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Netflix establishes its first in-house game studio


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Streaming giant Netflix is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and it's been quite the journey. I'm old enough to remember the novelty of receiving DVDs and videogames through the letterbox, and the pleasing back-and-forth rhythm of visiting the post office every few days to return and receive.

That now seems like another era, and Netflix's transformation from essentially a postal library into the dominant force in online streaming and a major studio in its own right has been remarkable. But one thing it is yet to crack, despite a stated intention to do so, is games. Netflix has over the years acquired smaller studios, and cut deals to have individual games ported to its service, and it clearly recognises the value of games in its programming choices: most obviously the Witcher series, but alongside that a host of well-received animes from the recent Cyberpunk: Edgerunners to Castlevania.

Netflix doesn't just want to make the spinoffs, though, it wants to make the games. Now the company has announced it has set up its first games studio, based in Helsinki, Finland. The studio director is Marco Lastikka, who started in the industry as a programmer before rapidly moving into management: he spent eight years at Digital Chocolate (a specialist in Facebook games), four years at EA as a GM / executive producer on the mobile side, and five years at Zynga as a vice president.

That history suggests that this studio will be focused on producing so-called casual games for the Netflix service. "[The studio] will bring a variety of delightful and deeply engaging original games—with no ads and no in-app purchases—to our hundreds of millions of members around the world," writes Amir Rahimi, Netflix's vice president of games.

Netflix says Helsinki is full of the talent it needs, which is probably the right thing to say if you're moving to Helsinki, and this follows on the heels of it acquiring Next Games earlier this year, which is also based in the city. In total and including this newly established enterprise, Netflix now has four internal game development studios, the other two being Night School Studio and Boss Fight Entertainment. 

Rahimi says this bunch have "different strengths and focus areas, [and] will develop games that will suit the diverse tastes of our members." It will likely be years before we see anything from this new studio, which seems to be operating under the name of Netflix Games, but don't expect the next Elden Ring. Netflix has been experimenting with how it ties-in games to its shows, such as with an elegant Chess accompaniment to The Queen's Gambit, and that strategy looks set to continue.

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