Netflix hires EA veteran in its boldest play for the video gaming space to date

In possibly its boldest play for the space to date, Netflix has tapped the games industry heavyweight and EA veteran, Mike Verdu as its vice president of game development.

Verdu has made the move to the streaming giant from Facebook where he held the role of VP of VR and AR content and a remit of bringing games to Oculus devices. Prior to this, he held various positions at EA, both in mobile and console gaming.

A veteran of the gaming industry, Verdu has also spent time at the mobile games specialist Zynga as chief creative officer.

The hiring of Verdu arrives amid a renewed and re-energerised suite of activity from Netflix in the video gaming space, who, according to a report from Bloomberg this week, could be delivering games as part of its streaming service ‘within the next year.’

Unnamed sources told Bloomberg that a games offering could be integrated as part of a Netflix streaming package, with no additional costs. The idea is that games will appear alongside current content as a new programming genre, similar to its documentaries of stand-up specials.

Gaming presents an additional avenue via which Netflix can continue to grow and follows recent developments such as a bolstered kids’ offering and its launch of an online shop to sell merchandise inspired by its original content. Netflix even managed to turn the head of Steven Spielberg recently in order to bring more prestigious films to its line-up.

In Verdu, the streaming giant will be able to tap into an experienced games pro who has worked on popular mobile games at Electronic Arts, including the Sims, Plants vs. Zombies, and Star Wars. 

An in-road to games development – of which, Netflix Originals can presumably be on the cards – will offer the platform yet another differentiator from its closest competitors on Disney’s Disney+ and HBO Max.

The Netflix insider has stated that the platform will be building out its gaming team in the coming months, adding that the company has yet to settle on a game development strategy. 

It’s thought that Netflix could start with just a few games on the roster and build its library from there. Netflix has previously licensed the rights to games based on its hit shows, including Stranger Things. The new move, however, will likely put Netflix fully in control of all gaming developments for its IP library.

Zynga and Lucasfilm announce Star Wars: Hunters for Nintendo Switch and mobile

The mobile gaming goliath, Zynga is making its first move into the console arena, having been unveiled as the newest partner for Lucasfilm’s renewed, post-EA push into the video games space.

In a virtual event hosted by Nintendo this week, details of a new Star Wars console game for the Nintendo Switch were finally announced, with Zynga taking the lead on the cross-platform title and its own first steps in the previously unexplored segment.

Under the new partnership with Lucasfilm and Nintendo, Zynga will launch the free-to-play Star Wars: Hunters across the Switch console and mobile platforms. The deal is yet another development for the Star Wars franchise and its activity in the gaming market, following the recent news that Lucasfilm’s exclusivity deal with EA for console games would not be renewed.

During this week’s Nintendo Direct, a virtual event in which the video games company detailed a swathe of upcoming releases, Star Wars: Hunters was described as “a competitive arena combat game… coming in 2021.

“Star Wars: Hunters will bring players together to engage in thrilling, squad based, multiplayer battles featuring a diverse array of distinctive new Star Wars characters.”

Bernard Kim, president of publishing at Zynga, said: “Bringing Star Wars: Hunters to the Nintendo Switch and its passionate fan-base marks an exciting milestone for Zynga.

“We created Star Wars: Hunters for every fan who has ever dreamed about playing a high-intensity action game set in the Star Wars galaxy and are excited to see Switch players embrace our foray into console gaming.”