Gamers of the Future on Netflix?  Stranger Things Can Happen

Gamers of the Future on Netflix? Stranger Things Can Happen

In 2007, before the days of “apps” and “streaming” was even heard of, I received a special red envelope from Netflix in my mailbox that was going to change everyone’s watching habits forever.  These envelopes were reserved for a select few DVD based Netflix subscribers which was the only option initially there was at the time.

The label on the envelope read “Instant Streaming Disc” for PS3. 

When Netflix made the announcement to their subscribers that they would soon be able to watch hundreds of movies from their PlayStation 3 console on to their TV sets, it seemed almost incompressible.  After I installed the disc, I found myself panning through the menu for what seemed like to be an endless supply of movies that I had the option to watch. After carefully choosing one to my liking, I was blown away at how good the actual video quality was.

From that point on, I realized Netflix’s streaming was going to be the official game changer for not just the DVD rental industry, but the entire movie industry as a whole. It changed the way we watched movies at home; by being able to watch almost any movie at any time.

Fifteen years since that monumental moment, it seems that Netflix may just utilize the magic of the Sony PlayStation yet again, but this time for a different kind of purpose. One that the Sony PlayStation utilizes quite well – games.

In addition to their original films, animation and unscripted TV, Netflix will be offering another new content: gaming.

The great news, at least in the short term, is that there will be no additional cost for the new gaming content for the subscribers, though once everyone gets hooked into it, just like the way video streaming did when it first came out, I imagine they might repeat themselves and charge a bit extra for it later down the line once it is widely embraced by it’s audience.

Recently announced on a letter to shareholders this month, Netflix said that will initially focus gaming on mobile devices.  So, I assume Netflix will develop some new Android and iOS apps to install onto smart-phones, tablets, and laptops, in order for subscribers to get a taste of what’s to come for gamers. Look for this to be done by the end of the year.

Though, it really wasn’t their intention to get into the gaming business even just a few years ago, Netflix has completely changed their tone. Perhaps it could have been due to the fact that many studios were pulling their big blockbuster movies out of Netflix so they could put them in their own streaming channels, like Disney Plus and HBO Max.

I am sure they had lost a chunk of their 18 to 34 year old audience, since all the Marvel and Star Wars movies had disappeared from the Netflix catalogue. It will be any of them will return just for the games.


Netflix’s phenomenal Stranger Things, became an overnight sensation since it debuted in 2016. According to Symphony Technology Group, within the first 35 days of release, Stranger Things averaged ratings around 14.07 million adults between the ages 18–49 in the United States.  Within its first month, the third season was watched by 64 million households, setting a new record for the most-watched original Netflix series.

The series is the most followed TV show on social media app “TV Time’s” history, with over 5 million followers.

Stranger Things is Netflix’s most prized franchise after having aired four seasons. All types of merchandise could be found at just about any major retail outlet. Books, comics, novels, clothing, toys, games, and even video games. You name it.


In 2017, Netflix started to produce their series of “interactive” films, such as “Black Mirror Bandersnatch”. Their “choose your own adventure” movie has up to ten to twelve different endings based on the viewer’s choices presented at a certain “choice point”.  Though there are very few decision-making choices compared to an actual video game, it still made it somewhat, in a way, a “game”, since it is interactive.

The following year, Netflix partnered with Telltale Games and introduced their first interactive game, Minecraft: Story Mode, which through basic controls on a television remote, was comparable to the existing catalogue of narrative stories rom Netflix.

Telltale Games also had the exclusive rights to produce a video game adaptation of Stranger Things, but unfortunately, the company collapsed before production even started.

In spite of this, Netflix partnered with BonusXP and developed the first mobile game for Stranger Things on the Android and iOS operating systems, which styled the 80’s look of The Legend of Zelda, the iconic 16-bit Nintendo game that was also about exploration and discovery. The free touchscreen game was downloaded over 3 million times it’s first week in 2017.

