Does HBO Max Have A New Hit? This Video Game Adaptation Getting Rave Reviews

Zinger Key Points
  • The HBO and HBO Max series "The Last of Us" premieres on Jan. 15.
  • The video game adaptation has received strong critical rankings ahead of the premiere and could be a hit for HBO.

A leading media company and streaming company could have a new hit show based on early reviews and reactions. While video game adaptations have had a mixed track record at the box office, many of the recent ones have performed well as television series.

What Happened: HBO and HBO Max will premiere “The Last of Us,” a television adaptation of a bestselling video game, on Jan. 15, 2023. The debut comes shortly after HBO and HBO Max took home four wins and had 14 nominations, the most among streaming-related companies at the 2022 Golden Globes.

“The Last of Us” is based on the bestselling and award-winning video game from Naughty Dog, a unit of Sony Group Corp SONY. The game was released in 2013 and exclusive to consoles from Sony. A sequel released in 2020 was also among the bestselling video game titles in recent history and was widely praised.

Adapting a video game franchise into a movie or television series can be a difficult task and comes with risks and rewards with a built-in fan base that can love the idea and want to watch, or quickly turn and be upset that the content doesn’t follow the game.

The series stars Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie and centers on the two characters in a post-apocalyptic world.

“The story takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival,” the series description reads.

The series is produced by Craig Mazin and Carolyn Strauss, who worked on the acclaimed “Chernobyl” series. Strauss also worked on HBO hit “Game of Thrones.” Naughty Dog Co-President Neil Druckmann also serves as a producer on the series and helped write the content.

HBO and HBO Max will air the episodes with a plan to release the first season and its nine episodes on a weekly basis. HBO and HBO Max are units of Warner Bros. Discovery Inc WBD.

Originally optioned as a movie, Druckmann is happy to now see the video game franchise getting the series treatment and not being condensed to a two-hour movie.

Related Link: Netflix Turns To Video Games Again, Making Mega Man Movie 

Why It’s Important: A hit show could be massive for HBO and HBO Max as it works to build out its library of exclusive titles in a highly competitive streaming market and at a time when shares of Warner Bros. are down more than 50% in the last year.

The series has not aired for the public yet, but is commanding strong reviews from critics with a current 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Retaining the most addictive aspects of its beloved source material while digging deeper into the story, 'The Last of Us' is bingeworthy TV that ranks among the all-time greatest video game adaptations,” Rotten Tomatoes says.

The new series comes with a reported cost of $90 million to $100 million per episode, ranking among the most expensive production costs for a streaming show and on par with titles like "Halo" and "The Witcher."

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” from, Inc. AMZN holds the streaming record with an estimated cost of around $58 million per episode.

HBO had recent success with “House of the Dragon,” a prequel to “Game of Thrones.” The series had 781 million minutes viewed in its first week according to data from Nielsen. 


The new series broke records on HBO Max for a new show with around 10 million people watching the premiere episode on the streaming platform.

Warner Bros. Discovery reported 92.1 million global DTC subscribers across its HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+ platforms in the second quarter.

Recent success in the video game adaptation sector included Paramount Global PARAPARAA setting a record for its adaptation of “Halo.” The first episode broke a streaming record for the company’s Paramount+ platform at the time.

Netflix saw “The Witcher” turn into one of its most successful franchises, ranking as a top 10 English-language series of all time and leading to a spinoff series that ranked in the top 10 series for its first three weeks of availability.

If “The Last of Us” can generate continued buzz and get millions of viewers for its premiere episode, look for HBO and Warner Bros. Discovery to get more attention as a streaming leader.

WBD Price Action: Warner Bros. Discovery shares closed at $12.60 on Wednesday versus a 52-week range of $8.82 to $31.55.

Read Next: Are All Streaming Services Losing Money? Netflix Seems To Think So 

Photo: Liane Hentscher, courtesy HBO

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Posted In: EntertainmentGamingTop StoriesTrading IdeasGeneralGame of ThronesHALOHBOHBO MaxHouse of the Dragonmedia stocksNaughty DogPlayStationstreaming platformsstreaming stocksThe Last of UsThe Witchervideo games
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