Netflix has hired veteran video game executive Mike Verdu, signaling the video streaming service is poised to expand into another fertile field of entertainment. Verdu's addition as Netflix's vice president of game development, confirmed Thursday, comes as the company seeks to sustain the momentum it gathered last year when people turned to the video streaming service during pandemic lockdowns. Netflix wound up adding 37 million worldwide subscribers last year, the AP reports, by far the largest annual gain in its history. But the landscape has changed dramatically now that the easing of coronavirus restrictions has allowed people to return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life. The video service stumbled out of the gate during the first three months of this year, posting its smallest first-quarter subscriber increase in four years, and it predicted its springtime gains would also be meager. The Los Gatos, California, company is scheduled to report its results for the April-June period on Tuesday.
Video games would give Netflix another way to build upon the nearly 208 million subscribers that it had by the end of March. Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings has long said the company competes as much against video games for a piece of people's leisure time as it does against other video streaming services offered by the likes of Amazon, Hulu, Walt Disney Co., and Apple. Verdu is joining Netflix from Facebook's Oculus, where he oversaw the virtual reality headset maker's games. He previously worked at video game makers Electronic Arts and Zynga. Now the biggest questions are when Netflix might start to offer video games and whether it intends to charge a separate fee to play them or include them in its video streaming services. Greg Peters, Netflix's chief operating officer, told investors in April that video games could be another way to engage subscribers. "We're trying to figure out what are all these different ways that we can increase those points of connection, we can deepen that fandom," Peters said. Verdu will be reporting to Peters in his new job.
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