Netflix apparently wants to break into the video game business. Experts say that’s a bad idea.

reed hastings ted sarandos
Netflix co-CEOs Reed Hastings, left, and Ted Sarandos, right.

  • Netflix is reportedly fishing around for a major video game business executive to hire.
  • The company intends to expand its gaming efforts – to break into the lucrative video game industry.
  • That initiative is likely to fail, given the history of tech and entertainment companies in gaming.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

With over 200 million paid subscribers worldwide, Netflix is an absolute behemoth.

The streaming entertainment giant has successfully transitioned from a scrappy startup paying to license its content to a major player in Hollywood, splashing out tens of millions of dollars on its own productions.

So, what’s next for Netflix? The answer to that question, at least in part, appears to be video games.

Netflix is fishing around for a gaming executive to help it expand out its gaming initiative, according to a recent report in The Information. While the company has acknowledged an interest in interactive entertainment, it has yet to decide what this will mean in practice. Licensing content from existing game makers? Making its own games? And how will you actually play those games?

While we still don’t know much about Netflix’s plans, one thing is clear right now: Netflix getting involved in gaming is almost certain to fail.

“I do think they will try, and do think they will fail,” Wedbush managing director Michael Pachter told Insider. “It’s hard to make games.”

bandersnatch choice
“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” is an “interactive movie” on Netflix that is more choose-your-own-adventure than video game.

Indeed, the video game industry is a very risky business, and even entrenched studios with top-tier talent and years of experience regularly go under. “We have the failures of THQ, Midway, Acclaim, 3DO, BAM, Eidos, Atari, Infogrames, Interplay, and probably a few others to illustrate how hard it is,” Pachter said. “I don’t see how Netflix could possibly think it can develop and sell games.”

Joost van Dreunen, author of “One Up: Creativity, Competition, and the Global Business of Video Games,” echoed Pachter’s skepticism.

“Big tech sucks at games,” he told Insider.

He pointed to Google’s Stadia, Amazon’s Luna, and Facebook’s scattershot gaming efforts across the last decade as prime examples of how major tech companies routinely fail at gaming initiatives.

Google and Amazon and Facebook have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into gaming across the last decade, yet none are major players in the video game market. “They look at it in a way that distribution goes before the content,” Van Dreunen said, “and that’s the wrong way around.”

Instead of creating video games and building beloved brands, they’ve largely focused on the mechanics of how you buy and access those games: Google’s Stadia platform, a Netflix-like video game streaming service, is a prime example.

Less than two years after Google announced a major game development initiative led by “Assassin’s Creed” creator Jade Raymond, and less than one year after outright buying a video game studio, the company folded those efforts this past February.

What’s Google focusing on for its big gaming service rather than making games for it?

An “increased focus on using our technology platform for industry partners,” Google Stadia Vice President Phil Harrison said in a blog post – a pretty huge step back from the splashy announcement of Stadia back in 2019, which promised a new digital service that would compete against the likes of Nintendo, Sony’s PlayStation, and Microsoft’s Xbox.

FILE PHOTO: Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia that attempts to capitalize on the company's cloud technology and global network of data centers, at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google VP Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing Google Stadia at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, March 2019.

For Netflix, which has the benefit of owning a beloved intellectual property like “Stranger Things” that could lend itself to games, another problem exists.

“Building games from owned IP is also super hard,” Pachter said. “Disney has failed at least three times trying to do so, and its IP is much stronger than Netflix.”

In recent years, Disney’s biggest properties – from Marvel characters to the “Star Wars” franchise – have found success in gaming by Disney largely handing over creative control to major video game companies.

Examples include 2018’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” and 2019’s “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” The former, a PlayStation 4 exclusive game made by Insomniac Games, sold over 20 million copies. The latter, a multiplatform “Star Wars” game with original characters and story, sold over 10 million copies.

At approximately $60 apiece, each game has grossed well over $1 billion in sales.

