Updated: Jan 6
Last week we saw the release of Netflix’s gaming service for Android (iOS to come at a later date). Five games released alongside the service,
"Stranger Things: 1984"
"Stranger Things 3: The Game"
and other than the Stranger Things games listed above, it’s a massively disappointing first step into gaming. Taking a quick look at the games alone shows that Netflix either rushed these games onto the market or doesn’t quite understand the mobile gaming market at all. The next set of games released will have to be a massive step up if they are to have any hope in subscribers to actually use this service.
Three of the five games (Shooting Hoops, Card Blast, and Teeter up) can be best described as “those games you downloaded on your iPod touch in 2009”. Not to insult the dev team making them, because more likely Netflix didn’t hire actual game developers to work on these games and just used existing staff that knew how to code basic games. “Shooting Hoops” is a game where you try to use darts to shoot a basketball into a hoop. The concept itself sounds outrageous, and don’t worry, the developers agree with you. The summary describes the game as “A basketball with a dart gun attached? Sure, why the heck not? Fire darts in the right direction to push the ball through the hoop. Nothing but net.” While I appreciate the self-awareness, the absurdity doesn’t translate into engaging gameplay. The worst part being is that it gives its no users no incentive to keep playing other than a higher score.
The second game, “Card Blast'' is described as “fast-paced poker for casual players”. A solid concept in theory, but has the same issue of being too simple with no reward or real goal to aim for other than a higher number. Gaming, especially mobile gaming, has mostly moved past the high score chase of 1980’s arcades. While the game does feature multiplayer and leaderboards, there’s little reason to come back to it and continue your poker journey.
“Teeter Up” is the last of the random game selection, a take on the classic “guide the ball into the hole” game we’ve all played at least once in our lives. Except that's it; it’s as much fun as you can make using your phone to guide a ball into the correct hole for more points. It’s simple and something that’s been done thousands of times.
Saving the best and most important for last, “Stranger Things: 1984” and “Stranger Things 3: The Game” both are deserving of their own introduction. Both games are the only ones on the list to have existed before “Netflix gaming” was announced. Netflix even hired several dedicated games industry veterans to develop these games. 1984— originally named Stranger Things: The Game— was released in 2017 for mobile devices. While not received that well, many saw charm in seeing classic 16-bit renditions of fan-favorite characters. It was wacky and an interesting experiment for Netflix as it dipped its hand in gaming for the first time. Stranger Things 3, was a game with far more depth to it than the first. Stranger Things 3 released at the same time as Season 3 was dropping and offered a complete recreation of the season in video game form. At the time, it was a really interesting thing to see— a popular TV show getting a video game that served as an accurate retelling of the current season. Something like that hadn’t been done in a long time,= and definitely not released at the same time. On top of that, it was received decently well. Alas, Netflix’s gaming division went silent after this. That is until last week.
And that’s all the games that have been announced/released for the service so far. At this moment, it's a crazy service that feels like it was released way too early with nothing notable on it aside from the games that have been out for years. While many already subscribe to Netflix, this service doesn't do anything to help justify the continued price hikes or add an exciting addition to the brand. It feels underbaked and rushed as of this moment. And, with thousands of games being released on the app store every day, it offers no reason to try them out. Unless Netflix outsources more game developers or licenses some games, this service is destined to be doomed in the Upside-Down