How HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Series Fits into PlayStation’s Plans for Video Game Franchise
HBO’s latest addition to its line of prestige dramas, The Last of Us, is generating massive buzz ahead of its Jan. 15 debut as Hollywood increasingly leverages video game IP for movies and TV shows to reach built-in audiences.
But Sony Interactive Entertainment is primed to capitalize on Sunday’s series launch as much as HBO hopes. The company intends to expand The Last of Us game universe with a multiplayer live service game aimed at diverting the attention generated by the drama series starring Pedro Pascal, Anna Torv and Bella Ramsey .
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Produced by game developer Naughty Dog, the original game The Last of Us was released exclusively for PlayStation 3 in 2013 to critical acclaim. Along with its Left Behind DLC expansion, the game was remastered for PS4 in 2014, followed by the sequel The Last of Us Part II in 2020. Combined with a 2022 remake of the first PS5 game titled Part I , “The games have sold more than 37 million copies worldwide.
In his review diversity called HBO’s adaptation of the franchise a “promising, moving zombie saga,” a sentiment apparently supported by its 97% Rotten Tomatoes score.
As positive as that may seem, the stakes are high for PlayStation. Netflix’s 2022 adaptation of Capcom’s zombie-adjacent Resident Evil franchise, which had previously spawned several successful films at Sony Pictures’ Screen Gems, received mediocre reviews on stream and was canceled after one season.
Screen Gems itself abandoned a previous cinematic approach for The Last of Us a few years ago, but television could be the golden ticket, as AMC’s The Walking Dead wrapped in November after 11 seasons.
This has left an open loophole for The Last of Us to push through if it becomes HBO’s next big hit. But beyond the show, big game plans were being developed via a multiplayer live service game set in its universe as part of a broader push at SIE to expand viewership.
As successful as PlayStation is, consoles accounted for just 28% of the $184 billion global video game market in 2022, according to Newzoo. The Last of Us Part I will be released for Windows on March 3rd, marking the first time the franchise has come to PC. Still, mobile gaming is twice the size of console and PC combined.
Naughty Dog’s live service game will likely use the same revenue model as mobile games via in-game outputs. Colloquially known as microtransactions, this model relies on players making purchases within regularly updated gaming experiences.
“Fortnite” has been the face of these types of games, although they may as well be geared toward adults. Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto Online” is the be-all and end-all of Take-Two-Interactive’s business, where 79% of its $1.4 billion in net revenue came from “recurring consumer spending” in its most recent quarterly earnings.
In contrast, just 31% of Sony’s Game & Network Services segment came from “add-on content” in recent quarterly earnings, although that percentage doubles if software sales are isolated, showing just how much in-game Spend YOU already largely earned third-party titles.
Naughty Dog won’t reveal more about its multiplayer game until later in 2023, but described it in a recent blog post as a “fresh new experience” that’s “rooted in Naughty Dog’s passion for delivering incredible stories, characters, and gameplay.” . In June, the original game hits its 10th birthdayth Anniversary as Summer Game Fest and E3 Showcases return, making it likely that a larger showcase will take place this month.
While the HBO series is separate from the games and isn’t intended to extend the story past the second game, the release of “Part I” on PC once the first season ends seems intentionally aggressive should it attempt to be extended YOU to synergize the franchise’s media.
If that’s the case, there’s a serious opportunity for a live service to bridge the gap between potential new seasons of the show and bring together the IP’s newest converts with their veteran fans. If successful, this should become the gold standard for gaming in Hollywood, where each experience helps the other persevere and survive.
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