TV series and video games: a new match made in heaven?

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Mis à jour le 8 November 2022.

Skyrim, Mass Effect and Horizon
Three video game heros (Skyrim, Mass Effect and Horizon) whose adventures will be adapted to the big screen.

While movie adaptations of video games aren’t always the best, can the same be said for TV series? In the 2010s, producers were very successful in adapting comic books into movies and TV series. The 2020s could well be the decade of video game adaptations. Not so long ago, this genre was considered to be niche, fraught with obstacles caused by die-hard fans and requiring large amounts of money to achieve a satisfactory result. As generations of gamers have come and gone, the cultural sector of video games has become firmly established and is contributing to the development of film and television revivals. Young consumers have been growing up for the past twenty years with parents who also play video games and are deeply connected to gaming culture. While movies and series based on video games were once a rare occurrence and a rather risky business, they will certainly become more commonplace in the years to come.

LG OLED C242
Ideal for both video games and series, the LG 42C2 television features all streaming services, a refresh rate of 102Hz and compatibility with AMD Freesync and Nvidia G-Sync.

The number of projects inspired by video games is growing every day. Ubisoft, for example, has three games that are set to be adapted at some point in the future. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is a great example of this as it has been adapted into a movie, a live-action series and an animated series by none other than Netflix and Disney. The idea that a game could simultaneously spawn several movies and series would have been laughed at a decade ago. But video game culture is also infiltrating our everyday lives. A series about a father and son reuniting thanks to the game Final Fantasy XIV (based on a true story) is available on Netflix. Pro gamers are making ratings that put linear TV to shame and game related programs like In-Game and Not a Game are a hit.

Son-Video.com gaming selection

The excitement of the early days

While times are changing, we can certainly understand why video game adaptations were few and far between and so unappealing to producers and movie industry investors a few years ago. And no one can deny how much of a flop certain productions were. However, these days are over and recently, the number of TV series about video games has increased significantly: we’ve enjoyed a second season of The Witcher, the excellent Arcane and, as we’re writing this, an animated adaptation of Cyberpunk 2077 is being aired. Remakes of Naughty Dog studio’s different hits, such as Uncharted, are set to continue with the series The Last of Us. 2023 and onwards will see more releases: Netflix has announced that it is developing thirteen projects, Amazon Prime has five on the go, HBO will be releasing The Last of Us, Apple TV has mentioned two animated series, Paramount+ has the Halo series and, lastly, Peacock (NBC’s platform) is adapting the Playstation game Twisted Metal. These projects might not all see the light of day, but it is no longer possible to doubt the popularity of video game adaptations.

Netflix compatible devices

While this popularity is recent, the relationship between games and series isn’t new. For example, Defiance (2013), which was a 3-season TV series with an accompanying MMOTPS game released at the same time, attempted to produce two parallel stories in each medium. Although these projects are now seen as drafts or interesting but poorly executed ideas, they helped forge the expectations of viewers and gamers alike. Now that the foundation for the genre has been set, here is a look at some recent releases that have taken the fusion of these two domains even further, as well as a list of upcoming projects to look forward to.

Netflix 2022 releases: Arcane, The Witcher, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

The Witcher: a turning point for the genre

Henry Cavill in The Witcher
Henry Cavill is Geralt de Riv, a witcher and hero in the fantasy world created by Andrzej Sapkowski. ©Netflix

Like the movie Warcraft, The Witcher series has impressed gamers and novices alike. Originally a fantasy novel series, it was initially adapted for Polish TV and provided a solid base for the game studio CD Projekt (also Polish). The video game was a hit at its release in 2008 and rapidly became one of the top 100 best-selling titles. This allowed the studio to produce two sequels before the release in 2019 of the television series co-produced with Netflix.

Geralt de Riv
As you can see from this cover, the TV series takes a lot of its inspiration from the Witcher video games. ©CD Projekt Red

Announced on March 21, a fourth installment will mark the beginning of a new saga in the fantasy world created by Andrzej Sapkowski. The studio CD Projekt is behind many award-winning games such as Cyberpunk 2077, which can also be found on TV screens in an animated series.

