Why Don’t We Have Netflix-Style Service for Video Games?

Here in Canada, incumbent providers of TV happen to also be the primary source for Internet access, and as such they’ve been doing everything in their power (unsuccessfully, I might add) to make Netflix more difficult and less attractive for customers.

However, I think it’s pretty clear (with Netflix’s success) that the future of TV is going to be delivered in a new way. Cable and Satellite providers’ days are numbered if they don’t adapt.  I don’t need to rehash the commercial success Netflix has been, suffice it to say, they are doing very well!

I’m wondering how long until someone has the courage to try to do something similar for games, and I’d argue Nintendo is probably in the best position to make something like this an easy commercial success.

If I had to guess, I’d say one of the biggest pains Netflix has to deal with is the negotiation for their content licenses , and this would undoubtedly be the primary issue facing anyone who wanted to build a Netflix-style service for video games.

Nintendo, however, could have a pretty easy go of it. One of the primary strengths of Nintendo’s offering has always been the very strong first party support they bring to the table.  So right out of the gate, they could have a very strong offering.

Would you be willing to pay $9.99 a month for access to a large library of Nintendo first party titles, say 2 years and older?  I would take that offer in a heartbeat myself, and I’m sure many others would as well.

Netflix’s meteoric rise to success has come thanks to their revolutionary way of approaching content—and provided the content hurdle could be overcome, the success they’ve had offers some pretty compelling evidence that that a similar video game related service would do very well in today’s gaming marketplace.

Of course, there would be some technical issues that would need to be bridged—but consider that hackers have been able to reverse-engineer emulators which allow them to play old Nintendo games with ease on a PC,  you’d think it wouldn’t be too hard for the originators of the technology to do something similar. Heck, they could probably offer the service directly through their existing system—the Wii U, 3DS—and have notable success on those platforms alone… not to mention that that very service might provide the necessary encouragement for otherwise reluctant consumers to invest in one of Nintendo’s consoles.

Despite the hurdles, it’d be pretty easy to come up with an offering that would be compelling to most customers.  While it would be possible to spilt up subscription options with a number of options like system, year or franchises, I don’t think this would be the best way to go about it.

Typically, too many options in a product offering can cause confusion or order paralyzation in your customer base, so it would be ideal to keep it limited to just a few options.

For Example: Nintendo could offer, all first party titles 2 years or older for $9.99 per month.  If this product tested well (and I’m sure it would), they could use some of the revenue to start exploring licensing agreements, so that they could offer an additional upgrade / extra service to add some non-first party titles to your subscription as well, if that’s something you’d be interested in.

Alternatively, instead of offering all titles older than two years, they could base the available games on platforms, i.e. all games two platforms and older. So with the Wii-U, the subscription would give you all games on the N-64 and earlier. When the next system comes out, it would shift to all Wii games and older.

This wouldn’t be as compelling as basing it on the year, but I’m sure there would still be lots of takers.

There’s no arguing that delivery of content is changing—and while it may not happen anytime soon, the future of content is certainly wholesale delivered-by-subscription rather than one-off purchases. Sadly, this will likely take years to finally arrive,  its progress no doubt slowed by entrenched incumbents who refuse to give up on the old way of doing things.

But like it or not, subscription services are the future of content delivery! Netflix and similar services have shown us that much—and in an increasingly fickle marketplace, it would be wise for Nintendo (and other game companies!) to take this change in direction to heart.


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Author: Dave View all posts by
Dave will tell you that he likes to play video games, this is in fact a lie. What he really likes to do is buy games, and leaving them sitting unopened on his shelf. He is a monster.

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