Hi! It’s me again, with another, “I’m mostly just thinking out loud here, but wouldn’t it be interesting and/or cool if-“ pile of word-vomit about video games or something tangentially game-related. Today’s topic is Netflix and how the world of exclusive Netflix licensing could potentially be crossing into games. This is a low-level dive into the complex world of anime licensing, one that sees a whole bunch of different companies in different parts of the world all revolve around a single IP, like a solar system fueled by nerd dollars instead of gravity.
It's Anime Expo time, which means a whole bunch of big anime announcements happen during one of the bigger conventions. Videogame companies like Aksys, NIS America, XSEED, and Bandai Namco are also known to have presence as well, especially Bandai Namco. It is the primary source of licensed anime games in North America and Japan, and there are several games slated for 2017 and 2018 from the publisher based on some popular anime or another. But two games in particular are interesting, because of who their North American rights holder is.
The two games are The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia and Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time. These games are based on their respective anime series with matching titles (sans sub-titles). Both of these properties are, in North America, licensed by Netflix. While they aren’t produced by Netflix, both titled still have that “Netflix Original” banner on the service that, thanks to shows like Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, and House of Cards, is generally associated with quality. For the time being, that branding means something, and while Netflix can, will and has take(n) risks, the company generally is protective of its properties.
What does that mean for the games? Nothing yet, as information is still trickling out. For now, all you can see is that Bandai Namco is running the show. It’s also important to note that these anime properties are not Netflix-exclusive worldwide. In Japan, the shows aired on TV and got normal anime-style home releases. It’s over here that Netflix is involved, and the extent that Netflix owns the rights to these properties is likely tied to some nuance.
For example, Seven Deadly Sins appears to be a streaming-specific license for Netflix. Funimation recently announced a deal that sees the company releasing a home video version of at least the first season. Perhaps Netflix collected part of that cash pool, or perhaps it all goes back to Japan. For Little Witch Academia, Netflix seems to have it a bit more locked down, but the series is still relatively new, having just launched on the service with more episodes to come in the future.
I’m wondering, primarily, if Netflix will be involved at all in the distribution, promotion, and/or marketing of these titles. Are they separated entirely from their respective shows, or will Netflix branding appear on the packaging or things like trailers or magazine advertisements? Will we see the Netflix logo in addition to Bandai Namco and the like when we boot up the games? And if these games are successful, could we eventually see Netflix branch out further in trying to get more things like anime licenses (and subsequent videogame adaptations)?
I’m not sure if anyone even expected Netflix to ever expand into anime territory, especially picking up big projects from known studios such as Trigger (an offshoot of GAINAX and responsible for Little Witch Academia, and other big hits such as Kill la Kill). The world of anime licensing, as I mentioned before, is complicated and involves multiple companies for multiple kinds of products. So I’m mostly spit-balling and wondering out loud here, but I very well could be inadvertently looking into the future. As Netflix continues to grow and bring in other kinds of media, all kinds of crazy stuff could happen. Could we see Netflix compete with services like Gamefly, or perhaps jump into original game development of its own? Maybe. I wouldn’t put it past the company to give it a shot sometime down the road. This could just be the beginning.