A building with a big Netflix sign over the door
Photo: Netflix

Netflix cloud gaming plans detailed in multiple job listings

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re taking a closer look at Netflix’s cloud gaming plans and Trigger’s newest AR app. Plus: AI-generated grunge album covers.

Netflix’s cloud gaming plans

Netflix has been keeping its cards close to its chest when it comes to its nascent gaming initiative: The company has been quietly releasing a couple games a month, with plans to grow its catalog to around 50 titles by the end of the year.

Thus far, all releases have been mobile games, and many are older titles that Netflix is exclusively re-releasing without ads. There haven’t been any blockbusters yet, but Netflix’s “Stranger Things”-themed games in particular have done well. Netflix subscribers downloaded more of the company’s games in July than ever before, as new data Sensor Tower exclusively shared with Protocol shows.

But Netflix games have been little more than a practice run up until this point. The company is trying to figure out what games work best with its members, how to surface those titles in its catalog and how it can best spend its money on future projects developed in-house — a bit like it learned the fundamentals of streaming with licensed movies and shows before it began to massively grow that business with its own originals.

Cloud gaming could play a major role in that next phase, according to new Netflix job listings I recently stumbled upon.

  • A recent listing for a security product manager mentions “experience with cloud gaming challenges, threat vectors, infrastructure and client requirements" as a preferred qualification.
  • A couple of the company’s recent job listings are asking for “experience building games for early or unfinished platforms."
  • And if that was too opaque, a listing for a rendering engineer spells out the company’s cloud plans in a lot more detail, stating explicitly that this person will “support our cloud gaming service.”
  • “In this role, you will help optimize the rendering of games so we can render multiple games on our cloud gaming appliances,” the listing reads. “You will also assist with the development of SDKs to enable game developers to succeed in writing high-quality games for the Netflix cloud games ecosystem.”

Cloud gaming makes a lot of sense for Netflix. Not only would it allow the company to bring its games to the TV screen without having to rely on game consoles alone, the cloud is also an environment Netflix is very familiar with.

  • Netflix was one of the first companies to outsource all of its infrastructure to the cloud, shutting down its last data center in 2016.
  • In addition to being a major customer of Amazon’s AWS cloud platform, Netflix also spent years building out its own Open Connect CDN, which relies on custom-build appliances the company has been gifting to ISPs and strategically placing in internet exchanges around the world.
  • Since launching Open Connect in 2011, Netflix has deployed over 14,000 of its appliances in more than 1,000 ISP data centers and more than 80 internet exchange locations around the world, according to a report the company released last year.

Could Netflix be building a similar edge-centric infrastructure for gaming? There are some early signs that the company has at least been exploring this approach.

  • Netflix has also been looking to hire people to take Open Connect to the next level. “We are working on new ways of delivering entertainment that requires real-time, ultra low-latency network transport technologies,” a recent job listing reads.
  • The listing doesn’t mention games per se, but it does focus on “interactive, ultra low-latency, RTP-based streaming” and tells potential applicants that they will have “the opportunity to directly impact an emerging area of business.”
  • Netflix’s current Open Connect appliances aren’t powerful enough to support Stadia-like game streaming experiences, and there’s some disagreement among experts on whether it even makes sense to put GPU-heavy cloud gaming that close to the edge.
  • DE-CIX CTO Thomas King seems to believe that edge-powered cloud gaming is inevitable, while telco consultant Rudolf van der Berg believes cloud gaming works just as well with a more centralized approach.

Whether Netflix decides to take gaming to the edge or not, it’s becoming increasingly clear the company doesn’t want to just rely on shipping mobile games via third-party app stores. Instead, Netflix appears willing to build its own delivery technology, much like it has done for a video business that now streams countless hours of movies and TV shows to 220 million subscribers worldwide.

— Janko Roettgers

Sponsored content from Cisco

How cybercrime is going small time: Cybercrime is often thought of on a relatively large scale. Massive breaches lead to painful financial losses, bankrupting companies and causing untold embarrassment, splashed across the front pages of news websites worldwide.

