Georgina Clissold

Uncharted Territory: The Misfire of the Video Game Adaptation

3 min read


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Over the years, any announcement that a video game is going to be adapted to the big screen has been met with angst, and apprehension regarding whether it’s going to flop or exceed expectations.

Production companies spend big money developing video game adaptions: from Assassins Creed to Tomb Raider, Silent Hill to Sonic the Hedgehog. But what all these adaptations have in common, is that they didn’t perform well at the box office, and fans were left disappointed, yet not surprised.

More often than not, when big movie studios decide to adapt a video game, they don’t understand what it is that fans of the game want to see.

The upcoming adaptation of Uncharted has already been met with criticism following the release of the first trailer in October. The film, which has been developed by Columbia Studios and is set before the games, stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as the title characters of Nate and Sully. The actors lack the depth of the characters however and they come across as playing the role they’re best known for: Tom Holland as the young action hero and Mark Wahlberg as the older, slightly annoying, action hero.

Almost four years ago, a short fan-made film based on Uncharted, and starring Nathan Fillon as a more age-appropriate Nate, was released on Youtube. Fans of the game series rated the low budget film highly, and it caught the attention of the Vice President of Naughty Dog (the developer of the game), though ultimately Nathan Fillon was not considered for the upcoming big budget adaptation.

Speaking of the Naughty Dog Vice President, Neil Druckmann, the creative director, and writer is involved with an upcoming TV series adaptation of global phenomenon, The Last of Us. The show will premiere on HBO in 2022 and its budget is nearing $100 million, almost as much as the last season of Game of Thrones. The casting of Pedro Pascal as Joel, and Bella Ramsay as Ellie, excited fans; when it was announced that Druckmann would be writing episodes of the first season, as well as being a prevalent force on location of shooting the series, fans became even more optimistic that the show may in fact hit the mark.

Whilst video game adaptions can cause large production studios to lose millions of pounds, they just can’t seem to stop announcing the next big adaptation. More so, the exponential growth of the video game market over the course of the pandemic has pushed demand to create more media for video game series.

The UK video games market generated a record £7 billion over the course of 2020, the previous record in 2018 sat at just £1 billion.

A live action, anime, and animated adaptation have also been announced for the Assassins Creed game series on Netflix – though if the 2016 film is anything to go by, many fans won’t be holding their breath (sorry Michael Fassbender).

Gears of War, Metal Gear Solid, and Ghosts of Tsushima, have all been announced by different studios, though they remain deep in the pre-production stage of development.

Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher, which is primarily based on the book series, is the anomaly of the video game adaptation.

Starring Henry Cavill as the titular character, a long-time fan of the video games, the adaptation was viewed more than 76 million times in the month after its release in 2019 and caused sales of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to grow 554% on the previous year.

The success of The Witcher has, so far, spanned two animated films and a limited prequel series, though the latter is yet to be released.

Whilst video game adaptations may never be smooth sailing, The Witcher series keep fans hopeful that future adaptations will be able to have the same impact, and as the second season released just last week (with a suspected budget of between $15-25 million per episode), at least some video game fans are excited for the next instalment of their favourite series.

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