The biggest takeaway from the success of The Last of Us, the big-budget, star-studded series on HBO, is that it shows us the future of streaming – gaming fans are the next big market for streamers
You know a show is popular when even that oscars can’t stage you online. For the past nine weeks, #TheLastOfUs has been trending on Twitter every Monday because seemingly everyone everywhere did the same thing on Sunday night — tune in to the world’s most talked-about TV show (another winner for HBO, Home Zu game of Thrones And Last week tonight with John Oliver). Based on the smash hit video game of the same name, the show (Streaming on Disney+Hotstar in India) follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler tasked with transporting teenage girl Ellie (Bella Ramsay) through a post-apocalyptic American landscape. The country has been ravaged by a mysterious fungal infection that turns the infected person into a zombie-like creature maddened by bloodlust – except Ellie appears to be immune to the infection.
Each new episode, it seems, was an event and the madness behind the show would start all over again. Episode Three, with its beautiful and sensitive portrayal of a long-term relationship between two men, Bill (played by parks & recreation star Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). Episode Four introduced us to the wild and fabulous Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey from Yellow jackets), which quickly became a fan favorite. And earlier on Sunday, with Episode Nine (the season finale), we got a heartbreaking, emotionally charged scene between Ellie and her mother, Anna. When a tear-stained Anna says to her daughter, “You bloody tell ’em Ellie,” I bet the fans didn’t stay a dry eye. What made the moment special was that Ellie’s mother is played by Ashley Johnson, who voices Ellie in the video game.
There are solid reasons for the resounding success of The last of us. It’s a big-budget, star-studded, well-received, and well-acted story that sticks to its video game roots while expanding and updating the game’s universe. Another important factor is HBO’s understanding of “water cooler” television – shows that we are collectively so interested in it that reference to it becomes an icebreaker in offices, parties and whatnot. While Netflix and co. have tried to encourage binge-watching habits among viewers, HBO shows have stuck to the idea of keeping media attention simmering for several weeks.
But really, the biggest takeaway from The last of us and its unqualified success shows us the future of streaming – gaming fans are the next big market streamers are trying to conquer. Lately, Netflix founder and former CEO Reed Hastings said during an interview with New York Times, “We want the brain to be the world’s most exciting entertainment, the place to go when you really want emotional stimulation. We focus on film, series and games. We are strong in two of them. And we’re just getting started with games.”
What was Hastings referring to? In the last quarter of 2022, Netflix announced over a dozen new mobile games. Among them was a brand new deal with gaming giant Ubisoft, makers of smash hit games Assassin’s Creed. According to the deal, Ubisoft will develop three new mobile games for Netflix and thus the brave hearts, Mighty Quest And Assassin’s Creed Universes respectively And how Black Mirror: Bandersnatch proved that Netflix is not averse to gamifying its existing shows and movies as well (in Bandersnatchviewers could choose the path or plot they wanted to follow, a kind of do-it-yourself adventure story).
And Netflix is probably late on the ball in this regard. The Apple App Store already generates over 70 percent of its sales with mobile games. 30 percent of every subscription and in-app purchase goes to Apple; the commission reduces to 15 percent after one year (or if the total revenue from the game is less than $1 million). And now, with Apple Arcade, the tech giant is capitalizing on that dominance – for $4.99 a month, they offer you a range of video games to play on Apple devices. In December, Amazon Prime Gaming launched in India. This is a collection of free games that is updated every month – Prime users can simply search for Prime Gaming in the Library section of their account.
Every major streaming or tech company in the world wants a piece of this video game pie and the overwhelming success of The last of us is just the latest symptom. Last year might have been a bad year for video game adaptations (we’re looking at Underworld: Welcome to Raccoon City), but with a now-confirmed second season The last of usGaming nerds can look forward to more game-to-screen goodness in the coming days.