The following year, in 2018, when Season Two of Stranger Things came out, the game was updated and also became compatible with the Amazon Fire tablet with an option of using a controller through its port, which was a step in the right direction for serious gamers.

When BonusXP released Stranger Things 3: The Game in 2019, the tie-in for the third season, it was the first time that Stranger Things supported multiple platforms a such as personal computers, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

The debut of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” in 2017 became a phenomenal franchise that games was just a natural path for its world-wide popularity. Courtesy of BonusXP

I can imagine an updated Stranger Things 5 release, just in time for Christmas that could launch their introduction of gaming to their subscribers.

Even though they are still the major leader of all “over-the-top” streaming services with 204 million subscribers (and still growing), Netflix’s market share has been decreasing each quarter to rivals such as Disney Plus, HBO Plus, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so on. Their competition is starting to take a bigger chunk of the revenue pie.

In 2020, Netflix had a market share of 36.2% of the U.S. television industry’s revenue, down from 44.4% in 2019. By 2022, its share is expected to be down to 28.4%, and almost even with Disney’s slice of the U.S. streaming market.

Perhaps, it just seems natural for Netflix at this stage as a delivery content provider to transition into gaming after experimenting with interactive films.

Unlike Apple Arcade and Google Stadia whom haven’t exactly bowled the public over with their gaming platforms, Netflix has a much better chance to be successful with their existing 204 million subscriber base global platform, along with the endless quantity of intellectual property coming from Hollywood movies. Mobile gaming has the possibility to be more creative than ever.

They also have a great strategic partnership with Sony.  I believe game developers from all walks of life would want to work for Netflix, which is one of the most trusted and reputable companies in America to work for, as well. It was ranked #115 in Forbes 500 this year.

For better or worse, there will be some very exciting times as well as more stranger days ahead for the streaming giant. We’ll see if gaming will help fuel the future growth for Netflix. It will be a wait and see.

originally published on

THX Certified EVOO Laptops: Games & Movies Have Never Looked or Sounded Better

THX Certified EVOO Laptops: Games & Movies Have Never Looked or Sounded Better

After purchasing a brand new TV or laptop, how many consumers out there do you think actually go through the trouble to calibrate and fine-tune the colors of their display to get the finest picture possible?  Probably not many.

The majority of users don’t even think about adjusting the display settings on their monitors or laptops, and just leave the factory default settings alone.   It never crosses their minds that they actually need to adjust and balance the settings if they want a better picture with better contrast or crisper and brighter colors.  The fact is, most of the companies simply do not calibrate their displays they package.

THX, known for the certification of movie auditoriums, as well as home theaters, car audio systems, and gaming consoles has just recently branched out to include personal mobile devices.  The latest lineup of THX certified EVOO devices were on display at the Pepcom show in San Francisco, which come pre-calibrated and tuned by THX engineers, who spend countless hours, guaranteeing the consumer get the best in sound and picture possible right out of the box. 

This is a big win for the consumer.

However, the really impressive news is that the EVOO gaming laptops will feature multi-dimensional sound utilizing “spatial audio”, where the sound not only surrounds you not only from the front, rear and sides, but also above and below you…basically a 360 degree field.  You can experience this through the built-in speakers from the laptop or just using headphones.  If you are a gamer or movie watcher, you cannot get better than this for a total immersive experience from any other mobile device.  If you prefer, you can always set it down to “stereo”.

The THX slogan of “the audience is listening” now can probably come out with a more updated slogan” “the audience is immersing”…

“We are pleased to help bring to market these exceptional new EVOO devices. With the EVOO Gaming laptops, gamers experience spherical multidimensional audio, putting them at the center of the action in video games, movies, streaming video, and music,” said Jason Fiber, senior vice president and general manager, mobile products, THX Ltd. ”Adding to this, our THX engineers worked diligently to calibrate the displays so the devices will offer a quality viewing experience with brighter, clearer colors and vibrant, focused contrast.”

