By Migue Porter
Netflix NFLX, Sony SONY’s PlayStation and Microsoft MSFT are gaining momentum to join the smartphone revolution. Is the mobile format the future of gaming?
Portability is one of the most resonant features in recent years in the video game industry. It began to gain strength with the Nintendo NTDOY Switch hybrid console, and became a loyal companion to smartphone gamers with titles like PUBG, COD Mobile and Genshin Impact, which go head-to-head on the global downloads (and earnings) leaderboards.
The ability to save a game and continue later, from anywhere, is a huge draw. And if we add this to the fact that the new devices have better hardware specifications, we are facing a platform that will surely grow exponentially in the coming years.
Most importantly, some of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, such as Netflix, PlayStation and Microsoft, are already preparing to make the leap to small screens.
But, what do they have planned?
PlayStation And Microsoft: Console Leaders Venture Into Foreign Territory
PlayStation and Microsoft are leading companies in the video game industry. However, our vision of both could begin to change soon.
PlayStation is not only the "desktop console" leader. Now it is also a producer of movies (“Uncharted”) and series (“The Last of Us”), was well as PC video games and, soon, smartphones games too.
For small screens, the Japanese company tried its luck with two small projects. “Uncharted Fortune Hunter,” which shut down its servers in early 2022, and “Run, Sackboy! Run!” These were adaptations of “Uncharted” and “Little Big Planet,” respectively, and both had the same concept: an endless runner in PlayStation worlds.
Neither of them was a success, nor a failure, but they existed, and they were the first steps of the brand on mobile.
An important fact is that the release of “Uncharted Fortune Hunter” and “Run, Sackboy! Run!” came to fruition under the direction of John Kodera, former president of SIE, and Shuhei Yoshida, former head of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios.
In 2019, when Jim Ryan (SIE) and Hermen Hulst (SCE Worldwide Studios) took over, the brand's plans changed and pointed to an expansion of media, inside and outside of video games.
Examples of this are the opening of the PlayStation Studios Mobile division and the acquisition of the Savage Games studio in August of this year. The company announced the upcoming release of “a AAA live service action game,” and with the new division it expects “innovative mobile experiences based on existing and new PlayStation IPs.”
On Microsoft’s side, the focus is placed on the successful Game Pass subscription service, which allows you to play a catalog of more than 100 video games on any platform: consoles (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S), PC and smartphones (Android).
In the case of smartphones, the titles cannot be downloaded, and istead must be played through xCloud Gaming, that is, through “the cloud”. With a high-speed fiber optic connection, it's possible to complete an entire campaign without a hitch.
And for the gamer who isn't used to on-screen controls, official Xbox joysticks can sync up with any Alphabet Inc GOOG Android smartphone to play Game Pass just like on a console or PC.
Microsoft does not typically share the numbers of active users on its service. However, a recent report confirmed that 25 million subscriptions have already been reached: if we look at it from the outside, it is a good number; but inside the company, a higher figure was expected.
Axios reported that Microsoft's fiscal year 2022 ended with 28% more subscribers compared to the previous one. However, at the company they anticipated an increase of 73%, an expectation that was very far from reality.
“We’re seeing incredible growth on PC,” said Phil Spencer in a recent interview. “On console, I’ve seen growth slow down, mainly because at some point you’ve reached everybody on console that wants to subscribe.”
He did not mention anything about Gamepass on Android (xCloud).
In its journey through the world of smartphones, the company's plans include the opening of its own app store to compete with no other than Google’s Play Store and Apple AAPL’s App Store.
Netflix Games: An Interesting Catalog Waiting For 99% Of Users
Netflix is known for its streaming platform for movies, series and documentaries, but in the last year it has also moved into the world of video games.
The company recently introduced the world to "Netflix Games," a section available to all subscribers of its original streaming service, with access to a catalog of renowned video games, classics and some new ones, to play locally (that is, through a download) with a smartphone or tablet.
What does the catalog bring? Many of the titles available are of undeniable quality. We find “Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story” (a rhythm game from Riot Games, creators of “League of Legends”), “Poinpy” (from the creator of “Downwell”), “Oxenfree” (from Netflix’s Night School Studio), “Moonlighter,” “Spiritfarer” and “Into the Breach.”
The move comes in a context in which Netflix lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers around the world, in the face of the appearance of new streaming platforms such as HBO Max, Disney +, Star + and Amazon AMZN Prime Video, among others. With a big catalog of video games at no extra cost, Netflix seeks capture the attention of new users.
It should be noted that the competition is not too far from the gaming industry either. Disney DIS started a video game production chain for all kinds of platforms, including smartphones, and with heavyweight licenses such as Marvel or Pixar. Its last great success was “Disney Dreamlight Valley,” currently available in “early access.” However, for now, Disney is not expected to bring video games to its streaming platform.
For its part, Prime Video gives its subscribers a handful of video games and downloadable content on a monthly basis.
But Netflix's move has some interesting points. The company had a temporary exclusivity contract with “Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story” and took over Night School Games, creators of “Oxenfree,” to develop a sequel.
The company also opened a new studio in Finland, and another in southern California with Chacko Sonny, producer of “God of War Ascension” and “Overwatch,” at the helm. Its plans point to the production of 55 games and the integration of cloud gaming into the platform.
The attraction of Netflix Games is, without a doubt, in the access without extra charges, to an interesting catalog of video games that can be enjoyed without advertising.
But what do the numbers say?
A CNBC report highlights that less than 1% of global Netflix users downloaded these video games. The future may be promising, but it seems that the present isn’t as bright as expected.
Thus, with missteps and great business successes, one thing is clear: the future of gaming will be experienced on the small screens of our smartphones.
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