Read more from Cisco

How Trigger built its DinoTracker AR app

Universal Pictures released the “Jurassic World Dominion” extended edition this week, and is promoting the home video release with a new AR app that lets you bring the film’s dinos into your home as well. I recently caught up with Trigger XR CEO Jason Yim to learn how his company built the app for Universal.

  • One of the first things I wanted to know: Why even build a standalone app, as opposed to a mobile AR experience, or maybe an AR integration in an existing app? Yim acknowledged that people are wary of downloading promotional apps, but he said it’s different for franchises with massive fan bases. "We have reserved standalone apps for AAA titles,” he told me.
  • Plus, this app offers a lot that the company wouldn’t have been able to deliver on less capable platforms. Trigger teamed up with Niantic to make use of the company’s Lightship SDK, which allows players to interact with the dinosaurs.
  • The DinoTracker app also makes use of some of Lightship’s more advanced scene segmentation features, and for instance differentiates between the sky, grass and hard concrete floor. "We can detect all of these things," Yim said.
  • Other advanced AR features include occlusion, hand tracking and positional awareness. "The dino tracks your position," Yim said.
  • Trigger got the dino assets directly from ILM, which means they look just like their movie counterparts.
  • However, that led to another challenge: Most dinos are pretty big — too big for your average living room. As a result, DinoTracker encourages people to go outside, but Trigger also included a few smaller dinos that work in smaller confines.

DinoTracker is just one example of massive advances in mobile AR, which allow people to experience things that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago. That includes seeing a massive dinosaur swoop down from the sky to eat a snack you’ve thrown on your lawn. "It does feel a little bit like magic," Yim said.

— Janko Roettgers

In other news

Nintendo’s history of mistreatment. An in-depth report from Kotaku on Tuesday offers the clearest look yet at Nintendo of America’s horrid treatment of women in its video game testing divisions, many of which are employed by a third-party contracting firm with numerous labor violations.

Walmart adds Paramount+ to its membership benefits. Walmart Plus subscribers will get free access to Paramount+, which is a lot easier for Walmart than building its own streaming service.

EA sold the latest FIFA for 99.94% off. An Epic Games Store listing error for the PC version of EA’s FIFA 23 in India allowed some savvy buyers to scoop up the $100 ultimate edition of the game for about 6 cents. EA says it will honor the purchases.

Activist investor wants Disney to spin off ESPN. Third Point’s Daniel Loeb also wants the company to combine Hulu with Disney+.

Sony may expand even further into PC gaming. Following a hugely successful release of Marvel’s Spider-Man on Epic and Steam, files buried inside the PC version of the game hint at a potential PlayStation launcher coming to Windows, VGC reported this week.

Logitech keeps making accessories for Meta’s Quest, including some new headphones. Still no word from Meta on how many Quests it has sold, but Logitech’s continued commitment to third-party accessories seems to suggest there’s a real market here.

Fox is investing millions in NFTs. The media company launched a dedicated Web3 and NFT division last year, and now wants to build a blockchain-based business.

One in 10 Spotify subscribers open its app every day. Spotify’s service is a lot stickier than those built by competitors like YouTube and Pandora, according to new Sensor Tower data.

AI album covers

Digital media pioneer David Cohn has been experimenting with AI-generated imagery this week, with surprising results. Cohn used Midjourney’s AI image generator to transform ‘90s grunge lyrics into original art, and guess what: The results are perfect album covers. Now someone just needs to combine an AI image generator with generative AI music, and rock stars will never have to trash their hotel rooms ever again.

— Janko Roettgers

Sponsored content from Cisco

How cybercrime is going small time: People have been swindled since before man created monetary systems. These aren’t new crimes; just new ways to commit them. But as cybercrime increasingly goes small-time, those on the front lines will need new and more effective ways to fight it.

Read more from Cisco

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to entertainment@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Recent Issues