Spider-man (PS4)
2018’s “Marvel’s Spider-Man” for the PlayStation 4.

Netflix could follow a similar model and potentially find success.

The company could build a wildly successful game streaming service that seamlessly leverages its existing streaming service. It could spend years, and hundreds of millions of dollars, building its IP into major game franchises.

Or it could buy its way in, splashing out billions of dollars on a major game publisher like EA or Ubisoft – akin to Amazon’s recent purchase of MGM Studios, but for gaming. That would require a major, long-term institutional buy-in from Netflix, in addition to major financial investments.

“You need to have the stomach,” Van Dreunen said. “Like when you look at Google and Amazon – they just don’t have internally the numbers or the understanding of the space to say, ‘Yeah, you know what we should do? Spend $10 billion to really break in.'”

For its part, Netflix hasn’t detailed its gaming plans just yet – but the company is acknowledging the reported interest in a larger gaming investment in the future.

“Our members value the variety and quality of our content,” the company said in a statement. “Members also enjoy engaging more directly with stories they love – through interactive shows like ‘Bandersnatch’ and ‘You v. Wild,’ or games based on ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘La Casa de Papel’ and ‘To All the Boys.’ So we’re excited to do more with interactive entertainment.”

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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How to play Google Stadia on your phone, computer, or TV

Google Stadia game controller
There are several ways to play Google Stadia.

  • You can play Stadia on an Android phone, an iPhone or iPad, a computer with Google Chrome, or a TV with a Chromecast Ultra installed.
  • To play Stadia on your Android phone, you’ll need to install the Stadia app, which is free to download.
  • On iPhone and iPad, you’ll need to go to the Stadia website using Safari or another internet app.
  • Stadia can be played directly from your Chrome browser on a computer, no installation required.
  • Mobile devices and computers support a variety of controllers, but to play Stadia on a TV with a Chromecast Ultra, you’ll need to be using the Stadia Controller.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Stadia, Google’s new cloud-based gaming platform, was built to be “platform-agnostic.” In other words, you can play Stadia on dozens of different devices, and have largely the same experience on each one.

That said, for many newcomers to the platform, it isn’t immediately clear just which platforms can run Stadia. So aside from a solid internet connection – a must-have for any streaming setup – how can you play Stadia?

In short, Stadia is available on most popular Android phones, new iPhones and iPads, any computer with Google Chrome, and TVs with a Chromecast Ultra plugged in. And if you’re using a phone or computer, you probably won’t even need a new game controller.

Here’s a guide to the hardware you’ll need to play Stadia, so you can get started streaming your favorite games right away.

How to play Stadia on an Android phone

Stadia supports most Google Pixel phones, all new Samsung S phones, most OnePlus phones, and more. On most modern Android devices – 6.0 and later – you’ll simply need to download the Stadia app to get started playing.

You can download the Stadia app from the Google Play Store for free. Once you open it, you’ll be prompted to connect your Google account, and then set up your Stadia profile. Or, if you already have a Stadia profile, you can just sign in.

Like all platforms, you won’t need to download any games from Stadia – they’re streamed to you over the internet – so don’t worry about deleting photos to make room for it.

All Stadia games played on Android support touchscreen controls, but you can also use a real gamepad, as we’ll outline in a bit.

8   How to play Stadia
You can play Stadia on a phone with your hands or a controller.

How to play Stadia on an iPhone or iPad

Although there is a Stadia app for iPhones, you can’t actually play Stadia games through it – you can only sign up for Stadia and set up your controller. This is due to a long-running rivalry between Google and Apple.

Instead, if you want to play Stadia on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll need to play through an internet browser. Here, we’ll use Safari, the default internet app that comes installed on every Apple device.

 

Just note that you’ll have to be running at least iOS 14.3 or iPadOS 14.3. Any version older than that can’t support Stadia.

