The creators of “Black Mirror” and its multiple-choice offspring “Bandersnatch” are back with another interactive story for Netflix. “Cat Burglar,” which debuted on the service Tuesday morning, lets viewers play through an interactive trivia cartoon in the style of “Tom & Jerry,” complete with tons of cartoon violence.
“Cat Burglar” launched on Netflix three months after the company added mobile games to its service, and it happens to be the most gamified of Netflix’s interactive titles yet. “It's not a branched narrative,” VP of Comedy and Interactive Andy Weil told Protocol. “You don't control the choices of the character, you're controlling whether or not the character passes or fails to the next level. This is more game-like than our interactive branching narratives that came before.”
At the same time, “Cat Burglar” doesn’t really compare to the games available on Netflix today. For one thing, Netflix has only launched mobile games on its service. “Cat Burglar” can be played on mobile, smart TVs, game consoles and almost any other device capable of accessing the streaming service.
That required making compromises and focusing on narrative. “Cat Burglar” players do have three lives and can win or lose, but don’t expect any more-complicated game mechanics. “The interaction is pretty limited compared to games,” Weil said. “This is much more of an animation experience than a game.”
Still, there’s hope that interactive content could become a gateway to Netflix’s still-nascent video game library. “There's more than just TV and film on Netflix,” Weil said. “You can actually interact. So if you're interested, there are games.”
Ultimately, both games and interactive video experiences are part of Netflix’s broader strategy to build entertainment franchises that offer multiple entryways for would-be fans.
Maybe someone played a video game that Netflix later extended into a show. Maybe someone watches a movie then discovers a related game or interactive, which tides them over until the sequel arrives on the service. Or maybe someone just really likes trivia, and then gets hooked on a character or cinematic universe.
There are some signs that this strategy is already working for Netflix. “With ‘Bandersnatch,’ we saw that 20% of the audience had never watched ‘Black Mirror’ before,” Weil said.
Netflix’s massive product team is key to these efforts, and the fact that these things are being developed internally also makes cross-pollination between the interactive and gaming initiatives possible. “The lines will continue to blur,” Weil said.