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A new Bioshock adaptation rises from the depths at Netflix

Would you kindly go to Ryan's office and...get him to sign away the movie rights?

Netflix has announced that it's going to be the next film studio to try and adapt BioShock for the big screen. Today the streaming platform/production studio announced that it's partnering with 2K and Take-Two to adapt BioShock once again, making it the second attempt to get this game on the silver screen after Gore Verbinski's adaptation fell apart in 2009.

No director or cast has been announced at this time.

There's every reason to think that Take-Two and Netflix will get this project over the finish line. Verbinski's adaptation collapsed over concerns of a ballooning budget and a desired "R" rating for the film--meaning it would have been aimed at an older audience, potentially limiting its financial odds at the box office. 

But times have changed. In 2008, Hollywood's strategy for video game adaptations was to use them as inspiration for big tentpole projects that felt only loosely connected to what made the original games special. Projects like Prince of Persia took big swings at the genre, but still struggled to capture audience attention.

The economics of video game adaptations have changed rapidly since then. Sonic the Hedgehog was a box office hit before the COVID-19 pandemic plunged movie theaters into darkness. A Halo TV series is debuting on Paramount Plus in March. Netflix has already found success with animated adaptations of Castlevania and League of Legends (it's also working on an animated adaptation of Cuphead).

The desire to attract pre-packaged audiences to streaming platforms is very high right now, and game-makers who have already built successful communities have more opportunity to leverage that desire than ever before. And game developers in return might reap the benefits themselves, since new audiences already invested in the platform now might want to check out their games.

Parrot Analytics senior strategy analyst Julia Alexander echoed these sentiments in a statement to Game Developer, noting that film studios choosing to closely involve the original game companies who hold the intellectual property rights to these titles provides dividends for both parties. "Gaming adaptations, much like comic book stories, have the possibility to introduce consumers to an entirely new world of content they can explore after the credits roll," she noted, pointing to data from The Witcher and League of Legends after their respective adaptions.

She also observed that the need for a different approach in video game adaptations is likely shifting how production companies are approaching these projects. "Adapting books into TV series or movies has required cutting out less of the story to make it work in a 10 episode or two hour format, games require a fundamental shift of audience approach," said Alexander.

It's a boom moment for game developers who've already made popular games. But are there busts waiting to happen? Can a series that's been as dormant as BioShock still resonate? 

Take-Two already seems interested in capitalizing on this shocking moment. If you dig into the replies to Netflix's tweet, the 2K Games Twitter account is hawking the Cloud Chamber jobs page to try and recruit new developers for the next BioShock game.

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