December 19, 2019
Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill built “League of Legends,” a monster video game that draws up to 8 million concurrent players daily and has reaped billions of dollars. But, tired of being disrespected by the broader culture as a game maker, Merrill has come up with a way he hopes will minimize the negative judgment: expand beyond the video gaming world to produce a TV show, “Arcane.” The two “Angry Birds” films earned a combined $500 million at the box office and “Assassin’s Creed” made $240.6 million.
The Washington Post reports that Merrill hopes to “hit the bar” of “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings.” But it also enumerates the main obstacle standing in his way: “the most saturated media landscape of all time.” According to an Ampere Analysis report, there was a “total global spend of $165 billion on TV shows, films, and sports in 2018, up from $50 billion in 2008, an increase that mostly happened in the past five years.”
“The biggest challenge for TV producers and creators today is to stand out,” said Keshet International chief executive Alon Shtruzman. “The fan base will be a great help, same as with movies like ‘Angry Birds’ and ‘Assassins Creed.’ Even if the movie isn’t great, because they were fans of the franchise, they’re going to go and watch it.”
Even so, says WP, “the history of video games serving as the basis of TV shows and films is a largely maligned one.” Merrill has hired a French production company, Fortiche Production, and kept the show’s development in-house. TechSavvy head Scott Steinberg and Lightshed Partners partner Brandon Ross are two industry analysts who have predicted Riot’s move into TV and “see it as a natural move for a company looking to profit off its IP while expanding the company’s reach.”
“Video game-Hollywood crossovers have been the brunt of jokes, but they are going to get better over time,” said Steinberg, who adds that Riot’s strong suits are “League’s bigger fan base, creative control, and, given its ownership by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, Riot’s ability to invest more money than past shows that were based on games.”
Still, Riot global head of IP Jarred Kennedy noted that “the game is great for certain things, it’s not so great on the narrative side.” “Our players want to know more about the characters, they want to know more about their backstories, they want to experience the world in new ways,” Merrill said. “We are still learning how to tell great stories … and there’s lots of the companies that have, for decades, a whole industry of course, that has learned how to tell great stories through film and TV, and even they don’t get it right most of the time.”
Kennedy added that they are relying on “universal themes” to bridge the gap between the game’s fans and people unfamiliar with it. And Merrill hopes that one day, his job title will be seen as a “meaningful life pursuit.” “Fast forward another 30 or 40 years, no one is even going to call themselves a gamer because everyone is going to be a gamer, just like how no one calls themselves a moviegoer now,” he said.