Netflix Inc. is unveiling new video games based on its shows, stepping up efforts to turn its streaming platform into a multimedia empire.
Stranger Things 3: The Game, a title based on the popular teen series, will come out on July 4, the same day the third season of the show debuts. Netflix has also licensed “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” — a prequel series to the 1980s Jim Henson film — for a game that will debut later this year. The company isn’t developing or producing the video games itself, opting instead to license the characters to outside studios.
Netflix is just starting to explore the possibility of turning its movies and TV shows into other products, and “Stranger Things” has been its guinea pig. The show is one of the service’s most popular, especially in the U.S. and among younger viewers. The company licensed a “Stranger Things” mobile game in 2017 and has since struck deals for “Stranger Things” T-shirts, Coca-Cola bottles and ice cream. A new mobile game will debut in 2020.
Some of these promotions are just marketing stunts designed to drive additional viewers to its original series. Netflix still generates virtually all of its sales from subscriptions to its streaming service, the world’s largest paid online TV network. But both merchandise and video games could become new revenue streams.
“We’re looking for opportunities to extend the universe of these shows and films into other mediums,” Chris Lee, the director of interactive games at Netflix, said during a panel at the E3 video-game expo. “To me, it was really obvious to try to do that into video games.”
Industrywide, video games sales topped $40 billion last year. That’s more than consumers spend on movie tickets.
Hollywood studios have a checkered history of turning hit movies and shows into video games, and an even spottier track record of turning games into movies. For every GoldenEye, a classic game based on the James Bond film, there are a number that failed.
Netflix is still in the experimental stage. Its first two games will be available on most of the major gaming consoles, as well as personal computers. The company has also produced interactive TV series that blend gaming with TV, such as “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Viewers have to make choices during the show that affect the narrative.