Netflix is kicking off the first public tests of its cloud-streamed games. Beginning Monday, some Netflix subscribers in Canada and the UK will be able to check out Netflix games streamed to select TVs, connected TV devices, and on the web from Netflix.com.
In a blog post, Netflix VP of games Mike Verdu characterized this as a “limited beta test” to a “small number of members,” so not all subscribers in Canada and the UK will have it right away. But even though this initial launch is small, it marks a potentially huge moment for Netflix’s gaming ambitions.
The company first launched its mobile gaming offerings as a free perk for subscribers in November 2021. So far, the company’s titles have only been available on iOS and Android. By bringing games to TVs and web browsers over cloud streaming, subscribers will potentially be able to play Netflix’s titles in a lot more places, and it also means that Netflix could begin to compete for gaming time on TVs and PCs.
The two games available right now are the first Oxenfree (made by Night School Studio, which Netflix now owns) and a new title, Molehew’s Mining Adventure, which Verdu describes as a “gem-mining arcade game.”
When playing on TV, you’ll control games by using your smartphone. On Android, the controller will be accessible through the Netflix app, while on iOS, you’ll need to download a special controller app, spokesperson Chrissy Kelleher tells The Verge. (Yes, the one that mysteriously appeared on the App Store last week.) If you have access to the games on the web, you’ll play them with a mouse and keyboard.
Here are the TVs and connected TV devices that will support Netflix’s games for now:
- Amazon Fire TV streaming media players
- Chromecast with Google TV
- LG TVs
- Nvidia Shield TV
- Roku devices and TVs
- Samsung Smart TVs
- Walmart Onn
Verdu promises that more devices will be added “on an ongoing basis.”
I haven’t tried any of Netflix’s streamed games myself, so I can’t vouch for what it’s like to actually play them. Given Netflix’s long experience in streaming video, I suspect that things are decently smooth. But any streaming hitches will feel a lot more annoying in a video game than they might while you’re watching an episode of Stranger Things.
Even if there are some hiccups, I bet Netflix is okay with that; it’s clearly starting small to give itself room to iron out any initial issues. And since Netflix views cloud gaming as a “value add,” which is closer to Microsoft’s approach than Google’s failed strategy for Stadia, I’d bet it doesn’t need cloud gaming to work perfectly from the jump. Netflix subscribers can always fall back on any of its 70 mobile games if they want.