Netflix has bought its first game development studio

The streaming behemoth has acquired Night School Studio, maker of ‘Oxenfree.’

A screenshot of Oxenfree
Night School Studio

There was a period in American culture where gaming was seen as a highly niche interest. Something geared towards a largely male audience in the 18-30 year old demographic. Video games were not an avenue for story-telling, but rather a means of corrupting the youth, if mainstream critics were to be believed. But thankfully, things have changed dramatically, and gaming is now a massive industry funded by diverse uses. Look no further than Netflix’s acquisition this week of Night School Studio, the developer behind Oxenfree, a critically-acclaimed indie game.

To anyone concerned that the indie developers will be taken off their current projects, don’t worry. “We’ll keep making Oxenfree II. We’ll keep cooking up new game worlds,” said co-founder Sean Krankel in an official announcement. Meanwhile, you can expect to see the entire Night School Studios catalog available through the streaming platform sooner rather than later.

The purchase marks the first time Netflix has bought a game studio and the partnership came about largely due to the “unprecedented canvas,” which the streaming giant gives to its creators. This move arrives on the heels of the release of Eden Unearthed, a VR gaming experience that credits Netflix as the publisher.

Saw this one coming — Sure the acquisition is a first for Netflix, but the company has made it clear that interactive entertainment, and specifically gaming, is a huge area of interest for it. The company has even dabbled in the genre, with its release of a choose-your-own-adventure style episode of Black Mirror, called ‘Bandersnatch.’

According to Mike Verdu, a VP of game development for Netflix, the expanding library of games will not be a separate subscription or off-shot of an existing membership: “Like our shows and films, these games will all be included as part of your Netflix membership — all with no ads and no in-app purchases.”

It will be interesting to see how the service’s interface will accommodate this new venture though. Will games start making their way to the top of users’ home screens? How will they be introduced to people who are unaware that Netflix even offers games? Will those people who don’t want games be able to hide them from their homescreen? We’ll have to wait and see.

There are plenty of existing Netflix titles ripe for the video game treatment. Once its streaming business took off the company moved away from licensing other studios’ content in order to put an emphasis on creating its own content which it would own outright. Shows like Stranger Things, Ozark, and Orange is the New Black all emerged from this effort. At a time where IP is stretched impossibly thin to extract all possible value from it, the development of games based on Netflix Originals makes perfect sense for the company.