Movies based on video games haven’t had the best track record, so what’s the next logical step? Try turning them into TV shows, instead! Paramount Television has announced that it’s optioned the rights to create a series based on EA’s multiplayer shooter Battlefield. Production company Anonymous Content will be partnering with the studio on the project, with Spotlight producer Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta serving as executive producers.
Battlefield has been a successful franchise since the original Battlefield 1942 was released in 2002, but it might seem a little hard to envision just why it stands out as an obvious candidate for a TV adaptation. As the series has progressed over the years, it’s leapfrogged from World War II, to various other fictional campaigns, then to a less warfare-oriented “cops and robbers” dynamic with Battlefield Hardline, before jumping all the way back to World War I with the upcoming Battlefield 1. What it hasn’t had is a serialized narrative with a recurring cast of characters that audiences might be excited to see come to life.
Intellectual property is the coin of the realm
In a refreshingly honest statement paired with the announcement, Sugar makes it clear why Battlefield is so promising. “Battlefield has a tremendous built-in, engaged fan base, making it a highly coveted piece of IP primed for long-form adaptation,” said Sugar. It’s those magical two letters, “IP” — shorthand for intellectual property — that have become the coin of the realm for Hollywood, which has been betting for some time that the key to its future is audience familiarity. (For companies like Marvel and Disney, that’s been working; for DC and Warner Bros., not so much.)
But despite a slew of films in the pipeline, game adaptations have generally not had the best track record, with Duncan Jones’ Warcraft being the latest casualty (it quickly disappeared in the US, even while it soared overseas). Much of the negative critical reaction to that film accused it of being too devoted to the existing mythology, to the point where new audiences couldn’t follow along — and maybe that’s where Battlefield could end up being something of a surprise. There’s no King Llane or Lara Croft to worry about successfully recreating, because the success of the franchise has nothing to do with characters. What links the games together is simple: combat and increasingly intense violence.
In that sense, it provides a remarkable opportunity, because a Battlefield series could be anything from a crime show, to Band of Brothers, to Generation Kill. As long as there’s a wartime setting and some fights, it could logically work under the title. On the other hand, the creators could just indulge gaming fans by creating the kind of grisly, horrific experiences that make the Battlefield 1 trailer so tough to watch. I have my suspicions about where things will eventually end up going, but let’s hope for the noble outcome, shall we?