Netflix's SoCal Gaming Studio

Netflix has spent the last year confronting the possibility that it might have to actually try to maintain its status as the top video streaming subscription. It’s rolling out a cheaper ad-supported subscription, bundling mobile games, and most recently, opening a new game studio with an eye toward cloud gaming. The company doesn’t intend to make a full-fledged alternative to Xbox Cloud Gaming or GeForce Now, but it hopes streaming games could sweeten the deal and convince subscribers to stick around.

Netflix VP of Gaming Mike Verdu announced at TechCrunch Disrupt that the company is “seriously exploring a cloud gaming offering.” The new Netflix game studio is set to open in Southern California — Netflix already has four other game development houses, but all of them save for one are acquisitions. This will be the first that it started from scratch in the US. The studio will be run by Chacko Sonny, a former Blizzard executive who handled the hit team-based shooter Overwatch.

Verdu says that Netflix is currently working on 14 mobile games, but there are plans for a total of 55. They include content based on Netflix franchises like Stranger Things, as well as licensed IP like Spongebob Squarepants. In time, Verdu hopes that the company’s gaming projects will be 50 percent Netflix IP.

The new California studio will be led by Chacko Sonny, the former executive producer on “Overwatch.” At Blizzard Entertainment, “Overwatch” was a massive success, netting billions of dollars. Sonny announced his departure from Blizzard last year in the wake of an SEC probe regarding sexual harassment and discrimination at the dominant gaming company.

“He could have done anything, but he chose to come here,” said Verdu. “You don’t get people like that coming to your organization to build the next big thing in gaming unless there’s a sense that we’re really in it for the long haul and in it for the right reasons.”

Since it announced its foray into gaming, Netflix has 14 games in development in its own studios and has 35 games on the service now. In total, Verdu said it has 55 games “in flight” at present. These games include experiences based on original IP like “Stranger Things,” as well as licensed IP like “Spongebob Squarepants.” Netflix is also developing original games.

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Netflix's  SoCal Gaming Studio