We updated this article on 05/05/2021, as video game adaptation projects continue to proliferate at Netflix and others. League of Legends, Dota, The Last of Us, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Splinter Cell and many others … the future will still be rich in video game heroes on SVoD services.
It is therefore a real trend that is emerging on the side of streaming platforms. Well aware of the unifying potential of games and player communities, they intend to fully exploit the vein.
Let us immediately put the dots on the “i”, the attraction of Netflix for video games is not new. Rather, let’s say that it is recent, and has been really gaining momentum for some time.
It’s been a handful of years since video games have been popular with Reed Hastings’ company. In 2019, she took advantage of E3 to announce that she was launching her own video games, taken from Stranger Things and Dark Crystal especially.
The reverse also works with games transposed into films and series. The Witcher (originally by Andrzej Sapkowski), Castlevania, Carmen Sandiego or Final Fantasy XIV : Dad of Light, even if it is not a pure and hard adaptation of the game … it is difficult to ignore that Netflix is betting on the world of video games.
The Witcher, one of Netflix’s flagship series.
Serial announcements and rumors
Moreover, proud of the success of these original productions, the firm does not intend to stop there. It’s simple, announcements, rumors and calls of the foot are multiplying.
Since 2017, a series Assassin’s Creed, supposedly intended for Netflix, is in the nails, as a show based on the universe of Resident Evil. The film adapted from The Division, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain in the cast, was due to arrive in 2020. Today, it is still not available on the platform.
To make matters worse, the creator of God of War recently expressed his desire to adapt his game to a series, ideally on Netflix, and one of Blizzard’s bosses confirmed that a series around Diablo was in preparation for the SVoD service. He also mentioned the game Overwatch, without naming the future broadcaster of the project.
Latest announcement to date, Dragon’s Blood, series adapted from the famous MOBA Dota. For its part, HBO Max is seriously accelerating on the show The Last of Us and is expected to launch it by 2022.
Video games will therefore be omnipresent in the future of Netflix. How to explain this phenomenon ?
Heavyweight in entertainment
Before getting into the analysis, let’s start by pushing an open door: yes, the video game industry weighs very heavily today. Globally, its turnover was estimated at $ 200 billion in 2020, according to a Accenture study. To give an idea, it’s more than twice the annual amount generated by the cinema (excluding Covid, in a normal period).
These numbers are staggering enough, but don’t stop there. There are also more than 2.7 billion players in the world.
As for Esport, no need to draw a picture. Competitive video games are also booming and mobilize more and more supporters and sponsors. Annual events such as Paris Games Week or E3 in Los Angeles are very mobilizing, as are many franchises popular with players.
World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Call of Duty, League Of Legends, Super Smash Bros, Counter Strike and many others have strong and very loyal communities. To please the fans, to unite, to create expectation… this is obviously part of the nerves of the sector.
Obviously, developing synergies and bridges between two not so distant worlds, that of gaming and that of series or films, is interesting, as well as potentially very profitable. Netflix would be wrong to deny it, even if the exercise is not without risks.
The easy choice, really?
Who says adaptation of a successful franchise like The Witcher or Resident Evil, also said strong hype and a lot of media noise. Clearly, announce that you are preparing the adaptation of a cult universe of video games, and the information will quickly go around the Web and specialized sites. A good “advertisement” to take for Netflix, even if it is double-edged.
Admittedly, adapting a video game into a film or series is to ride the wave of its success on consoles or PC. It can also mean less promotional effort and the almost certain guarantee of securing a large audience.
Few of the fans would miss out on one of their favorite franchises, brought to the small screen. We can, without going too far, suppose that a majority will give at least one chance to the work taken from a popular video game.
A Resident Evil series, a saga already largely adapted to the cinema, would be in preparation on Netflix.
However, if the end result does not live up to the expectations of the fans, the backlash can also be brutal. Adaptation is a slippery exercise, especially when it comes to video games, and many have already broken their teeth.
Choose to adapt a blockbusteris to capitalize on a world that has proven its worth, but also to take the risk of putting aficionados back and therefore lose credibility with an important audience.
Build on an already constructed story
Another advantage of adapting a video game: being able to rely on a story that has proven itself. Okay, unlike a television series, the quality of a video game is not necessarily conditioned by a small onion storyline.
Still, a polished narration has almost become a must which most games will struggle to overcome to succeed. It is not Tetris who wants, and anyway, games of the genre are becoming increasingly rare.
Adapting a video game means avoiding inventing a universe, characters and a plot. On the other hand, that does not exempt from a great scriptwriting work. The storyline of a game is far from being naturally adapted to the series or film format and it must therefore be modeled to decline it. The whole difficulty is to keep its essence, not to distort it, while knowing how to take some liberties to make it “telegenic”.
Series The Witcher is a special case, since it adapts the novel more than the eponymous video game. On the other hand, Castlevania, which is based on the eponymous games Castlevania : Dracula’s Curse and Castlevania : Curse of Darkness does this exercise well.
The first season is very short (four episodes), but we find the plot and the bloody atmosphere that made the success of Konami’s famous franchise. Carmen Sandiego is also sympathetic, even if the show takes great liberties with the original work. Moral of the story: Netflix has not yet completely crashed into its video game adaptations.
A lever to boost subscriptions?
That is still the underlying goal: to use his mouth-watering original creations and the allure of video games to attract new subscribers. Today, Netflix has almost 200 million subscribers worldwide, including almost 8 million in France. With Disney+, Prime Video and soon HBO Max, Peacock or Jumping, competition is intensifying and the firm of Reed Hastings must diversify to continue to reign.
Video games are a work in progress, among others, but they are certainly one of those with the most potential. If Netflix manages to maintain a quality requirement, by satisfying fans and neophytes alike, great successes could come.
However, the hardest part still remains to be done for the streaming by subscription, she will be expected at the turn if she embarks on ambitious projects such as Diablo, Gof of War or Overwatch.
- Arcane (League of Legends)
- Dragon’s Blood (Dota)
- Splinter Cell
- The Cuphead Show!
- Assassin’s Creed
- Cyberpunk Edgerunners
- The Division
- Dragon’s Lair
- Beyond Good & Evil
- Devil May Cry
- The Division
- Dragon’s Lair
- Final Fantasy XIV
- Resident Evil : Infinite Darkness
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