Netflix games are about to get a whole lot more interesting. The streamer's new Netflix Game Controller app is now live in the iPhone and iPad app store, and while there isn't a service to connect to just yet that's clearly imminent.
According to the App Store listing, "this Game Controller app pairs with your TV and allows you to play games on Netflix using your phone or mobile device." It's a full-screen app with a thumbstick for your left thumb and then the familar four-button configuration on the right, organised here in a quarter-moon shape with a prominent A button and smaller B, X and Y buttons.
This isn't Netflix's first gaming app for mobile devices; you can install dozens of games from Netflix on iPhones, iPads, iPod touches and Android phones or tablets from within the main Netflix app. But this is clearly a whole new ballgame and points to the arrival of the much-rumoured Netflix cloud gaming service.
What does the arrival of the Netflix Game Controller app mean?
We've been expecting this for a while: Netflix has been investing heavily in its gaming division and late last year Netflix's game development vice president, Mike Verdu, said that the firm was "very seriously" exploring cloud gaming. Speaking to the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, he said that "the extension into the cloud is really about reaching the other devices where people experience Netflix." News site Protocol.com also spotted multiple job ads for Netflix cloud gaming positions.
What's interesting to me is that Netflix doesn't appear to be planning an uninspiring bunch of casual games for your TV. The job ads specifically noted that the goal was to create "high quality games for the Netflix cloud games ecosystem". And if there's one thing Netflix knows a bit about, it's streaming things from the cloud.
It'll be interesting to see whether Netflix is also going to launch dedicated controllers, Google Stadia style, or if it's going to be sticking with phone app control for the time being. But the goal is clearly to drive engagement for the platform and to differentiate it from the other best streaming services: of the ones that do have gaming services, such as Apple and Amazon Prime, they're completely separate from the streaming TV service.