Gaming takes over everything
Video games will move to the center of the entertainment and pop-culture universe next year.
Why it matters: Streaming services, Hollywood studios, tech giants — even the Saudi government — are racing to capitalize on gaming's vast and ever-expanding popularity, and its lucrative intellectual property.
Gaming movies are the biggest challenger to Hollywood’s superhero hegemony:
- 2023 will bring "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" — a partnership between Nintendo and Illumination, the studio behind the Minions.
- HBO’s first prestige series of 2023, mid-January's "The Last of Us," is an adaptation of a hit PlayStation video game.
- Streaming platforms are preparing a pipeline of games-turned-shows, including adaptations of God of War, Fallout and Assassin's Creed.
The big picture: Gaming is now a $184 billion business, a lucrative IP resource for other media — and the leading edge of the tech industry, both as a business and a harbinger of the industry’s policy battles.
- It's the foundational tech inspiring Meta's costly adventure into virtual worlds.
- It's how Netflix plans to grow its subscriber base, as the streamer tries to become a top video game developer and distributor.
- It's the industry that Saudi Arabia's ruling class has chosen to invest $38 billion in, for the sake of economic diversification and image.
- It's the locus of a growing labor movement in tech, where gaming workers at Activision-Blizzard, Microsoft and elsewhere are moving to unionize.
- It's a recurring target of the Federal Trade Commission. The agency is trying to score a historic antitrust win with its attempted block of Microsoft’s $69 billion bid for Activision — and just secured a $520 million settlement with Epic Games over child purchases run amok in Fortnite.
The games themselves are poised for a blockbuster year, too:
- Mega-releases tied to "Star Wars," "Harry Potter," "Final Fantasy" and "The Legend of Zelda" are slated for the first half of the year.
Reality check: Not every bit of video gaming breathlessness works out.
- E-sports is growing awkwardly. It's still picking up viewers — but its poor profitability is scaring off investors.
- Google, which thought it could be a gaming disruptor, is shutting down its Stadia game-streaming platform in January.
Between the lines: This is what happens when a subculture has been deepening its roots for a half-century.
- Many of the first kids who grew up with gaming become gamer parents, ready to pass gaming to the new generation.
- Power takes notice. Outside elites elbow in.
- Inside, young workers and players look around and see their once-rebellious pastime as an establishment that needs to be challenged.
The bottom line: From World of Warcraft to Wordle, it's a game-lover's world.