Netflix has hired a former EA and Facebook executive to lead its charge into the gaming market, which will pit Netflix against competitors such as Apple’s Arcade games platform as well as potentially more mainstream rivals like Xbox Cloud Gaming.
The streaming giant has enlisted Mike Verdu, who ran EA Mobile and has been working to bolster Facebook’s Oculus division, as its vice president of game development, reporting to Netflix COO Greg Peters.
Verdu’s hiring is part of Netflix’s plan to expand into gaming, which sources have told Bloomberg is set to appear on the platform within the year alongside regular programming at no additional cost to subscribers.
Netflix has published several interactive “choose-your-own-adventure” shows so far, including entries for Black Mirror and Carmen Sandiego; in an earnings call in April, Peters said games would form an “interesting” component of Netflix’s efforts to deepen connections with fans.
“So whether it’s gamifying some of the linear storytelling we’re doing like interactive, Bandersnatch, and the kids interactive programs, that’s been super interesting. We’re going to continue working in that space for sure.
“We’ve actually launched games themselves. It’s part of our licensing and merchandising effort, and we’re happy with what we’ve seen so far,” he said.
The move will expand Netflix’s content offering beyond video, giving it a new tool to wield against competitors like Disney+ on the world stage, as well as Stan and Foxtel here in Australia. Its shares rose 3.3 per cent on Wall Street at the news, with beleaguered game store chain GameStop taking a 10 per cent hit.