The stories behind the stories of 2022: Netflix Games hires and acquires all year long

 

It’s the end of 2022, so let’s get self-indulgent: this week we’re publishing a few personal story highlights from the first year of mobilegamer.biz, and giving you a peek behind the curtain on how they came to be published.

Netflix might well be the company I’ve written about the most this year, and it started right from the launch of this site back in March.

I really needed a hit story early on to get up and running, so fortunately this Netflix games superteam story pinged all around Silicon Valley and back again. Which is good, because it took a long time to pull it all together.

It ended up with over 9k LinkedIn impressions and over 7k readers on this site, a solid start for a brand new outlet starting from zero.

Everyone wants a job at Netflix, it seems, which meant that this story about who’s in its games team was pinging around LinkedIn for weeks.

It didn’t slow down from there. The next week at GDC, Netflix bought Boss Fight; at E3, it had signed Ustwo Games’ next title and unveiled plenty more games coming soon, a mix of credible indie stuff and spin-offs based on Netflix series like The Queen’s Gambit and Too Hot To Handle.

And all the while, Netflix kept on hiring – enough to fill up another full report on the folks it had snapped up in July, including senior talent from Xbox, Scopely, EA and Zynga.

In September, it confirmed an exclusive three-game deal with Ubisoft that included an Assassin’s Creed game, and also announced the formation of another new studio based in Helsinki led by veteran Marko Lastikka. Lastikka’s clearly a well-connected man – that story got over 16k impressions on LinkedIn.

Netflix hired EA and Zynga veteran Marko Lastikka to set up a new Helsinki studio, another story that got a lot of attention on LinkedIn.

Netflix also bought up Spry Fox and revealed that its gaming ambitions reach outside of mobile, too. It formed a new LA studio led by former Overwatch boss Chacko Sonny, and also let slip that it was making a “triple-A PC game”, a story we broke simply by keeping a close eye on who and where Netflix is hiring.

Plenty of much bigger sites picked up that triple-A PC game story from here – The Verge, Engadget, TechCrunch, IGN, GameSpot and many more. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we get a ton of traffic. No-one clicks through to the original source on these kinds of stories. Still, nice to get noticed and linked to by your peers.

While all that was going on, Netflix was adding more and more games to its catalogue every month. It ended the year with almost 50 games on the service, having only announced its entry into the games business in November 2021. (Side note: it also accidentally announced Twelve Minutes on this site back in July, before un-announcing it and then re-announcing it in December. Oops.)

It looks like former Overwatch lead Chacko Sonny (left) is heading up a new triple-A PC game at Netflix’s new LA studio. Mike Verdu (right) isn’t messing around when it comes to investing in talent.

The foundations are still being laid for what Netflix aims to do in games, clearly. It hasn’t really had a hit game, and it is spending a lot of money hiring all these folks, acquiring studios and building up new offices in Helsinki and LA.

So what’s the long-term plan here? Building a whole new games division is an incredibly expensive way to add value for Netflix subscribers and keep them from churning out. And will people who don’t already have a Netflix account actively subscribe for the games? Not right now.

Having built a really solid base for its push into games throughout the last twelve months, in 2023 the pressure could be on Mike Verdu’s high profile team to deliver something in return for all that investment.