in commentary, general, tech

About a week ago, I opened the Netflix app on my iPhone to watch something… and was greeted with a prompt to download some games. Netflix Gaming is nothing new. But I’d never had the chance to participate. So I scrolled through the options.

Much like Apple Arcade, Netflix Gaming is all about no IAPs, no ads, and exclusive titles (grain of salt there for both subscriptions). Unlike Apple Arcade, I found some titles that I actually want to play in the list.

When I was exploring Apple Arcade, I was mostly into Call Of Duty Mobile. So the obvious choice for me was their shooter game – Butter Royale. It’s obviously aimed towards kids and is appropriately silly. I was immediately turned off. I did enjoy a few other titles like Outlanders (a settler survival game which I failed at), Mini Motorways (a road design game which got too complex too soon) and Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows (which was confusing as heck to play). I let the free trial of Apple Arcade expire.

If I were to get the subscription today, I would try a few more games from their now 200+ games collection. Partly to play “plus” versions of games I love, like Prune+ and Solitaire+ and Hidden Folks+ and partly to check out truly exclusive titles like The Oregon Trail.

With Netflix Gaming, they’ve tried to cover their bases, to offer something for everyone, mostly using companies which also publish to Apple Arcade as well as having IAP supported games. The titles that caught my eye are Asphalt Xtreme and Wonderputt Forever. While the former is a rehash of multiple variants of the same car racing game (one for IAPs, one for Apple Arcade), the latter is a slow-paced but beautiful mini golf game. I haven’t spent much time on the latter but the former is been a mainstay for me this past week.

And what a week it has been for Netflix. The stock crash was horrible and the ensuing caving in to Wall Street’s demands was worse. The crash wiped out all the gains my own Netflix stock purchase had made and then some. I can only hope to break even one day.

Then came the news that Netflix is trying to figure out a way to appease Wall Street and is promising to add adverts to their platform within a year or two. The ensuing backlash was inevitable.

As a Netflix shareholder, I’m glad that Netflix has always had this option in its back pocket. They can create a tasteful but cheaper subscription offering with ads and this works both in markets where they have faltered, like India, and in western markets where subscribers will be thankful not to pay the burgeoning price of the default Netflix subscription.

But as a Netflix shareholder, I’m also wary of this promise of ads making Wall Street happy. From here on out, at every earnings call, when the CEO admits that ads are not yet integrated, analysts and institutional investors will punish Netflix. When they finally announce that ads are active, the focus will be on ad revenue, not on subscriber growth, the original issue that brought this saga on.

Aside – and what a stupid saga it has been. Netflix lost subscribers for the first time in a decade! That’s ten years of solid growth. And instead of acknowledging those ten years of growth, Wall Street chose to punish Netflix so heavily because some numbers in one quarter didn’t go up and up and up. How stupid! Now, one could claim that it’s just a correction and Netflix’s stock is now at its real value, instead of an inflated value based on perceived profits. But it’s all perceived only. It’s all the inflated egos of a few men that drives Wall Street. So there’s absolutely no merit to that argument.

As a Netflix subscriber and admirer, this whole thing has been terrible. The idea that Netflix may one day have ads is horrible and a loss for the idea behind subscription models. Not only will Netflix’s success in implementing ads embolden other streaming platforms, it’ll also send out a message that online targeted ads work, which for the most part is not true. It’ll also take away from the idea of simply providing good content and being rewarded for it, something Netflix has been working on for years and is now under threat of being upended completely.

It’s also possible that instead of expanding their line of no-IAP games to rival Apple Arcade, Netflix starts to allow IAPs in their games, or shuts down the entire endeavor as a cost sink. Overall, this whole thing is a loss for both Netflix and it’s customers. All to appease some analysts.

In Netflix’s case, it’s better to be the storyteller, not the story. Sad to see their day in the crosshairs. (Sorry for the weak ending to this post. I kinda ran out my train of thought.)

What do you think?

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