Could The Witcher Lead to More Shows Based on Games?

Developer
CD Projekt Red
Publisher
CD Projekt
Release Date
May 18, 2015
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A New Hope, From a Certain Point of View

The Witcher TV series is, by most accounts, a fairly decent adaptation of The Witcher books and games. It’s not a perfect show by any standard, of course, but it’s just good enough that fans of the source material aren’t going to be disappointed and just newcomer-friendly enough that most people can understand what’s going on in the universe. It’s basically what a generic mass-appeal medieval-fantasy TV show would look like if it weren’t for the name and source material. What The Witcher did do exceedingly well though is get people talking about it and, more importantly for Netflix, make money.

Within days of The Witcher’s premiere, the games experienced a resurgence of playtime (undoubtedly helped by various sales). The show was also quickly labeled as one of the most watched or “in-demand” TV series of the year. This honor is even more impressive given that the competition included huge shows like The Mandalorian and The Expanse. Needless to say, this is a far cry from the days where any adaptation that involved a video game in any way was met with groans. Clearly, being a decent TV show contributed a lot to The Witcher’s success. Having a rather dedicated pre-established fanbase via the games didn’t hurt, either.

The third major contributor is the fact that streaming services are a lot more commonplace than they were a decade ago. Between Amazon, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Disney, and all the other major corporations that have some form of streaming service, there is a demand for unique, exclusive TV shows and direct-to-consumer movies. Whether or not these shows and movies are good is, evidently, a secondary concern. As one may expect, this is leading to a ton of remakes and adaptations—in other words, easily consumed stuff that is designed to tap into a pre-existing audience. The Witcher of course, falls into this category, though it is the first of its kind in that it is strongly linked to a popular game.

In some ways, The Witcher’s success is the ultimate sign that “nerd culture” is no longer some fringe collection of hobbies that only appeal to basement-dwelling geeks. The (presumably) inevitable outcome of The Witcher’s success is that corporations will rush to make their own adaptations of games. After all, there’s only so many books out there that can be chopped up into a dozen or so pieces to make a TV show out of. If this is the case though, one has to ask what will such a hypothetical video game TV show adaptations look like. Games have the advantage of being a relatively flexible medium, which is great. By contrast, TV shows are completely inflexible. Squeezing the former into the latter is going to be a major concern because it goes against the very nature of both mediums. 

 
 
witcher 3 crowd
Part of what makes games great is that there is room for otherwise inconsequential world-building interactions, something that traditional media probably doesn't have the time for.

Thus far, every video-game-to-movie adaptation has proven to be hammy at best because of this reason. At worst, they barely resemble the source material. The fact that the phrase "video game adaptation" still has a bit of a stigma around it speaks volumes. On the bright side, things have been improving ever so slightly for the genre. Microsoft tried their hand at making a couple of Halo live-action shorts, which were mostly reasonably well received. The projects evidently haven’t really lead to anything substantial outside of some excellent advertising material though. The Witcher is a turning point insofar that it has both quality and long-term funding. After all, Netflix did say that there was going to be a second season before the first season even aired.

The real hurdle is getting The Witcher to the point where it's considered a must-watch show for audiences that wouldn't typically care about such things. At the end of the day, it's still a medieval-fantasy show. Such a genre typically appeals to a specific kind of audience, which is fine in the short term. To have The Witcher branch out to demographics like older people, "soccer moms," things of that sort without sacrificing the entire point of the series is the assumed end goal for Netflix. Like it or not, that's how Game of Thrones became a global sensation. It's how Marvel movies dominated theaters for the past decade. If The Witcher can overcome that aspect, then the floodgates will have truly been opened for more game-based shows and movies.  Whether that would be a good thing is anyone's guess. 

Hi :)
Staff Writer

Hi everybody! I've been playing all kinds of games for decades now, from FPSes to city builders to the occasional platformer, and if nothing else, it's taught me that games are the ultimate form of art.