The Witcher Netflix series isn’t based on the game, but on the novels that also inspired CD Projekt Red. So, does this count as a video game adaptation? Yes, because it is difficult to imagine that the series would have been as successful without the hit video games, but also because the television series’ design is heavily inspired by the game’s production. And no, because the TV show deviates from the game while preserving key aspects to become, over time and throughout the seasons, an entirely different story. A good example of a creation that takes on a life of its own, just like the samples of unknown music that become hits, the story of The Witcher is now more a part of popular culture than it is associated with a single author.

Arcane: the consecration of the video game genre

Jinx from Arcane
Powder’s (Jinx in the game) confusion and strength are manipulated by powerful people in Piltover to serve their nefarious agenda. ©Netflix

Among the must-see series of the past two years is Arcane, which takes place in the world of League of Legends, a game with over 180 million players. The animated series, developed by a French animation studio (Fortiche Production), is hugely popular with fans and those who have never played the game. This is all the more impressive given that League of Legends isn’t an adventure game with a complex storyline, but a simple battle arena game in which the story doesn’t affect the gameplay. It focuses on team strategy where individual performance is paramount and where replayability lies in infinite character combinations and customization. The key to this series’ success lies in its ability to recreate what each player might have imagined. A tried-and-tested process used to successfully bring adaptations to life: taking the soul of a game, adding a touch of credibility and, above all, sticking to the atmosphere of the original work.

Vi, Jinx/Powder's older sisiter
Powder (previous image) and Vi (above) are two sisters whose opposing choices will lead them to lock horns. ©Netflix

Even the very structure of production methods has changed. Sony, for example, has created Playstation Productions, which is directly responsible for bringing the console’s hits to the screen. Publishers are invited, as well as the original authors if necessary, to be involved in the production process, the writing and even the casting. This is reflected in the Japanese firm’s first major release: Uncharted. The action movie faced a lot of hurdles during development, but the final result, although not breathtaking, is a success. Arcane does even better both in terms of setbacks (five years of production and a budget between 60 and 80 million euros) and outcome. In our opinion, it represents the consecration of the video game genre in TV series, as it manages to satisfy fans while appealing to those new to the franchise.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – back to the cyber future

Cyberpunk : Edgerunner
The color scheme of the animated series Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is an instant reminder of the vivid, contrasted colors of the video game. © Netflix

We won’t be mentioning the Resident Evil adaptation released this summer on Netflix because we prefer writing about successful adaptations. Inspired by the video game of the same name released in 2020, Cyberpunk: Edgerunner is a hit. Fans of the cyberpunk genre have had little to get excited about over the past twenty years, but this is changing. And although it is animated, critics and viewers alike have praised this adaptation. After the setbacks experienced at the launch of the game (which didn’t have any impact on sales), CD Projekt’s license took a very positive turn. The story, which isn’t the same as that of the video game, follows a kid who is lost in a futuristic city ruled by cyborgs. The first season of this polished and effective adaptation features ten episodes.

Upcoming projects

Netflix

Sonic Prime: after the movies, an animated series

Sonic Prime series
Sonic is on a roll! After two critically acclaimed films, Netflix is going after the blue hedgehog.

After being a hit in movie theaters twice in two years, the blue hedgehog is returning to our screens via Netflix. To accompany the release of the game Sonic Frontiers on Nintendo Switch, Playstation and Xbox, the series Sonic Prime will be available on the platform this Christmas. It will feature Sonic’s evil twin and promises to be as fast-paced as the hedgehog himself. My father used to say “If hedgehogs were blue, they’d be in the movies”. And he was right.

Pokémon: a live-action series as a sequel to the movie

Detective Pikachu
Much to the delight of his many fans, Detective Pikachu will be returning in a series. © Netflix

This project was announced in July 2021 and is set to be released next year. This Netflix series will be delving into the world of Pokémon. After the success of the 2019 movie Detective Pikachu, the streaming giant and the creators of the series Lucifer have concocted a live-action series about the fluffy yellow sleuth. For now, not much is known about the project. We hope that we will be able to keep track of the progress of the show, which is likely to be a hit.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon
The video game’s beautiful graphics promise epic backdrops combining lush vegetation and cybernetic animals, in a landscape similar to our own planet. ©Sony

Last August, Playstation and Netflix announced that they would be producing a live-action series based on the Horizon franchise. Horizon’s world is vast and beautiful, and can easily give free rein to all kinds of stories for a TV series. Indeed, the complex scenario lends itself to a show that takes the time to explore the ideas touched upon in the game. Arguably one of the most impressive video game hits of the last few years, the adaptation project is led by Steve Blackman, screenwriter for the Fargo and The Umbrella Academy series.

