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Netflix taps former Zynga and EA exec to lead in-house games studio

Netflix is establishing an internal games studio in Helsinki, Finland, announcing that it will be led by former Zynga and Electronic Arts exec Marko Lastikka as studio director.

“This is another step in our vision to build a world-class games studio that will bring a variety of delightful and deeply engaging original games — with no ads and no in-app purchases — to our hundreds of millions of members around the world,” Amir Rahimi, Netflix’s VP of game studios, wrote in a blog post announcing the studio’s launch. Rahimi joined Netflix in November 2021, after serving as president of games for Scopely; before that, he was SVP and GM of FoxNext.

Netflix kicked off its push into gaming last summer and now offers more than two dozen titles in its catalog. The idea is that the games, included as part its core video-streaming service, will reduce churn and boost customers’ value perception.

The Helsinki in-house games studio will be Netflix’s fourth studio, after it acquired three indie game studios: Night School Studio, known for supernatural mystery adventure title “Oxenfree”; Next Games, a mobile games developer also based in Helsinki, whose titles include “Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales” and two based on AMC’s TV series “The Walking Dead”; and Boss Fight Entertainment (“Dungeon Boss”).

Why is Netflix Games setting up shop in Helsinki? According to Rahimi, the city is “home to some of the best game talent in the world,” and noted that Helsinki also is home to Next Games.

“Creating a game can take years, so I’m proud to see how we’re steadily building the foundation of our games studios in our first year, and look forward to sharing what we produce in the coming years,” Rahimi wrote.

At Zynga — which was acquired by Take-Two Interactive earlier this year — Lastikka was co-founder and GM of the Zynga Helsinki game development studio, working on “FarmVille 3.” Prior to joining Zynga in January 2017, he was co-founder and GM of the EA Helsinki tracktwenty game studio, responsible for the creation and live service of the “SimCity BuildIt” mobile game. Variety

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