Netflix is developing features that will allow members to play mobile games with each other and compete competitively on gaming leaderboards. The company, starting last month, quietly launched the ability for users to create unique “game handles” in a subset of its mobile games, including Into The Breach, followed by Bowling Ballers, Mahjong Solitaire and Heads Up!. In addition, references found in the Netflix app point to expanded gaming ambitions, including the ability to invite other users to play games with you and a feature that will let you see where you rank on leaderboards, among other things.
The company confirmed that it is exploring various game features in a statement provided to TechCrunch, but could not say which features, other than game manipulation, will be publicly released to users or when that will happen.
“We are always looking to improve our members’ experience on the service and are exploring various features to enrich the Netflix mobile gaming experience,” said Netflix spokesperson Kumiko Hidaka. “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 participate in games by playing with others. The news follows the recent revelation that Netflix is hiring engineers and product managers with experience in cloud gaming.
According to findings first discovered by the developer Steve MoserNetflix allows users to set something called a “game handle,” which is described as a “unique public name for playing games on Netflix.”
Netflix first began its tests of game manipulation in the game Into The Breach, 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 others playing Netflix games.” (In other words, you can be known by a nickname instead of your Netflix name and identity .)
Although the game management test is in place, the code in the app suggests that Netflix plans to later allow users to see where they stand on the leaderboards and introduce the user to Netflix Games. And handles will be used when “playing with other members,” the code says.
Another section makes references to users’ ability to show others if they are online, if they want to play, and also offers the ability to invite members to play with them.
Adding more social components is likely one way Netflix can better aim to attract and retain subscribers.
But until now, Netflix hasn’t seen excessive demand for its mobile games.
App data firm Apptopia recently found that Netflix games were just averaging 1.7 million daily users, CNBC had first reported. In total, the two dozen games in Netflix’s catalog have 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 they were acquired by Netflix. But while that might explain some uncounted downloads, engagement levels are pretty low.
Did Netflix make a strategic mistake by moving on to the games remains to be seen as it is still early days.
To its credit, Netflix has worked around 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 simply lists them from its main app, which is allowed. The games then require your Netflix credentials to sign in.
However, mobile users may not think to look to Netflix for this kind of entertainment, any more than they think to turn on Netflix when they’re in the mood for short-form videos like TikTok — the latest Netflix promotes in its main navigation as “Fast Laughs.“
The streamer’s premise seems to be that he needs to raise his lagging subscriber numbers offering more entertainment options. But on wider feedback from critics and users it’s like what they really want from Netflix isn’t games or TikToks, just more quality shows.