Horizon focuses on the fusion of a high-tech world with pre-medieval tribes and fits perfectly into a striking post-apocalyptic narrative. It is in this context that the heroine Aloy embarks on a journey to trace her origins. In doing so, she discovers the causes of the apocalypse that took place 1000 years ago and many other mysteries that will not fail to remind us of our current world.

The Witcher: Blood Origin

Laurence O'Fuarain as Fjall, Sophia Brown as Éile and Michelle Yeoh as Scian
The first spin-off series of The Witcher, whose rich worldbuilding allows for all sorts of adaptations and mash-ups. ©Netflix

The franchise’s highly anticipated new series will be released on the platform on Christmas day 2022. Fans are very happy with this holiday gift, a spin-off of one of the most notable series of the past few years! During the holiday season you will be transported to 1,200 years before the events of the saga in order to understand the origins of the Witchers and the actions that led to the “Conjunction of the Spheres” and the fusion of different worlds.

The Witcher season 3

Netflix the Witcher
Henry Cavill, who portrays Geralt de Riv, looking to the horizon for a sign of a fourth season.

Set to be released in summer 2023, there won’t be a long pause between the spin-off series and the third season of The Witcher. Much to the delight of Geralt’s fans, the hero will bring the fourth installment of the book series (The Time of Contempt) to life on the screen. While this series isn’t based on the video game, it is hard to imagine it being as successful without it.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Skyrim game
The fantasy world of The Elder Scrolls could become a blockbuster series. ©Bethesda

Although the rumor, which has been around since late 2020, has not fallen on fans’ deaf ears, Netflix has not said anything at all about this project. Reed Hastings’ firm imagines that it will attract the many aficionados of The Elder Scrolls franchise with an adaptation along the lines of The Witcher. In any case, this is what insider Daniel Richtman, who is often in the know about the streaming giant’s projects, has said. Again, the project may be dependent on Bethesda’s schedule and stalled by the release of the next and sixth installment of the game scheduled for 2024. The vast universe has all the necessary elements for a good series and we can’t wait to see what this project will become.

Skyrim
Did the scrolls predict a TV series based on the game? ©Bethesda

Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix

Captain Laserhawk
For one of its many adaptation projects, Ubisoft is teaming up with Netflix to make an anime to add to the long list of video game-inspired series available on VOD services. © Netflix

Planned for over a year now, the delightfully retro project will contain six episodes and is led by its creator (and executive producer) Adi Shankar, who “cut his teeth” with Castlevania. A tribute to the 90s, the series features the alter egos of Ubisoft characters in an almost joyful delirium. Produced by the Parisian studio Bobbypills, the offbeat tone of the series should satisfy fans of 8 and 16 bit games.

Splinter Cell (animated series)

Sam Fisher Splinter Cell
Sam Fisher returns to service in an animated series. A project that should be action-packed! ©Ubisoft

Tom Clancy’s stories have not yet become obsolete. Quite the contrary. After the movie The Division, it’s Sam Fisher’s turn to be given an animated series. We already know that it will be directed by John Wick writer Derek Kolstad and that there will be at least two seasons, the first of which will contain eight episodes of 20 to 30 minutes. No more info so far, but then again, that isn’t out of the ordinary for a mysterious undercover agent. Perhaps there will be another game to accompany the release of the series! We have to admit that stealth games are cruelly lacking these days…

Dishonored

Dishonored game
The world in which the player is immersed is both realistic and dreamlike. A combination that gives the Dishonored series its identity and that we hope to see in the TV series. ©Bethesda

The game, developed by a French company, is a bloody thriller in the form of a first-person RPG. The story takes place in an alternative world at the time of the great empires and could well become a big budget series. We would like to be able to tell you that this project is progressing well, that the writers and producers have been chosen and that everything is organized since the announcement was made over a year ago… Although it is fairly certain to see the light of day, nothing else is known right now. One hypothesis is that the development of the series will be synchronized with the release of a third episode of the game. So we’ll have to be patient for now.

