Netflix Inc., marking its first big move beyond TV shows and films, is planning an expansion into video games and has hired a former Electronic Arts Inc. and Facebook Inc. executive to lead the effort. The company said that Mike Verdu will join Netflix as vice president of game development, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters.
Verdu was previously Facebook’s vice president in charge of working with developers to bring games and other content to Oculus virtual-reality headsets. The idea is to offer video games on Netflix’s streaming platform within the next year.The games will appear alongside current fare as a new programming genre similar to what Netflix did with documentaries or stand-up specials. The company doesn’t currently plan to charge extra for the content, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
Netflix Inc shares gained as much as 3.3% to $566 in late trading after Bloomberg reported the news. The stock had been up 1.3% this year through Wednesday’s close. That included building out its kids’ programming, opening an online shop to sell merchandise, and tapping Steven Spielberg to bring more prestigious movies to its lineup. The company remains well ahead of streaming rivals such as Disney+ or HBO Max, but it added fewer subscribers than expected in its most recently reported quarter.
Pushing into games would be one of Netflix’s boldest moves yet. In Verdu, the company has an executive who worked on popular mobile games at Electronic Arts, including titles in the Sims, Plants vs. Zombies and Star Wars franchises. He also served as a chief creative officer for Zynga Inc. between 2009 and 2012.Netflix Inc will be building out its gaming team in the coming months, according to the person familiar with the matter. The company has already started advertising for game-development related positions on its website.