EVOO Gaming Laptops – THX Spatial Audio and Tuned by THX: EVOO, a private-label electronics brand today announced three new Intel-powered EVOO Gaming laptops optimized for dedicated and new gamers. The EVOO gamer will have the option of enjoying THX stereo as well as THX Spatial Audio to experience three-dimensional audio immersion. This means the player may become fully immersed in an authentic game experience that transports them into the computer game environment with true-to-life acoustics that allows them to accurately locate enemies, avoid dangers, and detect threats with the precision and pin-point accuracy of advanced audio positioning. THX Spatial Audio may also help reduce ear and brain fatigue by moving sounds perceptibly farther away from the player in order to encourage mental sharpness enabling longer playtime. Recognizing that great content needs exceptional graphics, the EVOO Gaming laptops also feature displays Tuned by THX, resulting in a compelling and accurate viewing experience. THX engineers spend countless hours testing, tuning and adjusting a myriad of display parameters in order to provide exceptional, crisp display color and images for the best possible video experience from the time it is taken out of the box.

These three performance-series EVOO Gaming laptops, expected to be available in early November, include:

  • a 17.3-inch full HD screen with an Intel i7 9th gen processor, 16GB/1TB and Nvidia RTX 2060 ($1599 MSRP),
  • a 15.6-inch full HD screen Intel i7 9th gen processor, 16GB/512GB, and Nvidia GTX 1660ti ($1299 MSRP), and
  • a 15.6-inch full HD screen with an Intel i7 9th gen processor, 16GB/256GB, and Nvidia GTX 1650 ($1199 MSRP).
VR Games in the Esports League

VR Games in the Esports League

A mere four years ago, at the Games Developers Conference (GDC 2014), VR gaming was going through yet another revival after several decades and had another chance to revolutionize the gaming industry.  During that time, Oculus was just a small little company funded from a Kickstarter campaign that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere before being acquired by Facebook.

Immediately after that, Sony PlayStation decided to jump on the VR bandwagon, joining Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.  Many thought it had the potential to completely disrupt and revolutionize the game industry and that everyone would be abandoning their game controllers in favor of VR headsets. In addition, many assumed Sony would take the PS4 platform into more of an online VR community of VR gamers, much like they have done with the success of their traditional online games.  Sony and Xbox had dominated with over the years allowing you to be put in the same community as your friends no matter where you are in the world.

Instead, VR gaming has mainly been a one-person/player experience, being shut into an environment virtual reality world where you are in isolation.  However, through social media and online communities, things are beginning to change all that.  Especially the devoted community for Survio’s “Sprint Vector” which recently made it’s debut on Esports in the VR League at Oculus Connect 5 this year.

Andrew Abedian, the Senior game designer at VR game company, Survios, was recently at the 2018 XRDC conference in San Francisco and talked about the grassroots evolution of how their game, “Sprint Vector” was turned from an early speed-running prototype that evolved into a pioneer multiplayer VR title in Esports, thanks mainly through the help of their online community. “Humanity loves sports…there’s a great drive towards watching it because it’s so physical and athletic and stamina based…there’s a mental game with teamwork and strategy.  When you see a player going down the field you get a sense of what they are going through and the heart they are putting into it”.  Abedian continued, “On the other side of the coin you have Esports…which is really a mental game…highly dexterity based and drives with the mind”. “VR Esports are the middle ground”…”Sprint Vector is built around those concepts”. He explained that “Sprint Vector” is the “middle gap” of real sports and Esports, where real sports is very physical and gaming is very mental.

In “Sprint Vector”, players achieve speed and mobility by pumping their arms like a runner and turning their heads to steer.  Other controls allow them to jump and climb, drift and fly at tremendous speeds.  It is a very physical game and to be a contender at a high level, contestants really do need to be athletic and fit.

Replacing the more conventional traditional teleport locomotion or joystick for moving around, Survio’s developed and utilized their proprietary “Fluid Locomotion” system in “Sprint Vector” which nearly eliminates nausea.   90-95% of the people have reduced nausea or no nausea”, explains Abedian.  That essentially makes it much easier for the players to stay in the games longer.

