Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Commentary

Commentary: Netflix and TikTok turn to gaming to secure their future

Broadcast, social media and gaming companies are banking on transmedia storytelling to keep audiences locked into their entertainment ecosystems. Netflix and Tiktok can use it to gain a market advantage over their rivals too, say two professors.

GOLD COAST, Australia: The streaming wars are heating up. In March, Disney delayed the release date of Obi-Wan Kenobi to May 27 to coincide with the launch of Netflix’s top show, Stranger Things. This was on the back of Google’s announcement that YouTube Shorts had matched TikTok’s 1.5 billion subscribers in the short-form video market.

Facing increased competition, falling subscriber numbers and the loss of content, Netflix and TikTok are having to diversify. And for this, they’re turning to games. 

With more than three billion players worldwide and an estimated market share of US$200 billion, the gaming industry is both popular and lucrative.

Netflix introduced mobile gaming last year for all its subscribers. This included two notable Stranger Things tie-ins. Meanwhile, TikTok has offered games to select users since 2019 and seems very likely to expand these offerings.

NETFLIX AND TIKTOK ARE NOT SO DIFFERENT

Both Netflix and TikTok have transformed the entertainment business.

They appear diametrically opposed on the surface. The former gets revenue from subscriptions and spends millions of dollars on licensing or creating content. The latter makes money by linking viewers to advertisers, with the help of streaming “influencers” who have mastered the art of short-form videos.

However, the two platforms share some key characteristics. They both deliver video content via the internet, aim to constantly grow their user base, benefit from unique and original content, collect user data and use it to improve their services, and face considerable and rising competition from other companies and entertainment media.

Many well-loved films and television series are departing Netflix for competitor platforms. At the same time, TikTok is also losing short-form video influencers to other platforms. Both platforms are seeking new strategies for subscriber retention, growth and original content.

This is where gaming comes in. According to one consumer insights report, 79 per cent of the world’s online population engages with games in some form. 

And millennials rate gaming as either the most popular or second-most popular entertainment activity – behind watching other people play games on video platforms.

TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING CAN OFFER A MARKET ADVANTAGE

Games typically afford longer engagement periods than series or movies. This is due to the psychological principles of motivation that underpin most gameplay.

People invested in games will often seek out additional narrative (or “lore”) in the form of shows and movies. 

(Photo: AP/Damian Dovarganes)

Alternatively, audiences invested in shows may also look to video games to provide alternative narratives and opportunities for world-building. So shows lead customers to games, and games keep them engaged between season releases.

This technique of telling a story across multiple platforms and formats is known as “transmedia storytelling” and has been used to great success by broadcast, social media and gaming companies. This is what platforms are banking on to keep audiences locked into their entertainment ecosystems.

Content creation has boomed since the pandemic, and younger audiences are spending more time than ever watching user-generated content online. They have been particularly tuned into games such as Crab Game (a fan-made version of the popular Netflix show Squid Game) – which also has millions of viewer hours on the streaming service Twitch.

The rise of Minecraft as a popular “modding” game (in which players can collectively transform the game space through their own modifications) has also helped video streaming and subscription services. Minecraft-related videos have been streamed more than one trillion times on YouTube.

Transmedia success provides additional avenues for companies looking to leverage their licensed or original copyrighted content. We know games promote attention, motivation, emotion and socialising among players.

Companies, such as the game-hosting platform Steam, have demonstrated user data can influence the creation of new content by game developers. In fact, this is a market advantage that Netflix and TikTok have over rivals.

For example, one could easily imagine that a character who is popular in a game, as revealed through gaming data, would also be more likely to feature in an upcoming show based on that game.

A DESPERATELY NEEDED LIFELINE

When we speak of the streaming wars and greater competition, it’s not a level playing field. There are crucial differences between Netflix and TikTok, and other players such as Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and YouTube.

Netflix is in the streaming business and TikTok is in the video-hosting industry. On the other hand, based on revenue, Disney is in the theme park and toy business, Amazon the online sales industry, Apple the computing and phone industry, and Google in the search and advertising industry.

For these companies, streaming and video hosting is a small side business that provides useful data to feed a greater machine. So in the “streaming wars”, they don’t have as much to lose, as they can run these side businesses at a loss.

Netflix and TikTok aren’t so lucky. By turning to games, they’re grabbing onto a lifeline they really need.

James Birt is an Associate Professor of Computer Games at Bond University's Faculty of Society and Design. Darren Paul Fisher is an Assistant Professor and the Head of Directing at Bond University's Department of Film, Screen and Creative Media. This commentary first appeared on The Conversation.

When we stream movies on Netflix, we rely on data centres to process and communicate information at lightning speeds. Yet they are energy and water guzzlers. How are governments managing their large electricity footprint?

Source: CNA/geh

Advertisement

Also worth reading

Advertisement