Hulu and Xbox have announced a partnership deal that gives existing U.S. Hulu subscribers three free months of PC Game Pass as part of the Hulu "Friends with Benefits" initiative. The move to target gamers follows Netflix's entry into the gaming market, where the streamer has made a number of ad-free mobile games a part of its subscription service.
Hulu and Xbox's offer is a limited-time deal, however -- not a new gaming initiative. The companies said this current offer is redeemable until July 23, 2022 and is only valid for PC Game Pass, not Game Pass Ultimate. It also may only be redeemed by Hulu subscribers in the U.S. who are to new Game Pass.
This appears to be the first time Hulu has done this type of deal with a gaming company. Xbox worked with Disney's other streaming service, Disney+, in 2020, offering Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers one free month of Disney+.
Hulu wrote in a statement, “At Hulu, every decision we make starts with the viewer. We do this through the stories we bring to life, and by giving Hulu subscribers the opportunity to engage with their favorite shows, films and brands through select perks and activations, including the ‘Hulu Friends with Benefits’ initiative, Hulu’s way of thanking you for simply being a fan—because that’s what friends are for.”
Normally, PC Game Pass costs $9.99 a month, so this offer is a chance for PC gamers to try out over 100 different games, including titles such as Minecraft, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Forza Horizon 5, Halo, as well as access to EA Play games like The Sims 4, It Takes Two and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. PC Game Pass also gives access to many new games the same day they release at retail. Xbox said in its announcement that more games would be coming out in the next three months.
While hardcore gamers love to play on consoles, there are a surprising amount of dedicated PC gamers. Statista shows there are 1.77 billion of them globally, and the number is expected to rise, potentially exceeding 1.9 billion in 2024.
On the other hand, Insider Intelligence believes the number of PC gamers will only decrease in 2022, and mobile games will dominate. This could explain why Netflix approached mobile games instead of PC. Mobile gaming is another impressive competitor in the gaming space, and Netflix has catered to this demographic of more casual, on-the-go gamers. According to Apptopia, Netflix's mobile games have been installed more than 8 million times since it launched.
In March, Netflix announced its only first-person shooter title Into the Dead 2: Unleashed, which could broaden its appeal to more gaming enthusiasts. In addition, Business Insider pointed to an older Netflix job listing that may have hinted at the company planning to expand into console and PC gaming. The job listing was for a video game tech artist and said that the ideal candidate "has shipped three or more console or PC games as an engineer or equivalent."
Its League of Legends animated series "Arcane" was a hit for the streamer, so it's not a shock that its game Hextech Mayhem, licensed from developer Riot Games, has garnered some success with 58% of League of Legends fans in the U.S. more likely to subscribe to Netflix than other streaming services, per Interpret data. Fifty-five percent of all gamers choose to subscribe to the streamer whereas 27% and 16% of gamers pick Hulu’s ad-supported plan and ad-free tier, respectively.
Overall, Netflix has 221 million global subscribers and greatly disappointed shareholders with a loss of 200,000 subs in its recent quarterly earnings report. For Q2 2022, total combined subscriptions for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ exceeded 205 million, with Hulu contributing 45.6 million subs.
While there's no indication that Hulu will take the same route as Netflix, it is interesting that more streaming services have begun following each other down the gaming rabbit hole.