Fallout is the best example of how to use gaming IP to fuel a flywheel

Small World’s Dan Salkey underlines the breadth of opportunity that gaming IP has to offer

Dan Salkey

Strategy Partner Small World


Amazon Prime’s Fallout TV show launched on April 10th and within a month it became the greatest example yet of how to leverage gaming intellectual property (IP) to fuel a flywheel. Not only did the show pull 65 million viewers within 16 days of launch (making it the second most-watched Prime show of all time), it also led to the game the show is based on, Fallout 4, to jumping 7,500% in sales making it the no.1 selling game in Europe. No doubt a large bulk of those sales happened on, you guessed it, Amazon.

So with superhero IP in a bit of a lull are we beginning to see a blueprint for how to use a relatively untapped goldmine of IP to fuel big brand flywheels? I think so.

I want to give IP rights holders and brand builders a formula for identifying the best gaming IP to translate into other mediums and then how to translate it successfully.

Gaming goose chase

In a world where every story has been told and every right has been snapped up, how do we identify gaming IP that’s worth translating into other mediums? I have a 3-point checklist.

1. Rich lore: This is the reason adaptations like Fallout and The Last of Us worked so well. The games inherently have tons of storylines already built into them. A myriad of characters to adapt. It’s the reason other game IPs like EA Sports FC or Call of Duty (whilst massive) wouldn’t make sense to translate into film, TV or experiences.

2. Almost famous: Find games that are well-known by gamers but not universally. A great method for doing so is looking at how many copies a franchise has sold in its lifetime. You want to look at sub 60M copies to find anything that hasn't yet been snapped up.

3. Mass appeal: This seems obvious but go for games that have mass appeal. Just as in advertising, what makes these IP projects successful is their ability to draw on universal human truths. The Last of Us is a story about grief, loss and fatherhood as much as it is zombies. I’d argue any property can have universal truths weaved in, just look at Barbie, some will just be more hassle than they’re worth.

Using this checklist the obvious contenders for flywheel fuel are Diablo (50M copies sold) and The Elder Scrolls (58.5M copies sold). Rumours suggest Netflix is interested in both, but those are just rumours.

The Elder Scrolls, just like Fallout, is another Bethesda property. I find it hard to believe Amazon won’t be sniffing around it.

An honourable mention to The Sims (200M copies) as well. The news Margot Robbie planned to sprinkle her Barbie magic on the video game franchise next was largely ridiculed but I actually think it can tick all 3 of the above boxes.

So now how do you evolve said IPs so that they end up a success and not a flop like Hitman, Mortal Kombat or Assassins Creed?

Side note: How Fox screwed up Assassin's Creed I do not know. Big potential there, especially as Disney now owns the rights.

1. True to canon: The first task is simple. Don't piss off existing fans, having them on side early doors gives you the initial groundswell of success. The no.1 way to do this is to stay true to the canon of the games.

2. Evolve the story: Fallout’s success was largely driven by the fact that they told a story in the Fallout universe that whilst true to canon was totally new to the lore. They used new characters and new settings. This allowed them to both delight fans but also make the story more palatable for broader audiences.

3. Land and grow distinctive assets: Much like brands, these gaming IPs have fantastic distinctive assets which set them apart from run-of-the-mill TV shows and films. Fallout’s Vault Boy, The Last of Us’ zombies and Mario’s moustache all instantly evoke their respective properties to different degrees. Identify which your strongest assets are and then blow them up in promo. Anyone else remember the Barbie pink summer of 2023? Heinz clearly hasn’t forgotten it yet.  

Inevitably the likes of Disney and Amazon will be best placed to use these IPs to power their flywheels with a sophisticated and diversified offering of products and services.

From theme parks to same-day delivery thermoses both know how to fuel a flywheel by translating fantastic IP - what they might not know is just what a gold mine little-known gaming IP might be.

If anyone from either company’s commissioning and marketing departments is listening, now you know.

Guest Author

Dan Salkey

Strategy Partner Small World


Dan Salkey is Strategy Partner at °Small World, a creative consultancy that curates unique creative super teams for every brief. As a result, they have a roster of unorthodox creative talent, perfect for building brands which entertain and steal Share of Voice.

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