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Netflix to get three exclusive Ubisoft games, including Assassin’s Creed

Netflix VP says the company understands it’s a long journey to make games

(Netflix/Washington Post illustration)

A new Assassin’s Creed mobile game is coming exclusively to Netflix alongside two other mobile titles, Ubisoft announced Saturday. The games will live on the Netflix mobile app, and feature original content designed by Ubisoft, all building on existing franchises.

Other than an Assassin’s Creed title, Ubisoft is working on a Valiant Hearts game, slated for January 2023. The game will be a sequel to 2014′s “Valiant Hearts: The Great War,” with a new story made by the same team. It’s also creating a follow-up to the action role-playing, hack-and-slash game “The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot.” Called “The Mighty Quest,” the new title is inspired by the roguelike genre and is coming next year.

The games will not include ads or in-app purchases, though Netflix plans to keep the titles locked to subscribers only. Ubisoft declined to share how it will earn revenue in the partnership. The Assassin’s Creed title is meant to cross-promote the live action TV series, first announced in 2020.

“Netflix doesn’t take a lot of big shots like this, but when they do, they back them, and they’re committed to them. And they understand that the journey may be a long one, especially with games, where it takes years to make games,” said Mike Verdu, Netflix’s vice president of games, of the company’s approach to gaming in an interview with The Washington Post.

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Market analysts have highlighted Netflix gaming’s dismal adoption rates, as reported on by a third-party app analytics company. Netflix declined to share how many users are playing its games.

“Netflix has so far only managed to convince 1.7 million people among its 221 million subscribers to play games on its platform daily,” said Joost van Dreunen, a lecturer on the business of games at the NYU Stern School of Business. “That’s a relatively low conversion rate and the reason why Netflix will argue it is playing the long game. It runs the risk of spending a bunch of money on content that doesn’t meaningfully improve its business, especially considering the absence of clear revenue models for any of Ubisoft’s announced titles.”

On Sept. 6, Ubisoft announced Chinese gaming giant Tencent had invested about $304 million in its main stakeholder. The two companies have a strategic partnership, which covers development of some Ubisoft mobile games, as well as the launch of PC titles in China.

While Ubisoft has released dozens of mobile games in the past, it often shuts down services for them over time. Of the dozen plus Assassin’s Creed mobile titles Ubisoft put out, the only one currently available on Android and Apple operating systems is the role-playing adventure game, “Assassin’s Creed Rebellion.” Ubisoft shut down “Mighty Quest for Epic Loot” in 2016, after thanking players for their time.

“Of course, for any game there is a cycle. So we may end a game when there are not enough users to come on the game,” said Jean-Michel Detoc, Ubisoft’s chief mobile officer. “We see a potential of replayability of [the upcoming] games that can last for very long years.”

Detoc added that Ubisoft decided to move forward with these franchises after discussions with Netflix about what would best suit its audience.

“We think Valiant Hearts is really something that can appeal to the large Netflix audience,” Detoc said. “It will be [set] in World War I and it will be a follow-up to the previous one. This narrative and linear game can really be suitable for the users.”

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Netflix’s Verdu said that players of its games enjoy all different genres and have diverse tastes.

“Our top games are very different. What you can say is it’s an audience that appreciates variety. When you look at Assassin’s Creed, it’s pretty obvious why we would love to work with Ubisoft to bring that to the platform,” Verdu said. “We look for games and franchises that have an enduring value and a special place in people’s hearts and may not have been a perfect fit with the ruthless free-to-play game ecosystem.”

Netflix’s games live within its mobile streaming app, and have an inelegant solution around Apple’s no app stores within its app store rule: Users can click into a game on the Netflix app, then be directed back into the App Store to download the game. If users already own the titles, tapping on the game icons within the Netflix app will launch those games.

Verdu admitted that Netflix hasn’t marketed its games very prominently. The row of titles are visible only when users scroll down on the mobile app.

“You’ll see some changes in the coming months that will give games a bit of a higher profile on the service, which is good,” Verdu said, referring to Netflix’s plans to improve its mobile games platform.

He added that in the long run, Netflix would like to use its algorithmic recommendations that it’s known for with TV shows and film to serve audience members on game suggestions.

“We think that with great personalization and recommendation that we can put games that are very relevant to our members in front of them and that will actually unlock discovery over the long haul, in a really profound way,” Verdu said. “With that said, it’s going to be a long while before you’ll see that flower on the platform.”