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In Hollywood, Video Games Are the New Superheroes (Producers are chasing after gaming IP in the wake of Mario and Last of Us's massive success)

Koni

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Moviegoers have begun to tire of superheroes after a deluge of comic book films. Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said in mid-May that the company would cut the number of Marvel films and TV show it releases a year in half, to about two of each. Hollywood, meanwhile, is looking to the video-game industry as the next fertile ground for story ideas. Spurred by hits such as The Super Mario Bros. Movie, dozens of video-game franchises have been optioned or produced for film and television over the last two years, from God of War to Grounded.
Amazon.com Inc.’s recent Fallout series, based on the post-apocalyptic games, has reached 65 million viewers, while the first two Sonic the Hedgehog films have grossed more than $700 million, with a third entry slated for later this year. It’s a two-way street: Sarah Bond, president of Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox division, said at the Bloomberg Technology Summit on Thursday that the Fallout TV show is leading viewers to engage with the games.
Hungry producers have gobbled up the options to both mega-franchises and hit indie games, such as Dredge and the detective role-playing game Disco Elysium. Even games with little to no name recognition have tantalized Hollywood, such as the ancient Sega action series Golden Axe and El Paso, Elsewhere, a low-budget shooter that has been optioned by the actor LaKeith Stanfield.

David A. Gross, author of the FranchiseRe movie newsletter, said that even lesser-known video games are appealing to film and television producers because they have a narrative already established.

“Hollywood looks for new stories wherever they can be found,” Gross said. “Those games might not have as much (intellectual property) asset value, but they still have potential.”
Video-game adaptations were once a laughing stock thanks to campy 1990s films based on Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon and Street Fighter. More recent movies such as 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and 2016’s Warcraft were commercially successful, largely due to overseas markets, but critically panned. Jake Gyllenhaal, who starred in Prince of Persia, later expressed regret about the experience.

But the curse has been broken in recent years thanks to critical darlings such as Netflix Inc.’s The Witcher, based on a series of Polish novels and video games, which recently began filming a fourth season. Last year, HBO’s The Last of Us became the first video-game adaptation to rack up awards, receiving 24 Emmy nominations and winning eight.

“For many years, there was a belief – supported by poor results – that video games could not be successfully transformed into audience satisfying and profitable films,” said Adam Fogelson, chair of the film studio at Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., which will release a movie based on the video-game series Borderlands this August.

Recent hits, Fogelson said, “proved that with the right creative, a new generation was more than ready to embrace those characters and worlds in feature films.”
The historic failure of video-game adaptations may have been largely due to a lack of respect for the source material, which has changed in recent years as filmmaking attracted new generations of people who grew up playing games rather than scoffing at them.

Jason Schrier recently published this article and I think it'd make for a good discussion on the state of video game adaptations as a whole.

Personally, I believe we're in the middle of a major crossroads. The age of the superhero film that dominated the late 2000s and 2010s has pretty much come to an end, and Hollywood itself has recently experienced a year of reckoning between multiple strikes and blockbusters crashing and burning. In the meantime, the perception around video game adaptations has slowly been changing, as people in the industry who have grown up on video games assume more creative roles and treat the IP they're adapting with more respect. As such, over the past 5 or so years, we've recently experienced a deluge of actually decent outings that have pleased fan and (sometimes) critic alike. This has culminated in the smash hits that were the adaptation of The Last of Us and Nintendo's second crack at a Super Mario Bros. movie.

The floodgates have now fully been opened and the frequency at which we'll get video game movies will only increase IMO as Hollywood increasingly finds more ways to try and pull people back to theaters. Video game adaptations, when done right, can become events within themselves. The sheer variety of gaming IP out there that can be adapted IMO also helps, as it decreases the likelihood of fatigue. It'll be very interesting to see how this'll play out over the rest of the decade!

But what do yall think?
 
I think we'll get a few years of decent video game movies and then eventually things will get oversaturated and drawn out way too long as the studios try to ride the wave for far too long and refuse to pivot despite interest long since being lost, just like with super hero movies.
 
I think we'll get a few years of decent video game movies and then eventually things will get oversaturated and drawn out way too long as the studios try to ride the wave for far too long and refuse to pivot despite interest long since being lost, just like with super hero movies.
Superhero fatigue didn't really start to become a thing until very recently (2022/2023) thanks to a string of awful MCU/DC films and less-than-stellar Disney+ shows overstaturating Marvel. As long as we get more movies/shows like TLOU, Mario, Fallout, Arcane, Edgerunners, etc then I feel confident that we won't see video game adaptation fatigue anytime soon.
 
Good, can't wait for the erotic Animal Crossing-romcom starring Mark Wahlberg as he finds solace on a far away island after his ex-wife left him because he lost their house to a racoon infestation, only to meet the cutest fox girl. His goal: Build the fanciest house of the entire island for her - the crux: The loan shark is a suspicious, bi-pedal racoon.
 
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Main one to keep an eye on will be the Zelda movie. Probably the most long running/notable video game IP to never get a big budget adaptation before. I don't think they're gonna have as much as this with the superhero genre though which had generally speaking more universal, easier-to-translate concepts and storylines.
 
As media saturation moves faster and faster I think it's reasonable to expect the video games movies trend to be short lived. I think it's still gonna be a 5/6 year wave due to most projects just getting started now, but by then there will be so many that people will lose interest. My hope is that we can get artistically meaningful shows out of this: a Yoshi's Island inspired 2D picture, new Pikmin shorts, an Okami movie, a Wind Waker animated series on Netflix and so on.
 
I'm honestly waiting for the honeymoon to come to an end, and see where games adaptations go from that point onwards. Because I'm totally expecting Hollywood to mess it up royally.

I think they're here to stay honestly, but this period of "let's fund anything and everything" period where stuff like Dredge gets greenlit is going to be over fairly quickly before Hollywood moves back towards big, know, highly lucrative IPs.
 
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