1. Launch Safari on your iPhone or iPad and head to the Stadia website. Once there, sign into your Stadia account or tap “Try now” to create a new one.

2. After you log in, a pop-up will appear telling you that you can play in your browser, but warning you that the iOS version of Stadia is in beta. Tap “Got It,” and you’ll be shown your games.

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The iOS and iPadOS versions of Stadia are still in development.

3. Tap the red play button under any game’s picture to start playing it, or tap “Store” at the top to browse for new games.

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You can launch the game right from Safari.

And although you can’t play from the official Stadia app, you can add the Stadia website to your iPhone’s homescreen as a shortcut that looks just like any other app. To do this, scroll up, and then tap the sharing icon in the middle of the toolbar at the bottom of Safari. When a menu of options appears, tap “Add to Home Screen.”

How to play Stadia on a computer

Stadia can be run through Google Chrome on Mac, PC, and Linux computers. 

Using the Google Chrome web browser, simply use your Google account credentials to set up a new Stadia account, or sign into an existing one.

Once you’ve signed in, you can start playing games directly from your browser. Just note that Stadia requires most games to be played in fullscreen mode, and for some, will need access to your computer’s microphone.

You can connect a controller from within your browser by clicking the controller icon in the top-right, selecting which controller you want to use, and then following the directions.

3   How to play Stadia
Google will offer directions to connect each type of controller.

How to play Stadia on a TV with a Chromecast Ultra

If you’re a gamer who loves to use the biggest screen in your house, this setup is the one for you.

To play Stadia on your TV, you’ll need the following: A TV with an HDMI port, a Google Chromecast Ultra device, and a Stadia Controller.

First, plug the Chromecast Ultra into your TV and set it up. The Chromecast Ultra comes with its own Ethernet port – for the best Stadia experience, use this port and an Ethernet cable to link the Chromecast to your internet router.

Once you’ve done that, press the Stadia logo on your controller to put it into Linking Mode. 

A code should appear on your TV screen – it’ll look like a random combination of buttons on your controller.

1   How to play Stadia copy
Stadia controllers will need to be linked through a code.

Enter the code on your Stadia Controller and wait for your Chromecast to detect your controller. If the link is successful, Stadia will launch on your TV. If it’s unsuccessful, you’ll have to enter the code again.

If you don’t see a linking code appear on your TV, this might mean that your Chromecast isn’t set to “Ambient Mode.” To fix this:

1. Open the Google Home app on your smartphone and tap the icon for your Chromecast Ultra.

2. In the top-right corner, tap “Settings.” It may also look like a gear icon.

3. Under “Device Info,” tap “Ambient Mode.”

4. A new screen will appear. Scroll down until you find “Stadia Controller linking code” – click “Show” underneath it. The linking code will appear on your TV.

If you’re having issues connecting your Chromecast to Wi-Fi, the Google Home app can help with that too. If the controller won’t connect to Wi-Fi, you’ll need to use the Stadia app.

You can also cast Stadia onto your TV using the mobile Stadia app, or your computer’s Chrome browser.

Although playing with the Chromecast Ultra offers the least flexibility in terms of controller support, Google has hinted that more controllers might support it in the future.

In the meantime, you can purchase a Stadia Controller for $69, or for $100 get the Stadia Premiere bundle that includes both a controller and Chromecast Ultra.

All the controllers that work with Google Stadia

We’ve mentioned several times that the Stadia Controller isn’t the only way to play Stadia. If you’re using a smartphone, tablet, or your computer, you can use a variety of popular controllers.

Here’s a full guide to which controllers work for which systems.

 

To use non-Stadia controllers on your computer or phone, you can connect them like you would any other controller. For examples, check out some of our articles on the subject:

Other controllers, like the Switch Pro controller, can be connected in similar ways. Also note that the method for connecting controllers to an iPad is almost exactly the same as on an iPhone.

You should be able to use a keyboard and mouse in Stadia’s browser version just by plugging them in.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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