Netflix plays to gaming ambitions with Night School Studio acquisition

Netflix is continuing to take measured steps toward its cloud gaming ambitions, this time adding a studio to the mix through its acquisition of Night School.

Night School, maker of “Oxenfree,” was founded in 2014 by Sean Krankel and Adam Hines, who’ll be joining Netflix. Krankel said in the blog post that Netflix “has shown the utmost care for protecting our studio culture and creative vision” and said that his studio will continue working on “Oxenfree II” while “cooking up new game worlds” for the streaming giant’s nascent cloud gaming platform.

“We’ll continue working with developers around the world and hiring the best talent in the industry to deliver a great collection of exclusive games designed for every kind of gamer and any level of play. Like our shows and films, these games will all be included as part of your Netflix membership—all with no ads and no in-app purchases. Stay tuned for more,” Netflix said in a news release.

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Night School is the first gaming studio acquisition for Netflix and it comes approximately two months after the company hired Mike Verdu, a former Facebook and Electronic Arts executive, as its new vice president of game development.

During Netflix’s most recent earnings call, COO Greg Peters described his company’s gaming plans as an extension of Netflix’s core entertainment offering.

“So just as we've continuously expanded the nature of our offering by adding new genres, unscripted, film, local language programming, animation, on and on, we think we have an opportunity to add games to that offering and deliver more entertainment value to our members through that,” he said. “And similar to what you've seen in that trajectory when we've added a new genre, that's what we expect will happen with games. So, this is going to be -- it's a multiyear effort. We're going to start relatively small. We'll learn. We'll grow. We'll refocus our investment based on what we see as working, and we'll just continuously improve based on what our members are telling us is working.”

Peters said that gaming gives Netflix another way to tap into the IP it has been creating through its series and films and that Netflix’s subscription model allows game developers working with the company to avoid common game monetization models like ads, in-game purchases and per-title purchases.

“So, we're finding that many game developers really like that concept and that focus and this idea of being able to put all of their creative energy into just great gameplay and not having to worry about those other considerations that they have typically had to trade off with just making compelling games. So, those are some of the core things that we're excited about and think that can make this effort for us special even in the world of games,” he said.