Jul 15, 2021 - Economy

Netflix hires Oculus and EA veteran Mike Verdu to lead game development

Photo of Mike Verdu smiling into the camera

Photo: Netflix

Netflix has tapped gaming veteran Mike Verdu to serve as VP of game development, a hire first reported by Bloomberg.

Why it matters: This is the first move in its new gaming initiative that the company Netflix has acknowledged specifically.

  • Last spring, The Information and we here at Axios reported that Netflix was expanding into gaming with a site of downloadable games.
  • At the time, the company only said "we're excited to do more with interactive entertainment."

Between the lines: Verdu's 36-year career in tech and games includes stints as head of EA's mobile division, chief creative officer at Zynga and most recently, head of developer outreach for Facebook/Oculus' VR and AR initiatives.

  • But Netflix isn't talking just yet about what he's doing for them.

The big picture: Netflix's move is fueling speculation that it will introduce a game-streaming service that runs high-end games and competes with the likes of Xbox Game Pass.

  • That may not be right. Axios sources last spring told us to expect something more akin to Apple Arcade: a suite of smaller games, possibly downloadable, to keep Netflix app users entertained. Sources cautioned then that plans are subject to change.
  • According to Bloomberg: "The idea is to offer video games on Netflix's streaming platform within the next year, according to a person familiar with the situation. The games will appear alongside current fare as a new programming genre."

Obligatory mention: Netflix's interest in games is seldom written without a copy and paste of CEO Red Hasting's 2019 quote that "We compete with (and lose to) "Fortnite" more than HBO." (Done!)

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