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Top Video Games of 2023, What Hollywood Should Adapt for TV and Film

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Hollywood got back on its feet on Wall Street this year, and if it wants to remain on solid ground in 2024 — or even climb a few steps higher — it needs to look beyond what movies and TV shows were the greatest hits. The biz is overdue when it comes to keeping an eye on the video game titles consumers poured their time into over the past 12 months.

This isn’t specifically about what gamers spent money on. It’s about what those fans were talking about and focused on and expressing deep, continued interest in — as a way of discerning what offerings they would be willing to fork over cash on in the future.

Per year-end data provided by Fandom (which touts itself as the world’s biggest wiki platform for entertainment and gaming fan), the below were the top franchises overall across the website in 2023. Each franchise’s “franchise factor score” (calculated based on Fandom’s proprietary data) is listed, along with a note regarding whether it is an IP only represented by one form of media, like TV, film or video games, or if it crosses into “mixed verticals” territory.

“Terraria” — 100 score — Game Only
Star Wars — 96 score — Mixed Verticals
Marvel — 95 score — Mixed Verticals
“One Piece” — 91 score — Mixed Verticals
“Minecraft” — 87 score — Game Only
“Genshin Impact” — 84 score —Game Only, Anime To Come
Disney Animation — 74 score — Mixed Verticals
“Elder Scrolls” — 73 score — Game Only
“League of Legends” — 73 score — Mixed Verticals
“Baldur’s Gate”/ “Forgotten Realms” — 72 score — Mixed Verticals

For comparison, the following list is the top gaming-only franchises for the year.

“Terraria” — 100 score
“Minecraft” — 91 score
“Genshin Impact” — 84 score
“Elder Scrolls” — 73 score
“League of Legends” — 73 score
“Baldur’s Gate”/ “Forgotten Realms” — 72 score
“World of Warcraft” — 68 score
“Mortal Kombat” — 66 score
“Fallout” — 65 score
“Grand Theft Auto” — 65 score

Because the gaming-only franchises list is truly gaming-only, some of this year’s top-selling video games (including Warner Bros. Discovery’s “Hogwarts Legacy” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2”) don’t make the cut because they aren’t game-first franchises.

However, the popularity of these games gave their respective franchises, Harry Potter and Marvel, major boosts. That’s especially true of Harry Potter, since the franchise doesn’t consistently put out TV and film content (The Wizarding World IP ranked 18th in the overall franchise list).

These results are an indication that Hollywood studios shouldn’t underestimate the importance of video games when it comes to mining its owned IP. The lists also display some prime untapped gaming franchises for adapting into TV and film projects, based on how strong these games’ communities are without any Hollywood interference.

Among Fandom’s top video games list, only 40% of those titles have been adapted into movies and TV series: “League of Legends” (with Netflix’s “Arcane”), “Baldur’s Gate” (semi-adapted into “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”), “World of Warcraft” (via the 2018 miniseries “Warbringers”) and “Mortal Kombat” (into the 2021 film). In April 2024, Amazon’s “Fallout” TV series will premiere, bumping the list up to 50% of titles with on-screen adaptations. There’s also a “Minecraft” movie in the works and a “Genshin Impact” anime in development.

According to Fandom, 50% of the top franchises across mediums this year have seen new releases (Star Wars, Marvel, “One Piece,” Disney Animation, “Baldur’s Gate”) in one format or another, while all ten have had general upkeep and updates to existing content, like “League of Legends” activity in its eSports league and “Terraria” via game patches.

Fandom’s findings sparked Variety‘s discussion with Fandom chief marketing officer Stephanie Fried and vice president of sales marketing and insights Anthony Iaffaldano about trend predictions for 2024, especially given that next year will see fewer major video game releases than 2023, as highly anticipated titles like “Grand Theft Auto 6” won’t be released until 2025.

“In addition to continuing to mine gaming for new expansions onto TV and movies, I think we’ll see a lot of licensing,” Fried said. “We’re looking at that now, what are the new-to-you or things people love from their past that have kind of been like dormant or hidden on the Peacocks, Paramounts and Disneys of the world that could get some more exposure on Netflix or Amazon and identifying those opportunities. Licensing is going to continue to grow and be a big thing next year. A lot of the traditional businesses who have streamers are trying to generate some cash. We’re going to see things move around and the streaming services probably get a lot more similar in terms of the type of content that they have, and a lot of overlap versus what we’ve seen in the past few years.”

While there is continued value of investing in existing franchises across mediums, Iaffaldano noted there is equal value in reevaluating the approaches previously used to develop those projects.

“Marvel and Star Wars have been two of the biggest franchises in our ranking and across our property, as long as I have been here, probably since the beginning of time,” Iaffaldano said. “And it’s no surprise to say that they put a few feet wrong this year, that their leadership have come out and said that they’re reviewing the schedule and talking about slowing things down. I’m very curious to see what happens to fan excitement going into next year with that renewed focus on fewer, bigger, better. I think there was probably a little bit of burnout among the audiences in terms of having to keep up with everything. But even more than that, the shift towards TV and a shift specifically in Marvel’s case towards animation is interesting. I’m curious to see what that does to the overall fan base, how that reenergizes the base or expands it a little bit going into next year.”

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