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Netflix acquires Oxenfree developer Night School Studio

Oxenfree 2 still on the way

oxenfree review hero Image: Night School Studio
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Netflix has acquired Oxenfree developer Night School Studio, the companies announced Tuesday. The game studio, known for its branching narratives, will create original games for the streaming platform’s nascent foray into video games.

Night School Studio founder Sean Krankel said in a blog post about the acquisition that the company will continue working on Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, which it currently expects to launch in early 2022 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows PC. As the first games studio to join Netflix on this new project, said Krankel, Night School wants to “stretch [its] narrative and design aspirations across distinctive, original games with heart.”

Krankel added, “Our explorations in narrative gameplay and Netflix’s track record of supporting diverse storytellers was such a natural pairing. It felt like both teams came to this conclusion instinctively.”

Night School Studio actually has a past with Netflix, as it reportedly worked on a Strange Things game with shuttered studio Telltale Games. The Night School game was slated for release during Stranger Things’ third season, according to a report from The Verge, and was created to “bridge the gap” between seasons 2 and 3. The project was never announced or canceled, according to The Verge, and the game “evaporated” after Telltale’s surprise shutdown in 2018. Neither Netflix nor Night School Studio mentioned this project in its news releases.

Prior to the reported Stranger Things game, Night School Studio released a Mr. Robot mobile game, Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n, based on the USA Network show starring Rami Malek. In 2019, the developer released Afterparty, a game about two college grads that are trying to outdrink Satan.

Netflix itself has a small suite of games already in its lineup, a few of which are currently being tested on Netflix’s tester games app in Italy, Poland, and Spain. A limited selection of players in those countries can access two mobile games: Stranger Things: 1984 and Stranger Things 3: The Game. In the news release published Tuesday, Netflix game development vice president Mike Verdu said that games will eventually be available as part of a standard Netflix membership — “all with no ads and no in-app purchases.”

Games available in Netflix’s eventual catalog are expected to be based on existing Netflix properties.

In July, Netflix chief operating officer Greg Peters said the company’s push into video games — specifically, right now — “is the right time to learn more about how our members value games.” Indeed, the streaming platform does seem to be interested in the medium; outside of its mobile games platform, Netflix has also demonstrated a keen interest in original TV shows and movies based on video game franchies, like The Witcher, Dota, and Castlevania, More video game-inspired shows, based on Magic: The Gathering, Sonic the Hedgehog, and League of Legends, are coming, too.

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