Netflix games launch on iPhone and iPad with return to Apple's payment system

Netflix had dropped the Apple payment function from its main app three years ago. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Netflix is resuming use of Apple's controversial app-purchase system with its new video-game offering after dropping the payment function from its main app three years ago.

The streaming giant on Tuesday (Nov 9) released Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3, Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up and Card Blast for Apple's devices. Netflix launched its games offering with those same titles last week for devices powered by the Android operating system from Alphabet's Google.

The decision to let users sign up for a Netflix subscription - including games and the streaming service - via Apple's payment system suggests a cooling of tension between the companies.

In 2018, Netflix stopped letting consumers subscribe via Apple's service, which takes a 30 per cent cut in the first year and 15 per cent thereafter. That year, Apple executives tried to keep Netflix in the app-purchase system, pitching the company on retail and App Store-related promotions, according to e-mails revealed during the iPhone maker's recent trial with Epic Games.

In-app purchase revenue is one of the most lucrative components of Apple's nearly US$70 billion (S$94 billion) a year services business. Netflix declined to comment.

The new Netflix games are all individual downloads from the App Store, complying with a controversial Apple rule that bars developers from releasing all-in-one gaming services. That may make the offering confusing for users.

Apple's purchase rules have riled other app developers and led to government investigations. In Android, developers are allowed to release all-in-one gaming services where users can download and play multiple games inside of one app.

While the individual games allow users to purchase a full Netflix subscription through Apple, the main Netflix app still tells users they need to go elsewhere to sign up for streaming.

It is unclear if Netflix intends to eventually restore in-app purchasing to its main app as well, but subscriptions bought through the games will transfer to the main app.

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