Survey Confirms People Don't Really Want Video Game Movies


Jan 9, 2020
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American audiences are not all that interested in live-action video game adaptations of properties like Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man and Mario Kart, according to a poll conducted among U.S. adults. This may come as a surprise to those following the momentum of Sonic The Hedgehog. The blue speedster saw the biggest opening for a video game film after production famously delayed its release and redesigned the CGI for Sonic after fan outcry.

Even 2019’s live-action Detective Pikachu performed relatively well, holding the record of best opening weekend box office for a video game movie until Sonic debuted (although the more recent animated Pokemon film from Netflix was a disappointment). However, these films’ main audiences were children, and the poll collected data from adults. For every Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or Resident Evil success, there have been duds like Assassin’s Creed or Need for Speed.

THR and the polling data company Morning Consult conducted the poll gauging interest in live-action adaptations of video games among 2,200 adults in the U.S. The survey showed the potential films had less than 50 percent interest from adults who were “very” or “somewhat” interested. Super Mario Bros. led the poll with 44 percent of responders, followed by a tie of 37 percent each for Pac-Man and Mario Kart. Donkey Kong, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros., Tetris, and Halo rounded out the top 10 slots, respectively.

Since the poll gauged interest in potential adaptations, it excluded the possible animated Super Mario movie being developed by Nintendo and Illumination, the animation studio behind the Despicable Me franchise. The poll’s top choices of Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, and other Nintendo franchises have a cartoon aesthetic, suggesting audiences would be most interested in a live-action adaptation similar to Detective Pikachu or Sonic The Hedgehog. Games with a photorealistic aesthetic that made the list include Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Halo.

The low polling numbers for video game movie interest hasn’t stopped studios from pursuing more adaptations. Movie studios have announced plans for Mortal Kombat, Monster Hunter and Just Cause film adaptations. Fans have even shown tentative optimism for the upcoming Uncharted film from Sony, with star Tom Holland suggesting the movie will be a prequel rather than a recreation of a storyline from one of the franchise’s games.

Adapting a novel or comic book can introduce new visual and aural elements. However, with the trend of video games becoming more cinematic in their storytelling and animation, game-based movies may feel redundant - or even lose the magic of what made the video game special in the first place. Games like Red Dead Redemption feel like completed stories, and there isn’t much that a film can introduce that wasn’t already in its first two games. The adults in this poll may have voted for the more simplistic, child-friendly games, such as Tetris, Pac-Man, and the Nintendo games, based purely on name recognition or nostalgia instead of genuine interest in their cinematic adaptations. After all, we’ve already seen Pac-Man and Donkey Kong in a live-action film in the 2015 Adam Sandler film Pixels, and that wasn’t exactly a box office smash.


Dec 29, 2020
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Counter-point: Postal is a fantastic adaptation of the eponymous video game, and a genuinely enjoyable comedy movie.