Video game movies are bad. That, at least, is what reviews seem to indicate. The newest example, Assassin’s Creed, was rated very poorly, and Warcraft didn’t fare much better either. The main reasons being problems in pacing or poor character development. A story spread over a game (or even several) of tens of hours (in the case of Warcraft at least 100 hours was compressed into a two hour movie filled with action) attempting to kick-start a series of movies, often barely even makes a profit.
With Netflix adaptations of books and comics on the rise, it raises a question. Why not adapt a game to TV? Character development tends to work better over the course of ten hours instead of two or three, and the costs of a TV show are lower than those of the blockbuster movie most studios try to aim for.
Firstly, TV shows have much more time for character development. Movies nowadays are full of action, full of tension, however character development is falling further and further away from the limelight. Westworld, for example, has brilliant character development, and although there is definitely a lot of action it never takes its eyes off the plot. Arrow, on the other hand, has a clear focus on its action but, despite this, its characters have still visibly evolved over the course of its four and a half seasons. Even though there have been longer parts of Arrow that were at best okay, the characters have changed, mostly in believable ways. And the pacing is not a problem on the grander scale for this show. It would strongly benefit a video game adaption to have more time in which to tell the tale told over tens of hours of gameplay.
Secondly, the financial problems would be smaller, if even existent, due to the much lower costs of TV shows compared to movies. In fact, while some of the most expensive TV shows of all time, like ER, Friends and Game of Thrones costs around $10 million per episode, the most expensive movies of all time lie at roughly $400 million (adjusted to inflation). That is equal to 31 episodes of ER or 40 episodes of Friends, even 67 episodes of Game of Thrones. Dividing the show into one game of the series per one or two seasons would still be cheaper than making a blockbuster movie with the function of kicking off a long-lasting series of movies (essentially being a very long, overly expensive pilot episode), like with Warcraft or Assassin’s Creed. It’s much cheaper to make a TV show.
On the other hand one might think that because, for example, both the Legend of Zelda and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! failed after a single season, adapting a game to a TV show would be doomed just as well. However, both the beginning of the end of each episode of the Super Show were live action segments starring Captain Lou Albano (yes, that WWE wrestler) as Mario, and Danny Wells as Luigi as they improvised cheesy dialogue over cheesy dialogue (even with the odd Inspector Gadget cameo for whatever reason). A comedy adaption of a game with a scarce story and one-dimensional characters for the sake of a few cheap laughs is bound to fail. However, adapting a TV show with a solid story and deep lore and you might just have found a goldmine (if done correctly).
In conclusion, with TV shows having more time for character development and plot and costing less, it only makes sense to adapt story-based games to TV shows. With Netflix having recently announced their adaption of the famous Castlevania series, we’ll just have to wait and see how it pans out.