Netflix Gets Serious About Games at E3 2019

Until today we knew that Netflix was creating another two games from its stable of IPs - a new Stranger Things game tied in to the upcoming third series, and the other based on the Dark Crystal series that Netflix is also due to release soon. Aside from that, many of the details were pretty vague.

At a panel today (June 12) in the E3 Coliseum, representatives from Netflix, game studio Bonus XP and the Jim Henson Company sat down to discuss the process of turning these shows into playable experiences, as well as showing off some new footage and information about these games.

Keeping it authentic

If any word could define the hour-long talk, it would be “authenticity.” Panellist Paul Dichter is a writer on Stranger Things, but is also the liaison between the show’s writers room and the game developers, making sure that everything the devs make fits into the universe and sounds like it should. There was apparently 16 rounds of revisions during the development of the new game to make sure that the unique structure and cadence of Eleven’s lines sounded like they do in the show.

According to Chris Lee, director of interactive games at Netflix, it’s difficult to mislead Stranger Things creators the Duffer brothers when it comes to these interactive projects, as the two of them are keen gamers. Lee claims that they are both big fans of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Astro Bot Rescue Mission, with Ross Duffer also recently enjoying Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Divinity 2.

Even the game’s genres are decided based on what makes sense for the shows they come from. Stranger Things features an ensemble cast, with the main group of boys particularly loving video games, both at home and in the arcade. Therefore a pixel graphics game with swappable player characters and a local co-op function is the perfect fit.

Meanwhile, the Dark Crystal takes place in a large fantasy world, where danger is always near and the relationships between the different species and clans on the planet Thra are of crucial importance. A tactical RPG, allowing you to grow your characters and decide the fate of the groups you encounter, was therefore a suitable choice, although there was no more detail given here beyond what we saw in the trailer from the Nintendo Direct livestream.

How Netflix-based games are made

This means a huge amount of access to materials for research is required. Bonus XP visited the set of Stranger Things and also Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, where the puppets for the Dark Crystal series are designed in order to get a sense of the sets and how the people and props fit into them. This comes along with reading through all of the scripts and spin-off content, and figuring out how to turn these stories into interesting quests to play though. As Stephanie Wise, director of digital and interactive media at the Jim Henson Company said: “Anything that they’ve requested we try to get them so we make sure that the game looks and feels like the show and the film.”

Working on unreleased and hotly anticipated content has a price though. Dave Pottinger, president of Bonus XP, talked about how one of the challenges of the Stranger Things project was having to keep their content, which matches the new series’ story, completely secret. He and his team have had to black out their windows of their building, forbid visitors from coming to the office and sign multiple NDAs in order to stop potential leaks. Even the game’s demo is ‘fake’, featuring no content that could be considered a spoiler. As for the Dark Crystal, it’s the legacy that proves the greatest obstacle. ‘Living up to 30-plus years of fandom and the expectations that comes with is a different level of stress’ says Pottinger.

Stranger Things Gets a Mobile Game (And Fortnite Crossover)

We also got a peek at some new content for the Stranger Things 3 game in the form of clips from an early game mission in which you rescue the flower shop owner from a locked bathroom, and also the reveal of Max and Eleven’s moves and abilities. We were also told about another upcoming Stranger Things game for iOS and Android, developed by Finnish company Next Games. It's apparently a puzzle and RPG hybrid that lets you fight against the inhabitants of the Upside Down anywhere, with your location being an important factor.

Credit: Next Games

(Image credit: Next Games)

Additionally, a Stranger Things easter egg found in Fornite last month, in the form of the ‘Scoops Ahoy’ ice cream shop from the Season 3 trailer, is in fact the harbinger of a larger future collaboration between Netflix and Epic Games’ battle royale title. No doubt we’ll be hearing more about it around the time of the new Stranger Things series’ and game’s July 4 debut. If you want to watch the whole talk, including those new gameplay reveals from Stranger Things, you can find the recording here.

Be sure to follow our E3 2019 news hub all week long for the biggest reveals and impressions out of Los Angeles.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.