Netflix opens video game studio in Helsinki, Finland

Netflix is ​​starting a game studio in Helsinki as the next step in establishing its presence in the video game industry. This is a first for the streaming giant, which previously bought three other studios to make mobile games and hired executives from notable game companies.

The in-house game studio will be led by Marko Lastikka, a former executive at Zynga and Electronic Arts. Lastikka most recently worked in Zynga’s Helsinki division on the Farmville franchise.

Netflix said it chose Helsinki because of its proximity to other gaming talent, such as Next Games, a Finnish studio it bought earlier this year that makes titles like “Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales.”

“Helsinki’s gaming industry is in many ways a ‘mobile first’ gaming industry, led by companies like Rovio and Supercell,” said Laine Nooney, New York University assistant professor and gaming historian. “It makes sense when you consider the great importance that the Finnish company Nokia played in the beginning of the mobile phone industry. The popular game ‘Snake’ came preloaded on Nokia mobile phones from the late 1990s and is widely regarded as a of the first mobile phone games.”

Video games have become more prominent on the streaming service, whether it’s with a TV show-turned-game, like “Stranger Things” and “Stranger Things: 1984,” or a video game-turned-TV show like “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” animated series based on “Cyberpunk 2077.” Netflix has also delved into third-party publishing and original games, although the timeline for releasing new in-house titles is much further out.

Netflix is ​​getting three exclusive Ubisoft games, including Assassin’s Creed

“We started very modestly at the end of last year. There were very, very few games. And we were pretty clear to our members that this was going to be a long journey,” Mike Verdu, Netflix’s vice president of gaming, said of the company’s approach to gaming in a September interview with The Washington Post. “The pace at which we roll out games is definitely increasing.”

“Netflix doesn’t take many big shots like this, but when they do, they back them and they’re committed to them,” Verdu added.

Netflix plans to add 50 games to its platform by the end of the year. The company declined to share adoption numbers for its current games. The platform has said that it will not include advertising in its games and that the titles will be available to Netflix streaming subscribers.

While the streaming service has mostly released mobile games under its brand since launching last year, it has been tight-lipped about whether it might dive into console or PC titles. The latest announcement simply says that it plans to build a “world-class game studio”, without any specification of platform.

Netflix’s games live in its mobile streaming app, using an inelegant workaround for Apple’s rules that prohibit app store distribution within its own app store: users can click into a game on the Netflix app, where they’ll be redirected back to the App Store to download the game. If users already own the titles, tapping the game icons in the Netflix app will launch those games.

While Netflix blames password sharing and high competition from platforms like Disney Plus and Hulu, it sees gaming as the next big opportunity. While the company is focused on creating more hit shows like “Squid Game” and “Bridgerton,” it’s also buying game studios with a forward-looking plan.

Analysts note that Netflix’s moves into the gaming industry come as the streamer lost nearly 1 million subscriptions.

“Netflix is ​​slowly making good on its promise to develop a pipeline of 50 games by acquiring and hiring from established companies and in premier locations,” said Joost van Dreunen, who teaches the game industry at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Soon, it will face the challenge of properly managing a growing portfolio of concurrent projects while its core business of streaming video takes a financial hit. Developing its own gaming division won’t save Netflix, but it could drown it.”

Leave a Comment