E3 2019: Streaming Giant Netflix Looks To Conquer Video Games Next

by Gary Catig

Netflix has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a DVD rental company by mail. The company has become an entertainment juggernaut providing streaming services of television shows and movies and has even developed its own original programming. Now their hoping to conquer another television associated medium, video games. This year at E3 they held a panel to spotlight some of their upcoming titles, Stranger Things 3: The Game and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics.

The idea of creating video games began after the break out TV hit, Stranger Things. It was the first show they created that they also developed merchandise for. During a meeting with the creatives, including the Duffer Brothers, Netflix asked what other products they wanted associated with the show. The immediate response was a video game and a mobile one was launched back in 2017. The streaming company sees the outlet as a good opportunity to expand on the universes of their original shows and films. They want to provide fans a chance to relive epic moments and experience new content that can fill in the back story of characters. They are all stand alone games that appeal to diehards and can draw new viewers to the franchise.

One of their upcoming titles, Stranger Things 3: The Game, will be released on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and mobile devices this July 4, which is also the same day the new season will be out. It’s a two-player couch co-op action game with a Toejam & Earl feel. It has a retro pixelated look that fits well with the TV show. Players can switch back and forth between the thirteen characters, who all have unique special attacks and powers. The game also utilizes a gear crafting system crafting to buff and level up the characters. During the creation, the developer, BonusXP, was given assets, maps and photos from the writing staff to create a game that is authentic to the Stranger Things Universe. They were given creative freedom but still needed to keep their story consistent with the show. Two more playable characters were announced at the panel including Max and Eleven.

The second game discussed was The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics coming to Nintendo Switch. It is based off the upcoming Jim Henson Company series. BonusXP also developed this game. When they did their deep dive into the books and movies to research the title, they thought the fantasy world and deep roster of creatures to use would fit well with a turn-based strategy game. They were invited to the Creature Shop to view the puppets used to make sure all the characters they developed were true to form. BonusXP wanted to showcase the creatures, the history of the Gelflings and their seven clans and the world of Thra in general. Players can take control of basic units and even fan favorite characters like a Fizzgig to battle enemies like The Chamberlain.

Though Stranger Things and The Dark Crystal were highlighted, Netflix does have more in the pipeline. They have a careful matchmaking process the determines which of their franchises to make into video games and which developers they want to license to make them. That means maybe you won’t see a Black Mirror of Cowboy Bebop one soon but there will be another Stranger Things themed game. Coming in 2020 on mobile devices is a location-based RPG/puzzle hybrid along the lines of Pokémon Go. It will have a retro Saturday morning cartoon look and will focus on The Upside Down.

In a time of transmedia, it makes sense for Netflix to branch out into developing video games based off of their original content. They have a couple of promising titles coming out in the near future and I’m most excited for The Dark Crystal. It’s a combination of one of my beloved childhood worlds with a favorite genre, a turn-based RPG strategy game. Hopefully it can follow in the footsteps of Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea.

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