Netflix made its first appearance at the E3 video game conference in LA Wednesday, showcasing new game efforts tied to Stranger Things and The Dark Crystal during a panel discussion.

One news development during the session was the announcement of a Stranger Things mobile role-playing game, which is on tap for 2020. The location-based game, developed by Finnish firm Next Games, will allow players to explore The Upside Down hidden around them in their daily travels, the company said.

The third season of Stranger Things hits the streaming platform on July 4, and the accompanying console game will be available on that same day in digital-only form across the major gaming platforms. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics will follow later this year, timed to the release of the rebooted Jim Henson fantasy property.

On a broader level, the streaming giant came to E3 to send a message about the importance of gaming in its outlook on original programming and maximizing its revenue potential. A couple of years ago, when Stranger Things broke out in its first season, the company embarked on its first serious licensing and merchandising effort, as recalled by panelist Chris Lee, head of interactive gaming for Netflix.

“We’ve been working on original content at Netflix for a long time and we’ve seen how passionate fans have gotten,” he said. “We want to extend the universe of these shows and films into other mediums.” In working with the Duffer Bros. and Shawn Levy, videogames quickly jumped out as an area of opportunity.



Responding to an audience question, Lee said the plan is for games to both replicate the existing narrative worlds of shows and also chart new territory. “Our vision for it is to be both,” he said. “The video game medium allows for interactivity. The potential there is what’s exciting.” With a chuckle, the exec replied to a different question with the update that there is currently no Black Mirror game in the works, despite the dystopian series’ penchant for incorporating gaming into its plots.

Dave Pottinger, head of the video game studio BonusXP, which developed the Stranger Things and Dark Crystal games, said his approach was to make it like experiencing a “season-plus-plus” of the show. It aims to enable “the fan to really experience the world of what Hawkins is like.” As franchise world-builders have experienced for years, Pottinger said spoiling aspects of the show is an occupational hazard. “We’ve had to do a few cuts to avoid spoilering,” he said.

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“One of the things that gamers want is not just to play through what they have already watched,” Stephanie Wise, director of digital and interactive media for the Jim Henson Co. said, “but to be able to expand that and see when this was happening on the show, what was that character doing over there? … Back in the early 90s, the way a game was done was that you’d be playing a specific episode or a storyline. And people wanted more. They wanted to do more.”

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