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Why Hollywood is turning its attention to video games and away from comic books

Is Super Mario mightier than Aquaman? It seems that, in terms of popularity, video game adaptations are winning over more and more viewers, who are gradually turning away from comic-book adaptations

Published: Apr 25, 2024 05:08:51 PM IST
Updated: Apr 25, 2024 05:13:36 PM IST

Why Hollywood is turning its attention to video games and away from comic books "Spider-Man" star Tom Holland also takes the lead role in the movie based on the "Uncharted" video game. Photography Copyright 2020 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved©

The movie world has long loved superheroes, and they've always proved profitable. But while comic books used to be the golden goose for Hollywood, it seems that studios are now turning to video game characters to fill the coffers. And it's working! Video game adaptations are growing in popularity, while comic book adaptations are waning, both on the small and the big screens.

Is Super Mario mightier than Aquaman? It seems that, in terms of popularity, video game adaptations are winning over more and more viewers, who are gradually turning away from comic-book adaptations. This is demonstrated by the latest report from Ampere Analysis, which looked at average consumer search volumes for the latest versions of comic book and video game adaptations.

According to the data, there has been a downward trend in the popularity of comic book adaptations since 2021 and 2022. While the blockbusters "Spider-Man: No Way Home," directed by Jon Watts and released in 2021, and Matt Reeves' 2022 movie "The Batman," stand out from the crowd, shows like "WandaVision" and "Loki" on Disney+ score lower, as does the second installment in the DC Comics franchise, "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," directed by James Wan and released at the end of 2023.

Conversely, adaptations of certain video game franchises have enjoyed an uptick in popularity over the past three years. The "Uncharted" video game adaptation starring Tom Holland—who also happens to play Spider-Man in "No Way Home"—largely dominated consumer searches in 2022, as did the HBO series "The Last of Us," starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" also topped the search charts in 2023, well ahead of the third installment of "Guardians of the Galaxy," reports Ampere Analysis.

"Growing consumer interest in video game adaptations has paralleled a surge in gaming activity over the last few years, partly influenced by the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns. The global gaming industry—despite facing a tough 2023—has grown by a quarter since the end of 2019, according to Ampere estimates," the report explains.

The movie and TV industry has always been able to profit from the world of gaming, as in the case of the "Tomb Raider" movie franchise starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, which was revived in 2018 with Alicia Vikander. But now, these kinds of adaptations are bringing in big bucks at the global box office. In 2023, the animated "Super Mario Bros. Movie" took second place at the global box office with over $1.3 billion, ahead of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," which grossed over $845 million.

Also read: Video games top source for TV inspiration, says Jonathan Nolan

Recently, the "Fallout" series has rekindled interest in video gaming. Following the show's release on Prime Video, the number of concurrent players more than doubled on the Steam platform.

Illia Abusaitov, Commissioning Researcher at Ampere Analysis says: "Following the success of video game adaptations such as 'Sonic the Hedgehog,' 'Pokémon: Detective Pikachu,' 'Uncharted,' 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie,' and 'The Last of Us,' risk-averse studios have begun a smooth transition into the gaming realm. These adaptations have already demonstrated their capacity to match or even exceed the success of comic adaptations. However, studios need to establish a consistent approach to ensure they become reliable hits, akin to the achievements of comic adaptations."

As recalled by Business Insider, superhero movies generated around $1 billion in revenue in the United States in 2023, marking a 42% decrease on the previous year, according to Comscore. At the same time, movies based on video games made $712.2 million, more than double the 2022 total.