To play ? Netflix hires first video game manager, signaling new approach
Netflix Inc. announced its first major video game rental on Wednesday, potentially signaling movement beyond its streaming video roots.
hired Mike Verdu as vice president of game development, poaching him from Facebook Inc. FB,
where, as Vice President of Content for Reality Labs, he oversaw Oculus Studios as well as the teams bringing second and third party VR games and other applications to Oculus VR headsets. Prior to joining Facebook, Verdu was senior vice president of mobile for Electronic Arts Inc. EA,
responsible for mobile game studios that operated franchises like “The Sims”, “Plants vs. Zombies” and “Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes”.
Bloomberg News, which first reported hiring, also reported that the move was a step towards offering video games on the streaming service over the next year. Citing a single source, Bloomberg said video games will appear alongside current lineup and there are currently no plans to charge additional fees for games. Netflix declined to comment beyond confirming Verdu’s hiring on Wednesday.
Netflix has dabbled in video games in the past, producing games with their intellectual property primarily as part of marketing efforts, as well as offering interactive content on its popular streaming service. As recently as 2018, when asked about an interactive offering and whether it signaled a move towards gaming, a Netflix spokesperson categorically said, “We have no plans to get into gaming.”
The tone of executives has changed amid increased competition in streaming video – Netflix NFLX,
faces fierce competition from media giants Walt Disney Co. DIS,
Apple Inc. AAPL,
AT&T Inc. T,
Comcast Corp. CMCSA,
and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
– as well as the continued mass adoption of video games. On the company’s latest earnings conference call, COO Gregory Peters, who will be Verdu’s new boss, answered a question about the potential of video games noting early licensing efforts and d Netflix interaction.
“There is no doubt that games are going to be an important form of entertainment and an important kind of modality to deepen that fan experience. So we will continue and we will continue to learn and understand as we go, ”Peters said in April.
Co-Managing Director Reed Hastings responded to a similar analyst question in July 2020, calling video games a “great and interesting field.”
“There are a number of aspects of multiplayer changing, esports changing, PC games. So it remains a very interesting area, ”he said.
Netflix is expected to release its second quarter results Tuesday afternoon.
Netflix shares gained 3% after-market on Wednesday after the news broke. After increasing with new subscribers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix’s stock has suffered in recent months as subscription additions have slowed. Stocks are up 1.3% so far in 2021, like the S&P 500 SPX,
increased by 16.5%.