Is gaming the new Hollywood?

Gaming has been steadily growing in popularity and influence over the past few years with far-reaching impact: spurring a new league of game-fluencers, informing luxury retail, serving as an outlet for wanderlust and wellness and even as a platform for activism. But now, with playership skyrocketing and Hollywood production on an indefinite hiatus, new big brand investments are elevating game-tainment into a primetime attraction.

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Fortnite Party Royale, courtesy of Epic Games

In July 2020, Sony announced a massive investment in Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite. The $250 million investment gives the entertainment kingpin a 1.4% stake in the gaming company—and foretells a growing crossover between the silver screen and the computer screen. “Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music,” Tim Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Epic Games, said in the press release.

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The Sims Spark'd courtesy of Electronic Arts / ELEAGUE
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Cable channel TBS is also tapping into game-tainment with its new Sims reality television show, The Sims Spark’d presented by ELEAGUE. “While competitive e-sports have long been broadcast around the globe, Spark’d is poised to become the first mainstream reality show based on an electronic game,” the New York Times observed. The four-episode miniseries, which debuted on July 17, 2020, features twelve contestants competing in timed challenges to create the most unique characters, worlds and storylines within the popular life simulation game, in a format echoing that of Project Runway and The Great British Bakeoff. The show is a collaboration between Sims creator Electronic Arts, WarnerMedia subsidiary Turner Sports and Buzzfeed’s gaming channel Multiplayer.

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In yet another Hollywood-gaming crossover, renowned director Rian Johnson—whose directorial work includes Knives Out and Star Wars: The Last Jedi—is taking his talents to the Pokémon franchise. Ahead of Pokémon Go Fest 2020, which kicked off on July 15, 2020, Pokémon creator Niantic released a 30-second spot directed by Johnson.

Gaming is drawing record numbers—not just among players, but among spectators as well. The Sims 4, for example, hit a peak of almost 10 million unique visitors in the past quarter with 2.5 million joining in May and June, while on July 1, over 160,000 viewers tuned in to watch popular gamer Ninja play Fortnite on YouTube. Now, as Hollywood stares down the barrel of stalled production, shuttered sets and delayed releases—Wes Anderson’s star-studded film The French Dispatch, Jordan Peele’s newest horror film Candyman and Marvel’s highly anticipated Black Widow are just a few of the summer 2020 blockbuster releases that have been postponed—the entertainment industry is turning its attention to game-tainment, setting the stage for a new breed of gaming cinema.

Main image of The Sims Spark’d courtesy of Electronic Arts / ELEAGUE