With new Game Controller app, Netflix games move from mobile to the TV

In the surest sign yet that Netflix plans to expand its gaming offerings, the company quietly released an iOS app called “Game Controller” that it says will allow subscribers to play games on their TVs.

Until now, Netflix has offered a curated selection of mobile games—mostly from established developers of premium mobile games who have found prior success on Apple’s App Store. It has not, however, released any games that are playable on a living room TV.

That’s technically still the case. When you open up the iPhone app, you’re told to “choose a game on your TV and follow the directions to connect,” but that process does not appear to be supported by any of Netflix’s smart TV, game console, or streaming box apps yet. In fact, there’s absolutely nothing you can do with the Game Controller app right now. “Netflix Games on TV are in beta. Some devices may not be supported at this time,” a note at the bottom of the app says.

Even though no games or TV apps are supported, it now seems clear Netflix plans to change that in the near future. The app is only available on iOS right now, but an Android release later is plausible.

Netflix hasn’t made any explicit announcements about this app, nor has it responded to requests for comment. However, members of the company’s leadership have been teasing a jump from mobile to the living room for a while now.

According to TechCrunch, Netflix’s gaming VP Mike Verdu said during a conference appearance that the company is “exploring” cloud gaming. He went on to say that he sees Netflix’s offering as being more promising than failed prior attempts like OnLive or Stadia because Netflix’s games service has a different business model.

Access to Netflix games is included in the regular Netflix TV streaming subscription. Users with a Netflix subscription can download the games from the Apple App Store or Google Play, then sign in with their Netflix credentials to start playing. As we noted a few weeks ago, Netflix Games has arguably been generating more buzz than Apple’s own Arcade subscription service for the iPhone. A few months after Verdu’s comments, another Netflix exec (Leanne Loombe) confirmed the company was exploring cloud streaming and said its mission was to allow subscribers to play games on any type of device they want.

Listing image by Samuel Axon