Is HBO’s The Last of Us a Game Changer?

HBO’s streaming adaptation of Naughty Dog's 2013 hit The Last of Us hit the ground running, with strong reviews and excellent viewership. More importantly for the industry, the $100 million series led to a noticeable bump in game sales for the franchise. Is this a sign of what the future holds for cross-media synergies?

Comeback Kid
Sales of the 2022’s The Last of Us Part 1 and The Last of Us Remastered rose 238% and 322%, respectively, in the UK last week; the former ended up the 20th best selling boxed title, according to US January totals will likely show a similar bump when released.

  • The Last of Us Part 1 is a PS5 remake (effectively a remaster) of the original PS3 title.
    • It’s also coming to PC March 3
      • Part of Sony’s increased platform-agnostic focus and move away from console exclusivity.
  • The Last of Us Remastered launched in 2014 on PS4.

That this synergy isn't guaranteed makes The Last of Us HBO series noteworthy. Last year’s Halo TV series was a hit for Paramount+ but did little to help Microsoft’s troubled Halo: Infinite, with developer 343 Studios being hit hard by Microsoft’s layoffs last week. And last Friday, Crystal  Dynamic announced it's halting development on Marvel's Avengers, despite the IP's ongoing box office strength.

More to Come
PlayStation isn’t the only one with their sights set on non-video game revenue like video game movies.

  • Nintendo’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie hits theaters April 7.
  • Amazon is working on a Fallout series for Prime Video.
  • Sony’s Gran Turismo film arrives August 11.
    • 2022's Uncharted adaptation delivered financially, even if it wasn't a favorite of critics.
How Replicable is The Last of Us?
As we wrote last year, The Last of Us falls into the category of "shows with built-in audiences that could appeal to non-gamers and entice them into playing PlayStation titles." But HBO's production has even exceeded that. The series premiere set records, and the second episode even brought in a 22% increase in viewership. These numbers are all the more impressive when considering The Last of Us HBO production does not have the benefit of preceding seasons or related streaming properties (as with House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones).
Some factors to consider with future adaptations, particularly video game movies.
  • Quality Matters: It goes without saying that quality is the key factor  regardless of medium. The Halo TV series got mixed reviews while Halo: Infinite has consistently struggled to deliver popular features.
  • Balancing Audiences: The Last of Us has so far managed to balance video game faithfulness with the adjustments to ease in TV viewers.
    • It's a delicate balance to strike with any adaptations, particularly given how passionate fans of The Last of Us are.
  • Deep Pockets: HBO was willing to invest big money for a popular lead in Pedro Pascal and spectacular production value.
    • Pascal's involvement immediately lent the series the credibility and respect that the gaming industry has so often sought since Nintendo's infamous Super Mario Bros. movie in 1993.
  • Advantages of Streaming: Aside from not being limited to a movie's runtime, streaming services are more willing to gamble on unproven projects than traditional film or TV.
    • A slowing economy has been partly reducing this risk-taking
What's Next?
The Last of Us HBO series is all but guaranteed to be renewed, and other publishers are looking for their own cross-media success stories. Nintendo – which is reportedly increasing Switch console production this year – will likely be the next litmus test, when The Super Mario Bros. Movie arrives in April.
Featured image courtesy of HBO