Watch Dogs

Ubisoft's Watch Dogs
Watch Dogs shows how a smartphone can become more dangerous than a gun. Will the TV series be as subversive as the game? ©Ubisoft

There was already talk of a possible movie adaptation of this video game in 2013. The project was serious enough for people to be hired. Then, a novel was released in 2015, but still no news of the adaptation project. Three comics were released between 2016 and 2020, a new film announcement revived interest in 2016 and again in 2019 and 2021. But nothing more has been said since. The adaptation of this thrilling open world video game is shrouded in mystery. One could imagine a mix of the three games, with a hint of Mister Robot and a touch of Money Heist, but for now, it’s radio silence.

Prime Video

Fallout

Fallout
Rust is a characteristic element in Fallout, just like the Super Duper Mart. We can’t wait to rediscover the universe of this game in a live-action adaptation. ©Prime Video

The post-apocalyptic genre is still going strong. A fan-made movie released in 2011 already garnered very positive reviews. In 2016, another pilot episode, Fallout: Revelation, failed to motivate movie studios to make the dream of many fans a reality. While the last installment of the game didn’t receive particularly positive feedback, the genre is still popular and there are still many fans of the license. In anticipation of the next installment of the game, Fallout 5, Bethesda is teaming up with Amazon Studios and talented writers and producers Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. They will be tasked with developing a quirky series set in a post-apocalyptic 1940s-like world. To make sure the project is a success, the team brought on board a third producer, Todd Howard, who has directed various episodes of the game produced by Bethesda.

Walton Goggins in John Bronco
Walton Goggins in the mockumentary John Bronco. The actor is often cast as zany and unusual characters. A perfect match for the Fallout universe.

It’s hard to hide the fan excitement that is building around the actors who have already been cast. Walton Goggins, known for his small but notable roles, including the slave trainer in Django Unchained, is described by New York Times critic Mike Hale as “giving his all in the projects he appears in.” He will play the lead role alongside Ella Purnell in the series, which will be as offbeat as possible. Lisa Joy describes the project as “more crazy, wacky, funny, adventurous and confusing than you’ve never seen before”. High expectations for a highly anticipated project. Filming began on July 5 and some photos of the sets have leaked. We can’t wait to see more!

Vault 32
Like all of the Fallout games, the story starts in an anti-atomic bunker: Vault 32. © Prime Video

Life is Strange

Life is Strange scene
The storyline of the Life is Strange games is definitely at the heart of this adventure. Let’s hope that the series will take this into account! ©Square Enix

Described as a masterpiece by gamers, this game is the type of story that, like many fantasy tales, makes reality seem dull. Fans have been waiting for a series that takes place in this world since 2016. There was no information on this until the beginning of 2022, when Amazon Prime announced that it was joining forces with Dj2 Entertainment Studio to recreate their video game hit for TV screens. We haven’t heard much since then, but then again SVOD giants tend to be quite secretive about their ongoing projects. The Life is Strange games are very well written, have loads of ideas to work from and are very interesting. To be continued!

Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium’s graphic style is very distinctive. It should be reproduced in the series to preserve the game’s strong visual identity. ©ZA/UM

Disco Elysium managed to bring the 3D isometric role-playing game up to date with a little point and click and a dash of Fallout, all while having a strong visual identity. A big hit that the press and gamers have praised since its release. You play a police officer with amnesia, an unclear past and a drinking/drug problem. Although the scenario involves an anti-hero who has lost his memory, everything is well thought out and the depth often found in RPG games is predominant. The investigation will take you farther than expected and, as you meet new people, you will progress in a world that is increasingly strange.

We hope that the television series will do the writing and aesthetics of the game justice. According to the Australian government, the game, which is intended for an adult audience, involves “matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena”. So much so that the final version of the game has been banned in the country. What will happen to the series? If the game can win so many awards while being banned in one country, there will definitely be some controversy and it promises to be a very interesting release. Especially since the production company behind this project, Dj2 Entertainment, is also behind the two successful Sonic movies. Will they manage to successfully make the leap from children’s movies to a show for adults? We can’t wait to learn more and, of course, to see the adaptation on our screens. Let’s hope that the series will be just as gripping as the game version.