For spectators of traditional sports, this makes Esports much more credible compared to watching couch potatoes with close up shots of showing their incredible finger dexterity.  These players are sweating it out with their arms, twisting and turning.  Action in movement creates excitement within a real competition and it’s much more exciting to watch the players getting a real workout.

Prior to its official release this year, “Sprint Vector” was able to gain much exposure through GDC2017 where their booths were gathering crowds and their events were becoming spectacles by themselves with many onlookers cheering and watching above from the guard rails. They also had tournaments, such as the Alienware VR Cup at CES2018, along with leader boards and prizes, sponsored by partners Alienware, Nvidia and Intel. After its release in February, despite the game’s exposure throughout GDC and CES, the game was wearing thin after a few months and it was near impossible to find players online to compete with.  Many were already losing interest in playing the game and the numbers were dropping rapidly.

That all changed when Survios reviving the small but passionate community by organizing Happy Hours on Saturday nights, along with Speed Running Tournaments, facilitating game rooms and ensuring game play for those that were interested.   In addition, they also offered prizes for online competition. Suddenly, the community started getting bigger and bigger.

Even ESL started to take note of the devoted community and they eventually chose “Sprint Vector” to participate in this year’s Oculus Connect 5 show and into the VR League making their major debut on Esports.  $12,000 was awarded in prizes for the “Sprint Vector” competition.  “Not bad for a game that originally had no intention of being an Esport.” Abedian noted.  It was just last year’s Oculus Connect 4 Conference where Mark Zuckerberg announced his lofty ambition goals for VR – “We’re setting a goal: we want to get a billion people in virtual reality.”

According to CCS Insight, there are approximately 22 million VR headsets that were sold this year and the number is expected to grow four fold to 121 million next year.  If that’s the case, then Zuckerberg will certainly hit his goal soon. Maybe in the future we can have a VR League marathon involving thousands of participants.



eSports predictions at E3

eSports predictions at E3

In the next 10 years eSports will be the most popular sport in the world – predicts Frank Azor, co-founder of Alienware and vice president & general manager of Gaming & XPS for Dell who made the prediction statement during an exclusive interview at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), the biggest annual gaming conference in North America that took place in the middle of June in Los Angeles. The E3 expo featured 70 thousand attendees from 106 countries. E3 is the preeminent showcase for ground-breaking new games and technology that serves the growing community of gamers.

In March of this year Alienware opened its first professional eSportsTraining Facility in North America, located in Los Angeles. Just minutes from Riot Games LCS Studio, this new location helps Team Liquid, a professional gamer franchise team, improve the way they practice, train and prepare for eSports tournament. Alienware is the largest supplier of the gaming computer systems in the world, as a sponsor of the team, they provide the eSports athletes with access to incredible technology that is currently available. Alienware is also talking to new partners to build relationships that allows eSports to grow on unprecedented scale.

There are no other sports out there, with the exception of motorsports racing, where the athlete’s performance has a dependency on their equipment is as great as it is as esports athletics – elaborates Frank Azor. If you look at traditional sport like football or basketball, the equipment that the athletes use maybe helps in tiny fraction of the amount of their competitiveness.  eSports however is more closely related to auto racing, the skill is in using the equipment to compete, so when your PC fails on you, you are out of the game.

The global industry has not completed the statistics, but the rumors are that number of people in the audience watching eSports tournaments has already passed the audience of baseball games.

Here is a full coverage of the interview with Frank Azor: 



GDC 2018 – Reel Time Becomes Real Time

GDC 2018 – Reel Time Becomes Real Time

San Francisco, March 25, 2018.   At this year’s GDC 2018 (Game Developer’s Conference), there were a couple of demos that stood out that strongly reinforced my thoughts about the eventual futuristic merging of computer gaming and movies.

After just a few demos on the GDC expo floor,  I was not be able to discern the difference between the computer game graphics and the live action from movies anymore.  Realism for game developers have never looked so real.

