Creed game to its collection. The modern style of 100-hour epic Assassin’s Creed titles has its fair share of detractors, but I love it, and if Netflix can bring that experience to the smartphone, I’m all for it. Yes, I know Assassin’s Creed Mirage is on its way to the iPhone, and so is Jade, but those will more likely than not be full-price titles — a big difference.
An offline-first present with a streaming future
Netflix’s long-term plans to bring game streaming to smart televisions and PCs means that there could be a time when you could continue playing the same game at home or on the go. If the company can pull off a seamless pick-up-and-play-anywhere experience, it could be the sleeper-hit gaming juggernaut nobody expected. Given Netflix’s experience in streaming, it could certainly pull it off. But that future is still a ways off.
It’s also not all that different from what Microsoft is attempting with Xbox Game Pass. However, Netflix has the upper hand here. Latest reports peg Netflix subscriber figures at about 247.2 million. Meanwhile, Microsoft has a little over 25 million for Game Pass. Moreover, Netflix is much more of a household name than a gaming service. This gives Netflix much-needed leverage to get people trying out its gaming services. And then there’s the obvious fact that games are bundled in, and don’t require an additional fee.
For now, Netflix’s excellent selection of titles and free access for existing subscribers have made it an essential add-on for me and has gone a long way toward justifying the ever-increasing monthly Netflix prices. Sure, it could do with some polishing. Many titles released on the service have been plagued with control issues or errant bugs. The otherwise very enjoyable Laya’s Horizon stands out as a recent example. But Netflix has been fairly quick to resolve these issues and just needs to invest more time in polish and quality control to nail the experience. For the price of free, Netflix Games is a no-brainer, and I’d encourage every subscriber to give it a look.