Streaming Services are Readying Player 1

Video game-to-TV may be the next big genre to take off 🚀

Are you an experienced flight attendant looking for work? Good news! Netflix posted a job this week for a flight attendant on one of its private corporate jets. The salary? Up to $385,000 dollars. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Discovery says it’s finally done putting content on the chopping block. Maybe the company will finally be able to afford a Netflix-level flight attendant with all those cost savings.

In this issue:

  • HBO Max sees success with its video game adaption of The Last of Us

  • All eyes are on whether that success will continue

  • If it does, expect to see an explosion of video game adaptations

The Last of Us may not be the last for us  

We offer no apologies for the dad joke in that heading. After all, HBO Max’s newly-released series, The Last Of Us, is the story of a father-daughter duo (yes, yes, they aren’t actually father and daughter) surviving a zombie apocalypse.

We know what some of you are thinking: “Yawn. Zombie content is so overdone.” You’re absolutely right about that. There’s no end to zombie TV shows right now, especially with the different iterations of The Walking Dead still shuffling around.

Still, HBO Max’s The Last Of Us series is different for one reason: It’s a video game adaptation with an already-completed and well-established storyline and a huge fanbase. The series has already started off strong with a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, and a 96% from fans. That’s huge, especially at a time when critics and general audiences tend to disagree strongly on everything.

But I heard video game adaptations are always bad…

Historically, they are. Video game-to-live action adaptations have a history of, being…how do we put this…terrible. They often flop, hard, especially as movies. A glance through the Wikipedia page dedicated to this content is all you really need to know, especially if you look at the columns for review scores.

As far as movies go, the best to date was the 2021 adaptation of the virtual reality multiplayer game, Werewolves Within, with 80% approval from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes and 86% from critics. Even the generally well-regarded Sonic the Hedgehog movie (which is available to stream on Paramount+) had middling reviews from critics—though it was a hit with general audiences at 93% on RT.

TV show versions are a different breed, though. First, there have been far fewer TV show adaptations of video games attempted. Second, these have typically been animated and focused on kids, where they’ve performed decent enough. In 2020, though, Netflix gave us one of its most recent hits with The Witcher, an adaptation of a 2007 console game. The series has been exceptionally popular and has gotten the now-rare-at-Netflix season 4 re-up. Paramount+ tried its hand just last year with its release of Halo, although that one fell flat with audiences.

The key here is how closely these shows align themselves with the pre-existing fanbase. This is what Netflix and now HBO Max have done, and why they’ve found success. It’s what Paramount+ failed to do, and why its Halo series flopped in season 1.

Our takeaway: Get ready for the wave of game adaptations

All eyes are currently on shows like The Last of Us and The Witcher, with Henry Cavill’s farewell season coming sometime this summer. Streaming service providers tend to dig into the hip new thing since the hip new thing tends to reduce user churn and bring in new subscribers. Right now, live-action video game adaptations—when done well, and focused on adult audiences—are a possible gold mine. Given the current state of streaming with services feeling rather risk-averse and strapped for cash, this is the kind of gold they could be after.

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The Watchlist

Let your love of bizarre crime dramas be free with Hulu’s Web of Death, available to stream right now.

Need a boost? Skip the coffee and try some caffeinated energy bars from Verb Energy! Get 5 of these green tea-infused snacks for FREE when you use code SAMPLER at checkout.*

Ready to feel old? The cast of That 70’s Show is back, 20 years later, in That 90’s Show. If you’ve finally resigned yourself to how much time has passed, stream it right now on Netflix.

Amazon Prime Video is digging into the adult animation genre with its series about rowdy adventurers, The Legend of Vox Machina. Stream the new season this Friday, Jan. 20.

The book-to-TV adaptations for kids continue on Apple TV+ as Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s popular book, Shape Island, hits the airwaves. Stream this animated series (with or without your kids) starting this Friday, Jan. 20.

Crime dramas don’t commonly get delivered in anthology form. That fact alone makes the new series Accused on FOX worth watching. Stream it live and on-demand starting Sunday, Jan. 22.

TNT might have a hit on its hands with its newest time-travel sci-fi original series, The Lazarus Project. Get ready to change the by streaming it live or on-demand starting Wednesday, Jan. 23.

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