How Amazon Prime’s ‘Fallout’ series highlights the power of post-apocalyptic video game IP

Amazon Prime’s “Fallout” television adaptation has struck a chord with streaming viewers, becoming the second major live-action video game adaptation to break through to a wider audience after 2023’s “The Last of Us.” As film and TV studios race to adapt popular video games to the big screen, post-apocalyptic fiction could be the secret to mainstream success.

Amazon has not shared official viewership figures for its “Fallout” series, but social platforms have been awash with buzz about the show, which depicts an alternate future America desolated by nuclear war. Critics have lauded “Fallout,” landing it a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Given the show’s reported production budget of $153 million, at least one Prime Video executive is likely breathing a sigh of relief as they scroll through all the effusive praise.

Amazon is going full throttle on the marketing of the series. It’s previewing it at movie theaters, blasting out ads to users of its cloud gaming service and even prompting every user who visits the Amazon storefront homepage to “Watch the new show ‘Fallout.’” It’s Amazon Prime’s first major video game adaptation, and the company is leveraging the full power of its worldwide network to help it succeed.

When reached for comment on the “Fallout” marketing push, an Amazon representative declined to provide a comment or specific success metrics, but noted that Amazon had renewed the series for a second season, sharing the company’s April 18 press release on the news.

“The bar was high for lovers of this iconic video game and so far we seem to have exceeded their expectations while bringing in millions of new fans to the franchise,” Amazon MGM Studios head Jennifer Salke said in the release.

To some extent, the mainstream success of the “Fallout” series is a reflection of the massive scale of the Amazon Prime machine. But the consensus among viewers and critics is that it’s a damn good show, too.

“I’d seen it splashed on the Prime Video homepage, and I think they had done a homepage takeover, where every module was the banner, and then all the sub boxes,” said Stephen Dypiangco, CEO of marketing consultancy Metaverse Marcom who had never heard of the “Fallout” games before tuning into the Amazon Prime series. “I check Rotten Tomatoes pretty regularly for both movies and television, and seeing it’s over 90 percent — for me, I’ll add it to a mental queue.”

The post-apocalyptic setting of “Fallout,” which is rooted in something resembling the real world, could explain why the Prime series, as well as “The Last of Us,” have outperformed other recent live-action TV adaptations of major gaming properties such as the 2022 “Halo” series on Paramount+. Many mainstream television viewers are already familiar with the post-apocalypse genre thanks to past successes such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

“People kind of understand post-apocalyptic survival genres — I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of those big successes are that genre,” said Jason Chung, director of esports and gaming at New York University. “It’s because it’s relatable for human beings.”

Regardless of the exact cause of its popularity, “Fallout” is clearly resonating with Amazon Prime viewers, and the original source material is enjoying a healthy downstream lift as a result. In the week since the show’s April 10 release, player counts for all of the “Fallout” games have more than doubled on Steam.

Bethesda Softworks, the publisher of the “Fallout” games, is also taking advantage of the television series’ moment in the sun. For the past week, the company’s social feeds have relentlessly promoted the game, explicitly inviting fans of the show to dip their toes into the wider “Fallout” community through an official Discord channel. At the moment, the entire “Fallout” series is being sold for a heavy discount on the gaming platform Steam. Bethesda did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Live streamers and influencers have also taken note of the buzz. Following the show’s release on April 10, total daily viewer hours of “Fallout” games on Twitch increased by 484 percent, from an average count of 52,000 hours during the 30 days leading up the release to an average of 306,000 hours watched in the eight days following the release, according to data shared by the gaming marketing platform Gamesight.

Amazon’s “Fallout” series is the latest in a growing body of evidence that shows that video game adaptations are both catnip for streaming audiences and a particularly powerful marketing vehicle for the games themselves. In addition to HBO’s live-action “The Last of Us” series, animated shows such as “Arcane” and “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” have lifted both Netflix viewership numbers and kicked up interest in the core gaming IP.

And the bonanza doesn’t look to be ending any time soon, both at Amazon and beyond. Sony is in the process of developing a “God of War” series for Amazon Prime, though a release date has not yet been announced, and Amazon acquired the television adaptation rights for the popular “Mass Effect” series in 2021.

“This is definitely something that is expected now; every time that we see a gaming-related TV or movie, we expect to see some similar phenomenon, which is great,” said Gamesight CEO Adam Lieb. “It is quickly becoming one of the reasons to do it — a way to gain better brand prominence for your game.”

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