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.
Mike Verdu will join Netflix as vice president of game development, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters, the company said on Wednesday.
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, according to a person familiar with the situation.
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 shares gained as much as 2.8% to $563.45 in premarket trading Thursday. The stock had been up 1.3% this year through Wednesday’s close.
Netflix has been seeking ways to keep growing, especially in more saturated markets such as the U.S. That’s 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 chief creative officer for Zynga Inc. between 2009 and 2012.
Netflix 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.
Video games give Netflix another way to lure new customers and also offer something none of its direct competitors currently provides. Walt Disney Co., AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia and Amazon.com Inc. all have access to live sports, but they don’t have gaming within their main video services.
Ultimately, the move may make it easier for Netflix to justify price increases in coming years. Games also serve the purpose of helping market existing shows.
Many of the largest tech companies do sell gaming options in addition to their video services. Apple Inc. has a platform called Arcade for games — as well as a TV+ service for original video projects. But it charges extra for the gaming.