On the first day of GDC, NVIDIA announced their latest RTX technology of Real time-Cinematic rendering.  Nvidia’s RTX technology, alongside Microsoft’s new DirectX® Raytracing (DXR) API, has been an intensive work-in-progress for the last ten years.  It’s ray tracing renders lifelike and realistic lighting, along with reflections and shadows that make it nearly impossible to distinguish what is real and what is not, in terms of computer graphics.   It brings real-time, cinematic-quality rendering to content creators and game developers.

Yes, you read right: “real time”.

This new technology is a milestone for not just gaming developers and filmmakers, but any creator who needs to render an object as realistic as can be.  The computer graphics of tomorrow will make computer graphics of today look like a lifeless imitation.

Nvidia had Project Spotlight “Reflections” at their booth at GDC, which looks more like a teaser trailer for the next Star Wars feature film, but in reality, it’s a real time tracing demo, which Epic’s team along with ILMxLAB and NVIDIA’s DGX Station, equipped with four Tesla V100 GPUs, Epic’s Unreal Engine and NVIDIA’s RTX ray-tracing technology.

It definitely wowed the enthusiastic GDC crowd as it was hard to believe that there were no actual actors used in the storm troopers costumes.  It was all computer graphics being rendered.

At GDC, game developers will have access to ray-tracing denoiser module, part of the GameWorks SDK from Nvidia.  Photo by Marcus Siu.

NVIDIA has also announced that the GameWorks SDK will add a ray-tracing denoiser module, helping game developers take advantage of new capabilities. This updated SDK, which is coming soon, includes support for ray-traced area light shadows, glossy reflections and ambient occlusion.  This will help save a huge amount of time for creators.

Imagine how the Screen Actor’s will feel after they realize that computer graphics characters may jeopardize their career in the near future.  One of those actors will

Motion capture performance artist, Andy Serkis, known for playing “Gollum” in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Caesar” in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy may not have problems finding work.  Just a few sections away from the Nvidia booth, I saw a computer generated “digital” Andy Serkis acting out his lines as his alien creature character was being rendered in real time at the Unreal booth.

Unreal indeed.

Just unreal – Andy Serkis’s character talks as Andy talks in real time at the GDC 2018. Photo by Marcus Siu


Maybe in the near distant future, we can just get rid of the entire Screen Actor’s Guild with the exception of performance capture or voice-over actors.  Or perhaps one day we can just clone the actors so there wouldn’t be any need for them to come in and perform on a sound stage.

Imagine at the Academy Awards…, “and the nominees for “Best Clone Actor in Supporting Role are”…

In addition with the progress of computer graphics coming from ray tracing in the visual sides, audio will also be just as important for content creators.  End user consumers are continuously looking for an immersive experience with their gaming, so many are reaching out to THX certified equipment for their PC gaming.

THX demonstrated their spatial audio platform, using the latest audio standard, MPEG-H, as well as UHD.  They were using the game trailer for “Helblade”, which ironically, was one of the first live motion capture technology for Epic Games in 2006.  It was in a way, ahead of its time.  Coming from a 2.1 THX certified Logitech speakers and a sub-woofer, it was quite sonically immersive.  I felt that I was right in the middle of the soundscape.

There was also a demo of it using headphones, but I still preferred the speakers.

                                    Certified THX Logitech Speakers at GDC. Photo by Marcus Siu.

In addition, they utilize personalized audio profiles using HRTS’s (Head-Related Transfer Functions), which are optimized and customized for each listener, based on user’s unique hearing anatomy.

Long associated with the Lucasfilm movie sound in movie theatres in the 80’s, it seems that THX is staging a comeback into the public eye in the marketplace.  In addition to its traditional THX certified products such as home entertainment products over the years, such as projectors, pre-amps, receivers and speakers, they have been gaining momentum into the gaming world by introducing THX certified products, such as laptops, headsets and satellite speakers.

The audience is listening…again.

Article and photos by Marcus Siu 

(originally published on mlsentertainment)