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Yup, Fallout is the final push that video game adaptations needed to become Hollywood's next big thing

For better or worse, it's the start of a new era.

Fallout (2024) - Prime Video
Image credit: Prime Video

With comic book projects self-regulating and becoming just another genre (with some exceptions), monster brawls becoming a thing in the West, and star-studded originals regaining lost ground, the post-pandemic Hollywood landscape, both in theaters and on TV, looks nothing like the pre-2020 tug-of-war. There's always a big thing, however, and now, after Fallout's success, it's all but confirmed that video game adaptations are next in line.

Fallout is just the last big hit in a short but remarkable line of good endings that include Illumination's Super Mario Bros. Movie, HBO's The Last of Us (now shooting season 2), Peacock's Twisted Metal (also renewed), and Five Nights at Freddy's (getting a second movie), among others. Even if critics don't always agree with audiences and we still have middling stuff like the Halo show, there's been a previously unseen upwards trajectory as of late, and we can't deny the signs anymore. This is what Hollywood will be chasing next.

Part of what's making these adaptations work better now than in the past is a more hands-on approach from games publishers and studios. Long gone are the days of just giving a juicy IP away and letting the highest bidder go wild with it, though stuff like Uncharted made us frankly wonder whether Sony truly understands what made the famous video game franchise so appealing in the first place.

By and large, movie and TV studios appear to understand much better now that, for a successful game adaptation, you need:

  • A) Creatives who are passionate about the material, but don't feel limited by it.
  • B) To go for an unfiltered version of the thing being adapted, without diluting its original identity.

Warcraft (2016) and Detective Pikachu (2019) were already rowing in the right direction (even if the former didn't convince critics), opting to represent the franchises' colourful and fantastical worlds as they were, instead of making them more 'believable' or closer to unrelated hits like The Lord of the Rings - which is a far more grounded and dirty universe despite the fact it's still fantasy. The Orcs in Warcraft retained their cartoony designs, and so did the Pokémon, which were the real deal in Detective Pikachu.

The Last of Us season 1 (Joel and Ellie)
Image credit: HBO

Much of that change in the way of thinking for execs was brought about by fans, something which has been confirmed by industry figures like Marc Weinstock, marketing president of Paramount Pictures. "Every design now is vetted within an inch of its life," he said following the online backlash to Sonic the Hedgehog's original design when the Sonic movie (2020) was first unveiled. After a delay, the movie opened to fresh reviews and audience applause. Now, we're waiting for the third installment, plus a Knuckles spinoff show.

Beyond the Super Mario Bros. Movie, which played things incredibly safe to be the 'perfect' spring family movie last year, the box office earnings aren't hitting the highest highs superheroes have yet, and that may take a while. Audiences didn't show up in huge numbers for Marvel Studios' event movies until The Avengers (2012), and it's hard to deny that video game IPs can still often look 'too weird' to attract outsiders in bulk. Perhaps that's why stuff like The Last of Us and Fallout might be the key to easing casual viewers into video games as really interesting source material; it's easier to give a new movie or TV series a chance when it's part of a subscription you're already paying for.

FNAF movie - Freddy Fazbear and the gang
Image credit: Universal Pictures

Companies needn't spend a ton of money on every project either. Indie darlings such as Dredge are also getting the movie treatment, the success of Five Nights at Freddy's represents the untapped potential in smaller scale, but highly viral, horror games, and some successful properties like League of Legends and Castlevania won by going down the animated route, which is a better fit than live-action for many franchises.

It's hard to predict which adaptations will prevail and which are doomed to fail, especially when so many are now in the works (with more to come soon), but the shift in the vibes is palpable. On top of behemoths like Netflix grabbing massive IPs, I won't be surprised if more gaming giants embrace PlayStation Productions' approach to mining their own libraries for transmedia gold.

This is just another Hollywood phase, yes, but it might one that boosts player numbers all over the world and feeds the games industry's desire for continued growth. So, maybe we should consider it a win overall.

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