Video Games are Changing Hollywood and Viewing Habits
The movie industry has always been a highly competitive and constantly evolving field, but in recent years, it has had to grapple with the rising popularity of video games as a form of entertainment. While video games have always been popular, the advancement of technology has made them an increasingly immersive and cinematic experience, blurring the lines between the two mediums. As a result, the movie industry has had to adapt and find ways to coexist with the video game industry.
Some of the best TV right now has been coming from nerdy sources. TV adaptations of The Wheel of Time, The Rings of Power, and House of the Dragon are streaming beloved storylines from high fantasy and sci-fi literature to living rooms across the world. Leveraging IP with an established fan base appears to be a winning strategy, though recently the source material has not been exclusive to books or comics: Stories from video games are becoming a recurring feature on the film and TV scenes alike, and the reception has never been better nor more significant as a trend in the future of entertainment.
As a result, it is getting increasingly difficult to miss the influence of gaming, even among those who haven’t picked up a controller in years. Nearly 25 feature length films (including the adaptation of 2K Games’ Borderlands) and almost 30 TV adaptations have been announced or are in some form of development across nearly every major streaming service, including HBO Max (The Last of Us), Amazon Prime (Fallout), Peacock (Twisted Metal) and Netflix (Horizon Zero Dawn—among many other of adaptations, ranging from Castlevania to The Witcher). Both the quantity and quality of these adaptations are increasing. English-language theatrical releases of video game adaptations over the past five years amounted to 10 films with decent Rotten Tomatoes scores, punctuated most recently by the largely warm reception of family-friendly films like Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Not only that, but recent Netflix animated series Arcane: League of Legends and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners are both sitting at nearly perfect audience and critical scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
The huge success of Edgerunners and Arcane seem to bring back and increase new users among the original game titles that these adaptations were based on. Since the release of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Cyberpunk 2077 has seen a huge spike in active players, with the player sentiment seeming to shift from overwhelmingly negative to more positive or mixed reviews almost overnight. In the case of League of Legends, the game has been around for a while with constant popularity. “Arcane” is bringing new fans to the League of Legends IP while also reigniting the passions of its longtime followers, serving a uniquely wide audience and expanding League of Legends’ cultural impact.
The rise of video game adaptations across the silver and streaming screens is thus not only a cultural trend, but a partial reaction to fundamental shift in viewing behaviors. Viewership and behaviors around streaming services are very similar to game consumption. Recent research by Activision Blizzard has shown that all but the oldest consumers universally prefer streaming services relative to linear TV, and younger consumers increasingly point to gaming as one of their top forms of entertainment. Both gaming and streaming content is being consumed by younger consumers throughout the day rather than in historical primetime periods.
The industry which has historically been the pariah of Hollywood may end up being its savior, and we may soon be in a world where gaming IP is as beloved and culturally recognized as today’s adaptations of fantasy and sci-fi literature or comics.