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GoNintendo Thought: What is keeping Netflix off the Switch?

Tuning out

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.

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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.

Categories: Consoles, Feature

Comments

It really is such a strange situation that I can only believe it's been stopped by behind the scenes negotiations. Why is the Switch the only device that doesn't allow for streaming Netflix???

There should be Netflix on Switch. But maybe there isn't because it wouldn't be possible to stream on the system while away from wi-fi, since Switch has no 3G or 4G.

If that were the case though, why would it be available on Wii U, the Wii (thought discontinued I believe), Xbox One, PS4, 3DS, etc?

On the one hand, it sucks that the Switch doesn't have Netflix (or a proper web browser for that matter).

On the other hand, if my online experience is anything to go by, (constant lag and weak connections), I'd rather keep my Switch with no Netflix at all. It's a real shame that the Switch seems to run the YouTube app better than my smart TV, but it's severely limited by it's weak wifi signal.

I don't see why technical limitations would be a factor when Hulu is available on Switch.

I guess chalk it up to Nintendo always taking one step forward and two steps back.

sabrac
Wed May 20 20 08:05pm
Rating: 2

I don't get constant desire of having netflix on the Switch. We have so many other gadgets that can have the app, why not let the switch be just a console?
I'm not saying that the console shouldnt have it, just the that constant demand seems weird when at this point, anyone with a switch has any other device that can have netflix.

Agreed. I love that the Switch, so far, is “just a gaming device.” It’s all the better for it.

In my living room, I have a variety of devices capable of playing Netflix. The problem is, they were designed for the Netflix of their time, and struggle--if not outright fail--to play it now, and in all cases their official support has long been discontinued. It sure would be nice to play Netflix on the most modern piece of hardware on the shelf. The YouTube and Hulu apps clearly demonstrate the Switch's capability. But, if I want a quality Netflix experience, I have to sit at my PC or look at my small smartphone screen.

Instead of the Switch being the only console capable of playing Netflix in handheld mode, it's just the only console that doesn't have Netflix at all. That's not a great look, even if you want to spin it as "dedicated gaming device." Something else that isn't a great look: completely ignoring consumers' constant desire.

When the Switch launched it looked perfect for my Netflix necessities, but them that simple didn't happened. I'm unlucky when it comes on Netflix on Nintendo devices, The 3DS in Brazil never received the Netflix app and even if you downloaded from a different E-Shop (on the time you could change accounts and country) it didn't work, The WiiU was the only that I was able to use and I used a lot but it stopped working with my television. I bought a Wii but the Netflix app was already closed....

Crunchyroll is not on the Switch either when they supported the Wii U, and I have no idea why. The recent buyout might've been a factor though. There are some large companies that really, REALLY don't like Nintendo and won't support them no matter how much money they'll make from it. Not sure if Crunchyroll's parent company is one of them though. (I think it's AT&T, but I'm not sure.)

Seriously, who cares?

Netflix is a nice bonus not a huge requirement. This is a game console most and foremost. The rest is extra. You can watch Netflix in hundreds of other devices.

Why make a big deal for not being on Switch? I'm sure it will come eventually but if it doesn't, so what?!

ridleysaria
Thu May 21 20 01:17am
Rating: 1

Don't ask "who cares?" when a lot of people here clearly do. Not everyone has hundreds of other devices. Netflix is appealing for streaming because it's more versatile. I could watch a movie while sitting on my couch, or I could take it to work and watch something during my lunch break. Can't do that with my PS4.

I'm pretty peeved too: I remember someone nothing something about how a Factor 5 guy said Nintendo wouldn't approve Netflix for Switch, so that's why it didn't come out around launch, but that's the last thing I remember next to the included statement. Hulu is nifty and if I go for it, I'll watch it there, but honestly, there's zero excuse for switch not to have this late in the life cycle: Netflix, Tubi, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, put all four of em on there, or at least Netflix/Prime if they're sticking to huge apps.

I use my PS4 for tubi in order to watch Super Sentai, or Amazon Prime to watch documentaries or Code Lyoko, but I'd much prefer the switch since it's the perfect size and device for such things. I prefer my computer for youtube/twitch playback, but for anything else... Yeah, it's gonna be my TV for the time being. My phone is too puny to make video watching of any kind practical, soooo the switch is the next best thing for it. I dug it when I had to use it during College when the app came out, as I did not want my data plan drained by going on LTE to watch youtube, nor did I feel comfortable hooking up my phone to unsecure wifi when I could just do my Switch. (which barely has anything like an internet browser to worry about), but really, it's pretty absurd that Netflix and others are stubborn about multimedia on Switch. Maybe they're cranky about HDCP not being there, IDK.

Or maybe it's Nintendo being stingy/weird. Wouldn't surprise me at all since they blocked a lot of Wii U developers from publishing games on Switch, and STILL do with some to this day for no reason.

Code Lyoko is on Prime? Why can't there be a free version sigh

You turn on your Switch, and you see the tile for Netflix. All of a sudden there's competition for your time - do you play/buy a game, or do you watch Netflix? Why would Nintendo create competition for themselves?

So then why is Hulu on there? What makes it so different?

I really don't understand the people that try and downplay this. If you don't feel like using the Netflix app on Switch, that's fine. But why settle for less? Every other console has the app except Switch. It makes no sense when the Switch already offers the Hulu app. I understand why it isn't a big deal to people when they already have other devices that have Netflix, but overall for me it's the principle of thing of settling for less that bugs me. Would I use it? Maybe a couple of times here and there. Is it the end of the world that I can't use Netflix on Switch? No, but why would I settle for an option where I DON'T have access to? Makes no sense.

grcpan
Thu May 21 20 04:17am
(Updated 1 time)

It would be interesting to know why Netflix is not on the Switch. We do know that Hulu took a while to get there due to Nintendo wanting to focus only on games and the lack of some encryption required by the service that Nintendo enabled with a system update eventually (source: https://www.nintendoenthusiast.com/hulu-tech-vp-explains-the-delay-in-bringing-video-streaming-services-to-switch/ ).

Maybe Nintendo worked closely with Hulu without keeping Netflix in the loop early on and Netflix threw a fit over it.

It's especially irksome when Hulu isn't even available in Canada, limiting our streaming options to whatever is available on YouTube.

Yes, I do have a PS4, but when I have to fire up a separate console just to access the one app, that is taking me out of Nintendo's ecosystem entirely, so that when I am done watching whatever show or movie, I'm still likelier to stay in PlayStation's ecosystem just because it's already on and the controller is in hand.

But it's not just Netflix. Disney+, Crave and HBO, Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime, hell even Warner Brother's DC streaming service and TED Talks, apps for Switch should have the floodgates opened (and system themes, but that's another GoNintendo thought for another day, I'm sure).

Choices are never a bad thing; I'd never understand why someone would argue against them when it takes nothing away from what already exists.

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