Netflix Games may hit roadblocks that affects iOS users — here's why

Netflix Gaming
Netflix Gaming (Image credit: Netflix)

Last week, we reported that Netflix officially rolled out its gaming platform to Android-owning subscribers, but there's a pink elephant in the room. What about iOS users? Netflix confirmed that its brand spankin' new gaming arm will arrive on iPhones and iPads, but it would take some time. However, the streaming giant didn't disclose a release date nor did it explain why Apple is late to the party.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman (via the Power On newsletter) suspects that Netflix may be experiencing some roadblocks with Apple, which may stunt their growth in the gaming market. Unless Apple eases its App Store restrictions, or offers Netflix an exemption, Netflix's supposed plans for mobile-gaming domination may get derailed, Gurman concluded.

Netflix may be hitting roadblocks with iOS Games app release

Many Android users are already enjoying Netflix's five new games: Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Shooting Hoops, Card Blast and Teeter Up. 

Stranger Things: 1984 (Image credit: Netflix)

To access these titles, users can tap on the new Games tab within the Netflix app. After selecting a game, users will be directed to the Google Play Store where they'll be prompted to input their Netflix credentials. Once the game is downloaded, it will be available to play by either tapping on its icon on the home screen or within the Netflix app.

That being said, Netflix Games is not an all-on-one service — at least, not yet. The games are standalone apps that must be downloaded individually from the Play Store. In the future, Netflix may allow users to stream games from its in-app hub (which would be the most ideal approach), but there's one problem. While Netflix can easily execute this vision with Android, it's going to hit some obstacles with Apple devices.

Netflix's Stranger Things 3 (Image credit: Netflix)

"Apple’s App Store rules don’t allow third parties to build all-in-one gaming service apps," Gurman said. "Those rules have prevented Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce Now and Google Stadia from launching on iOS devices in any meaningful way."

To work around this issue, Microsoft, Nvidia and Google had to release their services on the web for iPhone and iPad owners, which Gurman says is "subpar" compared to the native software experience. As such, we can hypothesize that Netflix's iOS Games arm will also not offer an all-one-service. In fact, developer Steve Moser discovered a Netflix code that corrobates this claim and shared it with Power On.

Netflix's Stranger Things 3 (Image credit: Netflix)

"Netflix will release all of its games on Apple’s App Store individually and let users launch the games via the Netflix app. They won’t all be downloadable and playable within the app itself," Gurman said.

The Android version has the same limitation, but Gurman posits that this is only temporary. He believes that Netflix Games on Android will eventually transition into a cloud-based, all-in-one service à la Xbox Cloud Gaming. As for iOS users, Gurman theorizes that Apple may grant Netflix an "exemption" or Apple could finally succumb to pressure and allow all-in-one gaming apps in the App Store.

Laptop Mag disagrees with Gurman's former theory. I, as well as another colleague of mine (mobile specialist Sean Riley), believe that Apple is facing too much scrutiny to play favorites. If it does allow Netflix to launch an all-in-one service, Apple would have to extend this privilege to everyone, Riley said. Although Netflix could currently release an all-in-one gaming hub on Android (Google's App Store regulations are more lenient), I suspect Netflix decided against it because the streaming giant doesn't want iOS and Android users to have totally different experiences.

Netflix's Stranger Things: 1984 (Image credit: Netflix)

Riley added that no one knows for sure if Netflix has cloud-gaming aspirations, which is a good point. Perhaps the streaming giant wants to stick to the standalone apps model. However, I'm not convinced. Many of these cloud-gaming services are described as being "Netflix for games." As such, I'm sure Netflix is tired of being left out of the party and wants a piece of the game-streaming pie.

Will Netflix leave a large imprint in the mobile gaming industry that'll have Microsoft, Google, and Nvidia shaking in their boots? Only time will tell.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!