Video games are driving the next big wave of Hollywood

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Video games are driving the next big wave of Hollywood

Hello and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, Your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’ll be talking about the explosive rise of video game adaptations on film and television, as well as what to read, watch and play this weekend.

Are video game adaptations the new comic book movies?

You may have heard that the video game industry is bigger than Hollywood. It’s a kind of silly business trivia that is brought up from time to time to demonstrate the good faith of the gaming market. A single game can cost four to six times as much as a standard movie ticket (although many of the most popular ones are free), and much of film and television is subsidized through subscriptions and advertising, making the comparison is not as useful as it sounds.

But the two industries, once at odds over artistic and economic merits, are far from competitors. Indeed, Hollywood seems to have finally realized the value of video game brands as powerful storytelling vehicles, and has now started an entertainment arms race to cash in on adaptations of everything from Halo to Mario to Sonic. This wave of adaptations raises an important question: Can Hollywood now do for games what it did for comics?

The Sonic sequel broke a major record. The conventional wisdom of Hollywood has been that video game adaptations almost always fail, either because the audience for any game property is too specific or because the end product is lackluster. That’s no longer true, and hasn’t been since 2019’s “Detective Pikachu” broke box office records and scored a rare (but still modest) 68% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” sequel had the biggest opening weekend of any video game adaptation in history with $71 million in domestic ticket sales. It’s also the second best-reviewed game movie, behind only 2021’s dark adaptation of the Ubisoft VR game Werewolves Within.
  • Now, even if critics criticize a game adaptation, it still seems to work well, which is probably more a reflection of the broader spread of gaming audiences in mainstream pop culture than a testament to audience tolerance. by poor quality media. in the age of streaming.
  • For example, Sony’s Uncharted has a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, but made almost $400 million at the box office with an audience score of 90%. The sequel to “Sonic” has been almost universally loved by audiences, with an audience score of 97%.

Adaptations are everywhere. Since the success of “Detective Pikachu” and TV series like Netflix’s “The Witcher,” game adaptations have explodedwith production studios and game developers hoping to replicate the success of Marvel on the big screen and “Game of Thrones” in the living room.

  • Sony is using its popular PlayStation Studios slate of titles to generate a steady stream of shows and movies through its distribution and production arms. That includes The Last of Us with HBO, God of War with Amazon, and a Ghost of Tsushima movie directed by “John Wick” director Chad Stahelski.
  • Netflix has signed on to adapt Capcom’s Resident Evil, Square Enix’s Tomb Raider, Take-Two’s BioShock and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, while Paramount has already greenlit a second season of its live-action show Halo and is committed to a spin-off of Knuckles in the Sonic universe. Amazon is also working on a Mass Effect show with Electronic Arts and a Fallout show with Bethesda.
  • This is not limited to the big franchises either. Production company dj2 Entertainment, which helped co-produce both Sonic movies, is now working on adapting indie hits like Disco Elysium, Life is Strange and It Takes Two, with the mindset that smaller, budget-conscious games translate in more adaptable and higher quality games. quality narratives.
  • “There used to be a stigma that video games as source material couldn’t be those kinds of clever, character-driven movies and TV shows,” said dj2 CEO Dmitri Johnson. he told The Ringer earlier this year. “I am of the belief that [we] not only can we, but we will win Emmys, we will win Oscars, and the source material will be based on games.”
  • In the last six months alone, dj2 has first sight agreements signed with Amazon and independent game publisher Raw Fury to produce even more projects.

Comic strip movies are not being replaced. Marvel may have moved on from Infinity Saga, and “Morbius” is his the most embarrassing failure to date. But the latest $1 billion-plus milestone for “Spider-Man” combined with the colossal box office performance of “The Batman” illustrates the continued momentum for superhero movies.

  • Game adaptations seem to be additive, and the comic book genre offers a useful roadmap for how these projects can go from flops to potential critical favorites and award contenders like “The Dark Knight,” ” Black Panther” and “The Joker”. The secret: make more movies and shows, across many genres and from a wide variety of directors.
  • The highest-profile video game adaptations had to escape development hell. It took decades for another Mario movie to get off the ground after the infamously bizarre 1993 live-action flick. A Halo Movie from Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp didn’t go anywhere long before the Paramount TV series began, while the movie Uncharted it took almost 15 years to finally hit theaters.
  • To help game adaptations mature, there needs to be fewer long, winding journeys like those of Mario, Halo, and Uncharted, and more of the solid groundwork and rapid experimentation that helped DC, Marvel, and Sony codify their comic book formulas. which led to both commercial and artistic breakthroughs.

We’re likely far from video game adaptations enjoying a “Dark Knight” moment at the Oscars, though efforts at the end of animation like Netflix’s “Castlevania” and League of Legends spinoff “Arcane” they make it seem more like an animated adaptation. hit gold awards before a live action one.

But the gaming industry’s takeover of Hollywood is just beginning. Soon enough, streaming services and movie theaters will be abuzz with narratives and characters best known to game console owners. And unlike comics, which never stray too far from the superhero and action genre, video games have the potential to tell diverse stories for a much larger audience.

At this rate, a game adaptation might even get a Best Picture Oscar before a comic book movie.

—Nick Statt

A MESSAGE FROM PwC

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TGIF: How to spend your weekend

“Pachinko” — Apple TV+. “Pachinko” is a captivating drama that follows the story of a Korean family and the challenges they face in a world dominated by racism and economic inequality amid loss and other personal struggles. Based on Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel of the same name, the series effortlessly blends multiple time periods, languages, and histories, demonstrating how world history is highly present in people’s daily lives. New episodes of the miniseries debut every Friday. If you’re just starting to binge now, do yourself a favor and don’t skip the iconic opening credit scene: Their playfulness helps both frame the show and celebrate its characters.

How Club Penguin changed my life — Chris Gliddon. This week’s news from a major Club Penguin clone closing over the copyright infringement allegations will no doubt bring back memories to anyone who ever set foot in the long-defunct kids’ webbed MMO. For a different perspective, it’s worth checking out this insightful insight from one of Club Penguin’s earliest employees.

BlackPix — plexusRock Channel. One of the premises of free-to-air ad-supported streaming (FAST) channels is that they allow for a cable-like breakout experience with content that may never have made it to your cable line. BlackPix is ​​a perfect example of this: the channel combines feature-length documentaries and movies focused on black athletes, artists, and everyday Americans into a 24/7 feed that’s worth adding to your diet of free channels.

Cosmonious High: Meta Quest and Steam VR. From Owlchemy Labs, the studio that brought us Job Simulator and Vacation Simulator, comes this new game that takes you to a high school for aliens. The best way to imagine Cosmonious High is to imagine a school that seems to have come from the brains of Nickelodeon producers who were fired because their ideas were too outlandish. It’s chaotic, fun, and surprisingly difficult. Kind of like real high school I guess.

“Russian Doll” – Netflix. Remaking “Groundhog Day” was never going to be easy. Netflix pulled it off with “Russian Doll,” though, thanks to a decidedly darker take on constant deja vu. Let’s just say that death seems inevitable in this show. Season 2 premieres next week, which means you’ll have a whole weekend to catch up or rewatch a great first season.

— Janko Roettgers

A MESSAGE FROM PwC

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Thoughts, questions, advice? Send them to entertainment@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you next Tuesday.

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