Netflix Games 2.0: social games push incoming after big-name live service and triple-A hires


Netflix Games is building out the social side of its gaming platform and “a new class of hilarious, social party video game”, according to several new job ads.

The new push into social gaming comes two years into a hiring spree that has seen Netflix add a raft of top talent to its ranks – most recently in the live service and triple-A gaming space.

An ad for a product designer on its “games social platform” states that Netflix wants to “push the boundaries of what it means to connect with other members through games on Netflix,” and “create the largest, most engaged gaming community on the planet”.

Netflix has also spun up a new internal studio to create social party games, according to several job ads.

From November 2022: Netflix is making a triple-A PC game at its new LA studio.

“In addition to finding the fun, a successful candidate will also be able to design meta-systems that maximise player retention and virality,” says one job description. “We strive to make amazing games that are not only fun to play but also drive players to keep coming back and share the experience with their friends and family.”

Another job spec outlines a role for a game writer who “understands comedy and is adept at writing funny dialogue and user prompts.”

Netflix’s move into social and party games comes straight after some headline-grabbing hires to its triple-A game studio in Southern California, now known as ‘Studio Blue’. Led by former Overwatch lead Chacko Sonny, Studio Blue has been bolstered by a trio of high profile veterans in the last few months.

Netflix’s Studio Blue: triple-A veterans Sonny, Staten, Grassetti, Edsall.

Joseph Staten, creative leader on the Halo and Destiny franchises, joined as creative director in April, and last month God of War: Ragnarok’s art director Rafael Grassetti took up a role as Studio Blue’s art director. At the same time, Jerry Edsall joined from Xbox studio The Coalition as its new director of technology.

According to job ads and recruiter posts on LinkedIn, the foursome are leading development on “a brand new AAA multi-platform game”. At the time of writing, Netflix’s Blue studio is hiring six more staff in art, tools and engineering. Netflix also continues to pay top dollar, too – all of those salaries start at $250k and rise to a potential $500k.

Netflix has spun up a live services team in the last year as well. Ex-Kabam, Capcom, Disney and Scopely exec Jason Mueller moved to Netflix as its new head of live service games in June 2022, and was joined by new director of live gaming services James Burns in July 2022. Burns was previously director of in-game monetisation at Xbox.

Netflix has quietly built a live service team led by Mueller, Burns and Domanska.

Grazyna Domanska joined as live service director for external games in August 2022, following several years at Call of Duty developer Sledgehammer Games, where she led live ops. Prior to that she was senior monetisation manager at Activision.

Netflix has been hiring plenty of other top talent elsewhere in its games division. Derek Heck joined as director of product earlier this year from Blizzard, where he was also DoP. He’s previously held product director roles at Jam City and Scopely as well as a senior product manager position at Zynga.

Netflix also added former Phoenix Labs executive design director Andrew Chambers to the team as creative director in January this year, who brings with him years of experience at Blizzard, FunPlus, Klei, Relic and more.

New(ish) at Netflix: Heck, Chambers, Wang, McLaughlin.

Former Skillz, N3twork, NBC and Scopely veteran Victor Wang also joined as product manager recently, and Hanger 13 senior producer Kyler McLaughlin moved to become senior producer in August 2022. Riot veteran David Lyerly joined the external games production team in May of this year.

The partnerships team is also growing. King’s director of mobile partnerships Thomas Baxter moved over to Netflix in September 2022 to become director of strategic partnerships, and in May of this year former Google and EA manager Jenna Hanlon was appointed strategic partnerships manager. Netflix also scooped up PR agency Fortyseven’s senior director Chrissy Kelleher in October 2022. She’s now running games comms.

More new(ish) recruits: Lyerly, Baxter, Hanlon, Kelleher.

Over in Helsinki, the studio founded by ex-Digital Chocolate, EA and Zynga exec Marko Lastikka has been rather quiet; we already know it’s called Moonloot Games, and the single piece of artwork we’ve seen suggests it’ll be making a cosy Animal Crossing-like game – but it still doesn’t appear to be actively hiring.

The opposite is true of Netflix’s big buy Next Games. The Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales maker appears to be staffing up rapidly, following the departure of CEO Teemu Huuhtanen and Saara Bergström’s appointment as studio director in April.

It has hired a multitude of new folks in the last few months, including Seriously cofounder Reko Ukko, who is now Next’s chief creative officer. Principal game designer Bart van Paassen (ex-EA, Rovio) and senior producer Mateusz Janczewski (ex-Boombit, Spokko) have also bolstered the team, and three more ex-Seriously folks have made the switch recently: senior producer Esa Pyykölä, art director Kaisa Knaappila and senior UI artist Helena Tielinen.

Now at Next: Ukko, van Paassen, Janczewski, Pyykölä, Knaappila, Tielinen.

Netflix’s senior leadership team remains largely unchanged: Netflix Games VP Mike Verdu heads up the whole operation, Amir Rahimi is VP of Netflix’s owned game studios and Leanne Loombe serves as VP for external games.

Rich Sun remains technical director, Roberto Barrera is head of games strategy, Yoko Nakao is head of operations, Seth Killian is head of design and Alex Lee is head of development operations.

Netflix Games has gone from zero to hosting over 60 games on the service in just over 18 months, and said recently it has 40 more releases coming this year.

From March 2022: Meet the Netflix Games superteam: 14 big-name hires in under 8 months.

It also has 70 games in development with external partners and 16 more being created in-house.

It appears the next wave of games will be a little different, though: having started with premium-style mobile games, Netflix Games 2.0 is increasingly focused on live service and triple-A.

Now, with comedy social games incoming too, it seems Netflix’s intentions in gaming are no joke.

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