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Netflix Forays into Video Games, Hires Mike Verdu as VP of Game Development

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Netflix is venturing into video-gaming with its hire of Mike Verdu as the vice president of game development, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The OTT platform’s current plan does not include any additional charges for the video games, the report added.

While the California-based streaming giant has not released an official statement yet, the Bloomberg report states that Verdu, the former vice president of Virtual Reality (VR) content at Facebook, will be directly answerable to Netflix Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters. At Facebook, he was working with developers to bring games and other content to Oculus VR headsets.

Verdu was also previously with Electronic Arts, where he worked on mobile games like Plants vs. Zombies 2The Sims Freeplay and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.

Netflix’s detour comes as a strategic measure for expansion that a PricewaterhouseCooper report terms as a “metaverse” or a “multi-brand environment built around consumers.” The idea is similar to Disney+ launching its multiple Marvel spin-off series, and HBO Max announcing House of the Dragons and multiple animated shows based on its Emmy Award-winning series Game of Thrones.

Netflix’s metaverse comes in the form of an online gaming segment at a time when game revenues have shown a considerable increase. The PwC report titled Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2021-2025 mentions the rise in online sports gaming and gambling, and refers to them as a gateway to appeal to younger consumers. “Total games revenues, which rose by almost 10% in 2020, are expected to grow at a 4.4% Compound Annual Growth Rate through 2025,” the report stated.

With the introduction of video games in the pipeline, Netflix is taking a road not taken by its major competitors, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max.

Both Amazon Prime and Disney+ have so far only invested in partnerships that aided in expanding their film, television, and cable-related content.

In May, Amazon acquired Hollywood’s century-old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios for $8.45 billion, after they entered into a “definitive merger agreement,” according to which, “Amazon will help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films and provide customers with greater access to these existing works.” However, it is unclear if Amazon will be investing in MGM’s content production as well.

Disney+’s collaboration with Star in India and other countries helped expand its subscriber base owing to access to sports channels and daily soaps apart from its Marvel and Disney originals, unlike its counterparts that primarily bank on originals and direct-to-digital film releases.

Media and telecommunication companies are also making moves to combine their assets to create new ones. One such recent merger was that between AT&T and Discovery which announced a new streaming platform this month.

While Netflix has not announced any merger, it has partnered with individuals like Noam Baumbach and Steven Spielberg, to expand its line-up.

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