Let’s be honest: video game-to-film adaptations were a new low point for entertainment industry. While anime series set within universes like Persona, Ace Attorney, and Final Fantasy were thriving, live-action videogame movies like the critically-criticized Resident Evil and Hitman series left this part of the industry in shambles. However, after Detective Pikachu‘s release in 2016, it looked like these adaptations were back on the rise, albeit given average to mediocre scores.
Though these adaptations were widely regarded as being “just okay,” it was very surprising to see that Netflix would be the first streaming service to bring a successful videogame adaptation to its platform. With the release of the acclaimed Castlevania show in 2017, it put the platform on the map for other video game developers to create shows that would help expand their universes while gaining new audiences. Following suit in 2019, Netflix would return once more with another acclaimed series: The Witcher.
Based on Polish authors Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, The Witcher still made itself a hit series amongst fans who have come to known this universe thanks to CD Projekt Red’s games that have lasted for over more than a decade. According to NPD, thanks to the Netflix series, sales for CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 were boosted up to 554% in a four to five year span. Even though The Witcher was already popular in the world of gaming, it’s still surprising how such one show could garner so much support to boost a property like this into the mainstream.
It would be the overwhelming popularity behind The Witcher that would ignite a new age for videogame adaptations, whether it be through live-action or animation. Netflix still continued to pull through this with the release of Arcane, a critically-acclaimed, animated show based around the lives of several characters set within the League of Legends universe. However, even when the platform was still on-top, Netflix still had its faults for releasing under-average content (you might have heard of the divisive live-action Resident Evil series.)
Nonetheless, Netflix still managed to establish itself as the chariot for future video-game adaptations and platforms like Hulu and HBO have begun to follow in Netflix’s footsteps: Hulu took up another Resident Evil adaptation, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, while HBO is developing a long-awaited adaptation of The Last of Us. However, while those platforms are beginning to open themselves up to this new opportunity, Netflix continues to take its advantage by producing more adaptations around video games.
Look no further than Cyberpunk Edgerunners, Netflix’s latest video-game adaptation that focuses on the past events of Night City.
You most likely know about the development hell behind Cyberpunk 2077, another video game developed by CD Projekt Red around the 1988 tabletop game. While most praised the game for its story and worldbuilding, the main issue that players had with the game were the hundreds of technical issues that came post-launch ranging from T-posing civilians to troubling car physics. Over time, most of these glitches were patched out, but many were past the point of believing that the game could pull a No Man’s Sky even when the studio tried to forgive players for these glitches.
However, with the growing popularity following release of Cyberpunk Edgerunners, the once-criticized video game of the modern day has finally gained the interest of fans back with this series. According to Steam Charts, Cyberpunk 2077 gained around 85,555 players in its peak following its initial 1 million player count post-launch. Thanks to the world and story of Cyberpunk Edgerunners, this game managed to come to resurface much to the positivity fans have from watching this series. (Check out our review here!)
Looking back at Netflix’s portfolio of successful video game adaptations, it seems like Netflix has found its gold mine when it comes to producing the hundreds and thousands of shows and movies. The platform has managed to find a way to re-engage old fans and introduce new audiences to these properties in a way that garners positive support through the format and medium that each respective video game property works best in. However, while the iconic names and reputation behind these properties are a major factor in generating interest, these adaptations are more than just what we’ve already seen from these games.
Even though shows like The Witcher and Cyberpunk Edgerunners rely on their pre-established worlds, its both how they utilize their worlds through the medium they’ve chosen and how they create their stories. The Witcher is a dramatic, mostly dark story based around Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Riva as he, with the help of Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer, protects Freya Allan’s Ciri from threats ranging from monstrous, eldritch beasts to Nilfgaardian armies. Meanwhile, Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a sci-fi, action-packed story based around the growing reputation of David (KENN/Zach Aguilar) as he, aided by Lucy (Aoi Yūki/Emi Lo) and his gang of Edgerunners, attempt to make a name for themselves in the autonomous future of Night City.
Though these stories are evidently different, in visuals, world, and tone, these adaptations manage to create an engaging story based around what we’ve already known. In Cyberpunk Edgerunners, we already know from Cyberpunk 2077 that David Martinez was a high-riding edgerunner who made a name for himself, but in the series, we see that evolution from his impoverished lifestyle to being pushed as the main leader of his gang. We also get to see the relationship between him and Lucy grow overtime into something more romantic after their accidental encounter leads them to a path of understanding their places in this world and their admiration for each other.
These adaptations also manage to use their mediums in a way that gives you a lot of eye food. In the world of The Witcher, seeing those close-up choreographed fights between Geralt and his opponents, like the Michelet brothers, feels gripping with each prop blow and punch even though you know that Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri will come out on top. On the other hand, Cyberpunk Edgerunners masters making fast-paced fights with colorfully pleasing aesthetics as David, Lucy, and the main gang try to escape other gangs and even Militech, utilizing the technology of Cyberpunk 2077 in a way that blends player perspective with the perspectives of these characters.
Thanks to those elements, The Witcher and Cyberpunk Edgerunners made their respective properties main-stream famous and allowed new audiences to grip and further connect with these characters that fans throughout the years have come to know and love. The methodology that Netflix has adopted has made video game adaptations in a way that breaks free of the issues that were present from countless failures over the decades while appealing to both old and new fanbases. With several platforms adapting Netflix’s strategy to these adaptations, the platform has made its lasting impact in this part of the entertainment industry and hopefully fans can see their favorite games and other properties being adapted to suitable and enjoyable products in the streaming world.
The Witcher and Cyberpunk Edgerunners are now available to stream on Netflix.