"The Last of Us" (HBO Max)
HBO Max’s newest series “The Last of Us,” a faithful adaptation of Naughty Dog’s 2013 hit videogame, premiered on January 15 to immediate acclaim and audience adoration. In fact, it has already been hailed as “the best live-action adaptation of a video game ever made.”
The premiere enjoyed the second-biggest HBO release since 2010, with 4.7 million people in the United States tuning in to watch Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s slow-burn, fungal zombie apocalypse. After two days, viewership had crested to 10 million. The second episode topped those numbers, reaching 5.7 million viewers in the United States when it aired.
In its latest report, Newzoo tried to figure out what is behind the mainstream success of “The Last of Us,” and what does it mean for the games market. According to the company’s latest report, the adaptation is creating new fans and players, and reinvigorating existing ones.
After the trailer debuted, the number of daily active users (DAU) did not rise drastically, though Newzoo did see an immediate spike in play hours and sessions. These same metrics stabilized in the lead-up to and after the release of the first episode of the show.
Once the show was launched, the DAUs for all three “The Last of Us” titles started to increase. Data in Newzoo Expert shows that “The Last of Us” became the 49th most played game by DAU at its height. The company also saw a huge rise in viewership of streaming content about and related to “The Last of Us,” showing that the HBO debut boosted interest in playing games and consuming other content from the franchise.
Naughty Dog and Sony seemingly aligned their March 3 release of “The Last of Us Part I” on PC with the show. The move will likely attract a cohort of new players keen on experiencing the game, while players nostalgic for the 2013 version may want to relive the title with renewed graphics.
Live streamers will also contribute to the buzz around the game, especially as viewers may want to consume “The Last of Us” content without having to pay for a premium title or shell out for a console or gaming PC (for fans who do not have the hardware yet). And while Newzoo do not expect a drastic spike in console sales, there is also a multiplayer game, “The Last of Us Factions,” coming to the franchise. A segment of the show’s massive audience may become invested enough in the cordyceps-infested world to grab this title when it eventually arrives.
● RESPECTING AND ELEVATING THE ORIGINAL GAME’S MATERIAL
Newzoo derives the mainstream appeal of “The Last of Us” from a host of factors. Before even getting into the production quality, storytelling splendor, and perfect casting, the researcher highlighted the fact that the zombie horror genre has dominated the mainstream for years. HBO also went to great lengths to promote the show, showcasing it on the landing page of HBO Max and any affiliated site for maximum exposure.
“This is quite significant, as it signals to game developers and publishers that big studios are willing to funnel a huge portion of their marketing budgets to shows based on video games. And not only that: film and TV studios seem to be recognizing the narrative potential of games and are respecting the source material more than ever before,” the report says.
When “The Last of Us” debuted on consoles in 2013, it offered a gritty experience with real stakes and emotional heft. The game mixed survivalist stealth and the threat of instant death with realistic yet unglorified violence to resounding visceral effects. According to Newzoo, what stood out the most was that “The Last of Us” demanded that the player care about its characters. It drew them into a fully immersive narrative where characters grew and changed in ways that were relatable.
“To its credit, ‘The Last of Us’ helped elevate games as a storytelling medium, and it seems that studios from other parts of the entertainment sphere took notice. The adaptation replicates all the elements that made the game uniquely resonant, instead of making changes that would illustrate distrust in the game’s ability to translate to other types of media,” said Michiel Buijsman, Sr. Market Analyst and the author of the report.
● HOW COULD THIS SUCCESS CHANGE THE MARKET MOVING FORWARD?
Newzoo notes that what makes “The Last of Us” stand out is that it has more mainstream appeal and mirrors the game, rather than expanding the world significantly in a way that demands people purchase every title to experience the entire story. Each version of “The Last of Us” provides a full experience.
“That being the case, we still must wait and see how this type of narrative strategy affects the brand and other titles overall. And while we do not have definitive data to back up this somewhat more bombastic claim, we can confidently state that videogame adaptations are reaching a new level of awareness and quality and are the most exciting thing to hit streaming services now,” Buijsman concluded.
To its credit, ‘The Last of Us’ helped elevate games as a storytelling medium, and it seems that studios from other parts of the entertainment sphere took notice. ” Michiel Buijsman Sr. Market Analyst at Newzoo