Netflix seemingly isn’t content to compete with Apple (spoiler: it’s winning) over streaming video subscription services only. The media giant has now confirmed that it is planning to launch an Apple Arcade rival — and at no extra cost to its subscribers.
In a letter to shareholders, Netflix noted that it is still “in the early stages of the initiative,” but that it views it as a major piece of the puzzle in terms of dominating the entertainment landscape.
“We’re…in the early stages of further expanding into games, building on our earlier efforts around interactivity (eg, Black Mirror Bandersnatch) and our Stranger Things games [for Nintendo Switch],” the letter noted. “We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV.”
It continues that, “Initially, we’ll be primarily focused” on games for mobile devices. It reassured users that it’s “excited as ever” about TV and movie content, but that “since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”
A previous report from Bloomberg said that the video games could launch “within the next year.” Netflix is said to have hired ex-Electronic Arts and Oculus veteran Mike Verdu as its new (and first ever) VP of game development.
Apple Arcade vs. Netflix Arcade
Apple launched its Apple Arcade subscription service (ironically, originally described by us as a Netflix for games) in September 2019. Costing $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually, it offers more than 100 games free of in-app purchases. It joins Apple Music, Apple News, Apple TV+, and Apple Fitness as recurring subscription services offered by Apple.
It’s still too early to know how much of a threat Netflix’s service represents. For one thing, it’s not clear how many subscribers Apple Arcade has. Apple has never released subscriber numbers. Right now, the service offers some high quality games. But no breakout hits that have made Apple Arcade a “must subscribe” service. It’s also not clear how many games Netflix will offer. Netflix stock dipped slightly on the news, but that’s just the initial market uncertainty of Netflix moving into a new domain.
Personally, I think it’s a smart gauntlet-throwing exercise on the part of Netflix. Apple TV+ doesn’t serve as much of a threat to Netflix. But Apple, by dint of its sheer size, is still a force to be reckoned with. Like Spotify taking on (and undercutting) Apple’s premium podcasting service, this shows that Netflix isn’t worried about challenging the might of Cupertino.
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