I've been meaning to write about this one for awhile now. Such an odd situation, and there has to be more to the story than we know. I'd love to get some insight into this one. It's one of the big Switch mysteries! As always, thanks for reading.
The Switch has become quite a success, most recently hitting 55 million units sold worldwide. Nintendo has to be extremely happy with how the Switch has done, and the platform no doubt has multiple years ahead of it. There are already thousands of games on the platform, with countless others being added every single week. There's no doubt that every single Switch owner has a deluge of content to enjoy, so long as they're willing to jump around the Switch eShop or Nintendo.com to find what's available.
What about when those Switch owners don't want to play games, though? For at least a decade now, many have looked to gaming platforms as makeshift media hubs, where they can turn to watch all sorts of streaming content. Sometimes you don't want to play a game, and you'd rather kick back with the family and watch a TV show or movie. There are indeed options for that kind of content on Switch, but for some reason, a major part of that puzzle is missing.
Even before the Switch released, fans were wondering what sort of streaming services would become available on the platform. The question of Netflix coming to Switch popped up pretty much instantly. When fans and the gaming press started to dig a little deeper, you could see the situation was looking a little murky. It seemed no one could provide a straightforward answer as to whether or not Netflix would come to the platform. That was launch though, and many expected things to be ironed out within the first year.
Here we are 3+ years into the Switch's lifespan, and there is not a single hint of Netflix coming to Switch. In an age when streaming services seem to pop up every month, Netflix still remains the king. They're the go-to streaming service that even your parents know about and watch. It's the big guy on the market that caused a big shift in traditional TV viewing and started to worry cable companies. It's the company that put the wheels in motion for the streaming service onslaught that we're being hit with now. Not having the world's biggest streaming service on Switch feels like such a missed opportunity.
The more you dig into the situation, the stranger things get. Take a look at Nintendo's recent hardware and Netflix availability. We first saw things kick off with Netflix on Wii, which required a physical disc to get things going. It wasn't the best option, but it worked for millions of Wii owners for quite a long time! Netflix also came to the Wii U, Nintendo's ill-fated Wii follow-up. The platform didn't really get much love from traditional game companies, but Netflix was there to make a good showing. Netflix even became available on the 3DS, which seems like the platform least suited to what Netflix offered, but it came over regardless. All those platforms were supported by Netflix, yet it's nowhere to be seen on Switch. Why in the world is that?
The messaging from both Nintendo and Netflix is mixed at best. Nintendo spouts their usual line about streaming services when asked about Netflix, saying the apps are "generally developed by the service providers and not Nintendo." Not really an answer to why the service isn't there, but that's standard Nintendo. When it comes to Netflix, we've seen the company say there are no plans for Netflix on Switch, only to follow that up multiple times by saying they are interested and have been "exploring the opportunity." Basically you get every answer under the sun, but none of them give a clear picture as to what's going on.
The most confusing response on the situation came from Scott Mirer, Netflix vice president of device partner ecosystem back in 2018. When Mirer was asked about Netflix on Switch, he had this to say.
“In the case of the Switch, they [Nintendo] were very focused at launch not on video-use cases, but on gaming cases, video was not a priority for them. Whether that changes over time, we have a great relationship with them and look at the possibility of [supporting] the Switch. We each have opportunity cost around that, but at some point, it might happen.”
That statement would make sense if the Switch existed in a bubble, but it doesn't. This statement was made after Hulu had already released their app on Switch. As far as I can tell, Hulu came to Switch sometime in November of 2017, and the statement above came from March 2018. While Nintendo may have focused on gaming first on Switch at the get-go, they clearly are okay with some streaming services coming to Switch. While Hulu isn't as popular as Netflix and the content it provides is slightly different, there's no doubt it's one of the streaming superpowers. If Hulu can be on Switch, why does Netflix have to be left behind?
There's another tiny wrinkle to the story that adds in a bit of irony. While Netflix's streaming service isn't available on Switch, games based on their properties are. Switch has played host to games based on Stranger Things, Narcos, The Dark Crystal, and more are on the way. We've even seen some of those games hit Switch before they went to other platforms. Whatever is causing Netflix proper to keep their service off Switch certainly isn't an issue when it comes to their video game branch.
It's a truly odd situation. Looking at statements made and the lack of support, you'd have to think there's some kind of bad blood here. Something that happened behind the scenes that irked Nintendo or Netflix. Perhaps Netflix tried to get on Switch day one and couldn't, and when they saw Hulu hit Switch first, they decided to take their business elsewhere. It would certainly be a petty decision if true, but that's 100% my own speculation. It just seems so weird for Netflix not to be available after a string of supported Nintendo platforms. I'm absolutely convinced there's some negativity behind the scenes that we're just not privy to.
Will Netflix ever come to the Switch? It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but it seems more unlikely now than ever. If Netflix hasn't done it by now, what would convince them to do it? They've already heard from a large group of Switch owners who want the service, and that wasn't enough to overcome any unknown issues or push them to deliver. It's definitely more of a "fingers crossed" situation at this point. A lovely surprise if it came over, but no one is holding their breath.
People today have numerous devices where they can stream Netflix to their heart's content. From other consoles to digital media players, smart TVs to mobile phones, there are plenty of options to pick from. Chances are if you have a Switch, you have another device that can play Netflix as well. It might not provide the versatility of a Switch version, but it is what it is. I guess for Netflix, that's good enough for now.