What’s going on with Netflix on Switch anyway?

Eric Abent - Dec 27, 2019, 1:28pm CST
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What’s going on with Netflix on Switch anyway?

The Switch is quickly closing in on its third birthday and, therefore, the beginning of its fourth year on shelves. The console has enjoyed a lot of success over these past three years, not only in terms of sales but also in the number of excellent games that have launched for it. After the abysmal failure that was the Wii U, Nintendo bounced back with the Switch and now it seems unstoppable.

Yes, everything is sunshine and daisies over at Nintendo HQ, and once the holiday season is over, we’ll probably learn that the Switch had another strong quarter. For as good of a position as the Switch is in at the moment, there’s still one thing that’s missing: Netflix.

Ever since the console launched on March 3rd, 2017, Switch owners have been asking for a Netflix app for the device. We’ve seen a few streaming services release apps for the Switch, namely Hulu and YouTube, but Netflix – and indeed, some other notable services like Amazon Prime Video – are still nowhere to be seen. Why?

There isn’t really a straightforward answer to that question, but given the existence of YouTube and Hulu on the Switch, my first inclination is to blame Netflix. Netflix is ultimately responsible for developing an app for the Switch, should we ever find ourselves in a world where one actually exists. As time goes on, though, that’s looking less and less likely.

It’s something of a head scratcher considering that Netflix is on pretty much every device imaginable. If you have some kind of device that can connect to the internet, chances are you can download Netflix to it. Smart TV? There’s probably a Netflix app for it. Smartphone? Xbox One? PlayStation 4? There are definitely Netflix apps for all of those.

Switch owners are left feeling like the odd one out, but that could be down to the simple fact that the Netflix app already is everywhere. Perhaps Netflix thinks that there’s no reason to develop an app for the Switch since those who want to watch on a handheld device probably have a smartphone in their pocket.

Obviously I can’t speak for Netflix here, but that seems like an argument the company could make. If that’s the case, my follow-up would be “what could a Switch app hurt?” As of Nintendo’s latest financials, there’s more than 42 million Switch consoles out there. That’s a lot of devices Netflix is missing out on by not making an app for the Switch.

Even if every single Switch owner out there has another device that can run Netflix, there’s still the reality that giving customers more ways to watch only endears them to your service further. With Disney, Hulu, Amazon, and soon NBC all looking to topple Netflix with competing services of their own, Netflix needs all the customer goodwill it can get. That’s especially true when Disney and NBC are in the process of pulling their content from Netflix.

Perhaps Netflix could make the argument that there hasn’t been enough demand for a Switch app, and while I think it’s probably wrong about that, I also think it doesn’t really matter. With the streaming wars heating up, Netflix can only benefit from having its service on as many devices as possible, especially when some of its competitors are on the Switch. If we fast forward a year and services like Disney+ and Peacock are available on the Switch, Netflix may wind up kicking itself for being complacent.

Disney+ and Peacock may never make apps for the Switch either, but I would guess that as services that are starting from behind, they’d want to have apps as widely available as possible. With Netflix being the clear market leader, though, does it really want to find itself in a position of playing catch up to newcomers in the space?

I’m guessing that with the Switch’s third birthday on the horizon, we’re probably not going to see a Netflix app launch for the device. Netflix hasn’t made any recent indication that it’s working toward a Switch app, either – the most recent statement I could find from Netflix is the tweet you see embedded above, which was published all the way back in January 2018. In that tweet, Netflix says that while it’s “exploring” the opportunity for a Switch app, it doesn’t have any definitive plans to share.

Of course, there’s another company in this equation that could deserve just as much – if not all – of the blame, and that’s Nintendo. Nintendo isn’t exactly known for being open with its platforms, so it could very well be the case that we haven’t seen Netflix on the Switch simply because Nintendo doesn’t want it there.

Back when the Switch launched, then-president of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime actually made it clear that getting popular apps on the Switch wasn’t a priority for the company. Instead, he said that Nintendo was focused on getting the Switch to stand out from the competition by launching noteworthy games for the console.

Perhaps that remains Nintendo’s focus to this day, but it is worth pointing out that in that very same interview, Fils-Aime did say that apps like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix would come to the platform “in time.” Reggie Fils-Aime is no longer the president of Nintendo of America so it’s hard to know if this is still Nintendo’s stance when it comes to streaming apps on the Switch, but with Hulu and YouTube both present and accounted for, it seems that Nintendo has at least relaxed its position a little.

Wrap-Up

In the end, we’re left with a confusing mess where we’re not sure who to blame for Netflix’s absence on the Switch. It could be Netflix getting complacent with its position in the streaming space or it could be Nintendo being restrictive with who can and cannot put apps on the Switch. It’s likely a combination of both factors, but until one company opens up more about the situation, there’s no way to really know who the blame rests with.

One thing’s for sure: for those who just want to see Netflix on the Switch, the fact that we’ve gone nearly three years without it is annoying to say the least. Maybe one day we’ll see Netflix land on the Switch, but the further we get from March 3rd, 2017, the less likely that seems.


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