Can Netflix really be the "Netflix of gaming" I've been asking for?

The streaming giant is testing its own cloud gaming platform, but will it ever take off?

Netflix cloud gaming
(Image credit: Netflix)

There has long been the idea that, one day, a company will come along and offer the "Netflix of gaming" – an all-you-can-eat cloud gaming platform that's available across every connected device and caters for a much wider audience than conventional consoles and computers.

It's a tag that has previously been attached to OnLive and Google Stadia – two streaming services that have famously fallen by the wayside – and has also been mentioned in the same breath as Xbox Cloud Gaming, Amazon Luna and Nvidia's GeForce Now.

However, none of them have really been the "Netflix of gaming" for one simple reason: they don't have the scope or business plan. Xbox comes close, with its 200-plus titles available as part of an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, but the supported device list is relatively small and it still seems to be pitched as a supplementary service rather than standalone.

My favourite cloud gaming platform at the moment, Antstream Arcade, has a larger games library (more than 1,400) and all for a single subscription fee, but caters for a niche audience of retro gamers so isn't exactly a mass-market, Netflix-style proposition neither.

Instead, it looks like the "Netflix of gaming" could end up coming from, well, Netflix itself. But even then, there are signs one of the best video streaming services may never achieve such lofty ambitions.

Netflix tests "Games on TV" service

The company has launched a beta test of a "Games on TV" service – an extension of its mobile games off-shoot that enables users to play titles on their televisions using just a phone as a controller.

The test phase is available for a select few in Canada and the UK, and works on "select TVs". It uses cloud streaming to feed the video of the games to the set, while the Netflix controller app sends user commands back the other way.

The app is only available for iOS at present, and only two games are playable as part of the test – Oxenfree and Molehew's Mining Adventure – but if successful, there are plans to open the service up to a much wider audience and device list. The Netflix Games on TV service will eventually run on Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, LG and Samsung Smart TVs, Nvidia Shield TV, Roku, and the Walmart ONN streamer. Others will also be added in time.

So, for me, the prospective device lineup definitely ticks one of the boxes required to become the Netflix of games. I'm more worried about the "games" bit.

It's not exactly clear what or how many games Netflix plans to offer through its cloud streaming platform, nor what types. It currently houses around 70 games on its mobile app, with some based on its own TV shows, plus others through partners and acquired development studios (hence Oxenfree).

They are all mobile titles, however, which seem to more rival Apple Arcade than Xbox Game Pass. And while some are superb games in their own right, they're not exactly FIFA / EA Sports FC or Call of Duty.

It is my experience that games designed for mobile play primarily work best on, yep, mobile platforms. While, conversely, triple-A console games are better served on as big a screen as possible.

So, if Netflix's cloud gaming plans are to succeed where others have failed, it really needs to offer the best of both worlds and a wider library of content than, I suspect, it has plans for.

Oh, and don't get me started on touchscreen controls.

Still, I have been an advocate for other cloud gaming platforms in the past, often forlornly, so will at least give Netflix a chance to become the "Netflix of gaming" we've all longed for.

If it doesn't, maybe I should just accept that no service could or even should be.

"Disney+ of gaming" anyone?

Rik Henderson
News Editor

Rik is T3’s news editor, which means he looks after the news team and the up-to-the-minute coverage of all the hottest gadgets and products you’ll definitely want to read about. And, with more than 35 years of experience in tech and entertainment journalism, including editing and writing for numerous websites, magazines, and newspapers, he’s always got an eye on the next big thing.

Rik also has extensive knowledge of AV, TV streaming and smart home kit, plus just about everything to do with games since the late 80s. Prior to T3, he spent 13 years at Pocket-lint heading up its news team, and was a TV producer and presenter on such shows as Channel 4's GamesMaster, plus Sky's Games World, Game Over, and Virtual World of Sport.