What Netflix's plan to outflank Disney Plus with videogame streaming tells us

Netflix for games is becoming a reality as it confirms "we’re excited to do more with interactive entertainment"

Netflix Disney Plus
(Image credit: Bogdan Glisik / Shutterstock.com)

The term "Netflix for games" has become quite common over the past five years or so, with it used to loosely describe services like PlayStation Now, Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia GeForce Now, which offer subscription services for gamers that grant access to large libraries of videogames.

Like TV and movie streaming services like Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Paramount Plus, these services offer their subscribers a way to instantly play hundreds of games and have them streamed or downloaded directly to their device, just like you would do with a TV or movie streaming service like Netflix.

But now it looks like line between a video streaming service and game streaming service is going to become very blurred, with Netflix reported to have "approached veteran game industry executives about joining the company" because it is "excited to do more with interactive entertainment".

Simply put, it looks like Netflix is looking to deliver its own "Netflix for games" service. And that's very interesting as it seemingly, at least in my mind, gives us some insight into the current state of the online streaming service wars. The streaming service war that recently has seen Disney Plus sweep all before it.

This is because while it is true that Netflix has had a few, very small dabbles into "interactive entertainment" so far, these have been very light weight experiences such as the interactive TV show Bandersnatch and You v. Wild, as well as a basic game based on Stranger Things. Put simply, Netflix is no game streaming service and if you asked gamers right now if they would sign up to Netflix to play games they'd laugh at you and ask what you were smoking.

To be very clear, right now no gamer would consider Netflix a game streaming service, or something they would subscribe to to play interactive entertainment. This isn't to badmouth things like Bandersnatch, it's just stating the fact that gamers who played that game already had Netflix – they did not sign up to play it.

As such, if Netflix is going to "do more with interactive entertainment" it will be interesting to see what sort of level that reaches in terms of scope. If the company is reaching out to "veteran game industry executives" that indicates to me that it is planning an orders of magnitude upgrade to its offering.

The original report, which came from The Information, notes that one option Netflix is considering is a bundle of games similar to Apple Arcade. However, there is no knowing right now if that is just the base level of offering and that Netflix could be toying with the idea of offering a more substantial library of games to stream and play, including AAA games.

Regardless of what this game streaming offering looks like, though, it really hangs a lantern on the fact, at least in my mind, that Netflix feels it needs to broaden its offering in order to continue to compete with rival streaming services, and particularly Disney Plus, which has juggernaut momentum right now.

As I wrote about recently, Disney Plus has accrued half of Netflix's subscriber numbers in just over 18 months, and reports from respected analysts have even indicated that some of that number has been directly taken from Netflix. And with Disney Plus' massive content creation might, with Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and more studios directly at its disposal, it looks like Netflix is going to struggle to match it – and especially so now that it is no longer borrowing money.

This broadening of the Netflix offering to include games, which is something that Disney Plus does not do, seems to me therefore to be a play to add value and offer users a reason to choose Netflix over its competitors with a unique selling point. After all, if you're faced with the decision of signing up to just one streaming service, and all of them offers loads of movies and TV shows but one offers movies, TV shows and games to play, it's going to be harder to ignore that more well-rounded package.

It will therefore be interesting to see how this story develops, as too if rival streaming services follow Netflix's path. Naturally when T3 knows more we'll follow up with the latest information. For now, though, it looks like we're about to enter a new phase of the online streaming service wars.

Robert Jones

Rob has been writing about computing, gaming, mobile, home entertainment technology, toys (specifically Lego and board games), smart home and more for over 15 years. As the editor of PC Gamer, and former Deputy Editor for T3.com, you can find Rob's work in magazines, bookazines and online, as well as on podcasts and videos, too. Outside of his work Rob is passionate about motorbikes, skiing/snowboarding and team sports, with football and cricket his two favourites.