When non-gaming companies all of the sudden want to get into the gaming space, I tend to look at them with a healthy dose of cynicism. Mostly because the gaming industry has been treated like a cash cow for the greater part of 7 or 8 years. Since the rise of scummy DLC, the dreaded Season Pass, the “make it now, fix it later” ideology that live services have afforded the industry, its really hard to think that companies are coming to gaming for the sake of the art. I understand that gaming is a hot commodity and that it does make money, but given the current state of the industry I just think that what gaming needs is a bit of artistry and a little more integrity.
I said all that to say that I am skeptical of Netflix‘s showing at E3. With big names like Sony not showing up this year, it leaves room for many other companies to try and shill us their new IPs and franchise money makers. It’s also a time for us to watch SquareEnix and Bethesda somehow screw it up. That aside, it seems its also left room for Netflix to announce that their going to dip their toes into gaming. That isn’t big news given that they’re going to have a Stranger Things Season 3 tie in game, but is seems they want to go further. They want more games based off their original series and to be honest? That does sound tempting.
When this comes to mind, I immediately think of Black Mirror. As a person who thinks that show ranges from brilliant to “what the hell did I just watch” (seriously, if you’re a newcomer to the series just skip the first episode), I think a game based in the Black Mirror universe sounds exciting. There is literally no limit on what that game could be. They’ve already sort of dabbled in gaming in that universe with Bandersnatch. That…was a trip, but a fun one. If Netflix told me that they were going to make the Bandersnatch game though? I’d buy it immediately.
My worries only come in because I ask myself how Netflix will do this? Will they licence their IPs to other companies? Or will they buy companies to do it themselves? I can’t say which I’d prefer, only that I would hope they would stay in the indie or AA range. The AAA market is an outright mess, and Netflix is teeming with good and fresh ideas. The last thing I want is Activision or EA sinking their claws into what could potentially be a good thing. While some originals may be looked at and seen as “why make a game of that?” I consider that much worse has been made than the theoretical Bojack Horseman video game. How that would work? No idea, but you can count me on board for it.
Even if they do it themselves, what talent will they bring on board? What do they know about game development and publishing? I’m sure they’ve done some research, but it’s just really hard for me to see Netflix as a consistently competent player in the gaming space. Yes, that Stranger Things game looks good. However, it’d be easy to make it so that game has important plot points that make their shows make sense. That can happen to any show. Tie in games with their originals to make more money? I could definitely see that happening, but not going over well. That may be a bit extreme, but the gaming industry has taught me that nothing is off the table when profits are to be made. Were Netflix some indie company, I’d be a lot less cynical. As it is, they’re as big as any other cooperation and it makes it hard to trust their intent.
I want this to be good. I do. I don’t wish for games to be bad or to fail. However, as the years have gone by, I’ve learned to approach each decision the game industry makes with caution. Netflix could be one of the next big things gaming needs. It could be great in that indie or AA space. It might even be good in the AAA space. I just worry that the state of the industry today may take this and twist it. I hope not, so I’ll be looking to Netflix to prove me wrong.
Seriously though, I would buy a Black Mirror game if it dropped right this second. I kinda want that really badly.