God of War: one of the most highly anticipated adaptations

Kratos from God of War
The ax-wielding and brawny barbarian is only one facet of Kratos’ character. Another is that of a loving father with a good sense of humor. © Sony

Made official last May, Santa Monica studio and Prime Video are combining their enthusiasm to produce an epic series based on the adventures of the famous demigod. The producers have already been selected, namely Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby who produced the excellent series The Expanse. Many fans believe that Jason Momoa would be the ideal candidate to play Kratos, but other actors are also being considered. Rumors abound when it comes to the casting, some say Dwayne Johnson is the only person for the role and, according to certain sources, Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to portray Zeus, whom he played for a Super Bowl commercial in 2022. Although these rumors aren’t founded, they prove that fans of the franchise have high expectations for this future series.

A. Schwarznegger as Zeus in SuperBowl  BMW commercial
Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Zeus for the 2022 Super Bowl. Many fans think the actor could play the god in the series God of War. – Twitter ©BMW

The epic video game has plenty of humor, which provides some respite during the action and repetitive sequences. We can trust these two actors, who have no difficulty switching from comedy to drama, to ease the tension with a joke or two. We just hope that the series won’t use the overused 90s plot, that is to say one monster to defeat per episode and a boss at the end of the season (well, ok, we don’t mind keeping the boss fights…). The video game’s puzzle sequences will probably be replaced by scenes that help develop the characters in the series.

Mass Effect: a TV show to accompany a new game?

On November 23, 2021, Deadline Hollywood announced that negotiations were being made to adapt the Mass Effect franchise for Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service. Since then, we’ve hardly heard anything about the project. As is often the case, the studios have scheduling constraints. Ubisoft fans can hope for a fourth game to accompany the release of the series, but there’s nothing official so far.

Mass Effect
With the announcement of a new video game, Amazon Prime is launching a series based on the Mass Effect universe. ©EA

HBO

The Last of Us: the next release

The Last of Us actors
The TV show will have the same storyline as the first video game installment. 

Pedro Pascal (Narcos, The Mandalorian) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) will play the video game’s two protagonists, Joel and Ellie. After watching the trailer, this series really makes you want to (re)discover the game’s eerie atmosphere. It will be available in the States in December 2022. A French release date hasn’t yet been announced, but if the series is a hit, distributors will likely flock to air it. Or maybe HBO will finally offer an international service. In any case, we will have to be patient before discovering this series, which promises to be great.

Peacock

Twisted Metal

Twisted Metal series
Anthony Mackie in the role of John Doe, the anonymous hero of the Playstation franchise who will face off against an evil clown portrayed by Samoa Joe. 

Shooting is underway for this completely unexpected series! The video game, which doesn’t have a plot, puts several fighters in vehicles “tuned” with napalm and heavy weapons. In the middle of a vast urban arena, players fight to the death. As everything is possible, we can only extrapolate based on the cast and producers. Anthony Mackie plays John Doe, Stephanie Beatriz will be Quiet, Thomas Hayden Church will portray Agent Stone and, lastly, Samoa Joe will be Sweet Tooth, a big evil clown. We’ll let you make up your own mind about this series, which might be full of crazy surprises, just like the game.

The last episode… of the preseason!

Spin-offs and mash-ups contribute to the development of the universe of a novel, game, movie or story, leading it to evolve over time. While some purists prefer the original works, others take great pleasure in imagining and creating prequels or sequels, fan series, comic books, or even short stories that take place thousands of years before or after the original events. The original work eludes its creator, its origins unknown by subsequent generations. Through this phenomenon, the story becomes part of our culture. Examples of this are Alice in Wonderland, fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and the Arabian Nights. Their many adaptations and remakes make these stories part of our cultural heritage. One could imagine asking teenagers born in 2040 what the first Star Wars movie was, for example. We are constantly reminded of past concepts whose origins often elude their contemporaries.

It wasn’t until games and storytelling collided that video games were able to evolve into a mix of storytelling and action. The beginnings of this phenomenon can be found with “choose your own adventure” books and even more so with role-playing games. The public unknowingly witnessed the creation of their favorite entertainment medium with the first electronic machines and personal computers during the 70s. With the technical advancements of these devices, developers were able to include narrative text and increasingly complex controls in order to interact with the player. 

TV series evolved in parallel with video games. Forty years ago, sitcoms were like a game of chess played over and over again: each game was very different, but the environment and characters were unchanging. Perhaps this repetitiveness eventually bored viewers: video games offered more complex scenarios and changing environments, not to mention direct interaction with the characters. But sitcoms still exist, and so does chess. However, for twenty years now, TV series have had no choice but to take inspiration from these changing narratives that, other than video games, only literary sagas and role playing games allowed.


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