This Week’s MPN Podcast: Superhero Film Slump; Netflix Gaming; Rocky III Steelbook and Premium Physical Content

On this week’s episode of the Media Play News podcast, hosts Charles Parkman and Charlie Showley open with an analysis of the current state of superhero movies. Shazam! Fury of the Gods premiered below projections and, coupled with the lackluster reception of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, calls into question how exhausted audiences are of this genre. Charlie and Charles take the contrarian opinion and call out how the “Shazam” sequel was in development before the James Gunn/Peter Safran DC leadership shakeup. They cover a few creative movies that have elevated the otherwise surface-level superhero genre such as the indie film Chronicle.

Netflix’s gaming offerings, having launched several dozen titles last year, are set to more than double in the coming year. Charlie is mortified that the No. 1 played game on Netflix is the tie-in game to its popular reality TV show “Too Hot to Handle,” but on closer inspection is intrigued by the variety of other games in its library. In spite of a reality TV-based game occupying the top spot, Netflix has ported multiple critically acclaimed indie games to its service, and holds exclusive rights to a mobile port of a recent, popular “Ninja Turtles” game. Last, given how the mobile gaming market absolutely dominates the total revenue from gaming and how just about everyone with a Netflix account also owns a smartphone, there is a lot more potential than one would expect for Netflix gaming to increase in popularity.

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Finally, Rocky III has gotten a Steelbook release at Best Buy as part of a series of steelbook releases for all four Rocky films. The hosts talk about other special editions of movies they own and the fun that comes from collecting limited releases of physical media. DVDs and Blu-ray may have passed their peak in retail consumption but enthusiasts will always have an interest in premium versions of their favorite films.

Distributor Alliance Entertainment Completes Adara Merger

Home entertainment distributor Alliance Entertainment Holding Corp. has completed its merger with Adara Acquisition Corp.

The business combination was approved at a meeting of Adara’s shareholders on Jan. 18, 2023.

Alliance Entertainment (which is the parent of Mill Creek Entertainment and Distribution Solutions) distributes music, movies, consumer electronics, compact discs, collectibles, vinyl LP records, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games.

Beginning Feb. 13, 2023, Alliance Entertainment’s shares and warrants will be quoted on the OTC under the ticker symbols “ADRA” and “ADRA WS,” respectively. Concurrent with Alliance Entertainment’s OTC quotation, Adara Acquisition Corp. has been delisted from the NYSE American. Alliance Entertainment also intends to seek to list on the Nasdaq Capital Market, according to a press release.

Chairman Bruce Ogilvie and CEO Jeff Walker will continue to lead the combined company, along with its current management team.

This transaction values Alliance Entertainment at approximately $480 million. As a public company, Alliance expects to be able to make further investment in growth, including automating facilities, upgrading proprietary software. Management believes the transaction also positions the company “to drive inorganic growth through a roll-up strategy of acquiring and integrating competitors and complementary businesses,” according to the release.

“We believe that today’s milestone combined with our strong revenue growth, expanding customer base and product offering, and several successful acquisitions, will help accelerate our future expansion initiatives,” Jeff Walker, CEO of Alliance Entertainment, said in a statement. “Alliance Entertainment today is well positioned to continue to capitalize on shifts towards e-commerce and omni-channel strategies, especially with retailers and manufacturers vastly increased reliance on their DTC (direct to consumer) fulfillment and distribution partners. We are at an inflection point that now positions us to execute a multi-prong growth strategy that we expect will deliver a double-digit revenue growth rate with strong cash generation to the bottom line.”

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“This business combination will further enable our significant focus on a strategic roll-up strategy of acquiring and integrating competitors and complementary businesses which we believe will drive an accelerated competitive position and value creation,” Bruce Ogilvie, chairman of Alliance Entertainment, said in a statement. “Combined with further investment including automating facilities and upgrading proprietary software, we are confident we can grow revenue and expand margins. In this next phase of our development, we expect to see growth from enhancing our DTC relationships to grow existing revenue lines and improving capabilities which will generate a more attractive overall service offering. We will also continue to expand into new consumer product segments, growing our product offering and providing more to our existing customer base while attracting new customers in the process.”

“We congratulate Alliance Entertainment on today’s accomplishment and look forward to their continued evolution as a leading DTC and eCommerce provider for the entertainment industry,” Tom Finke, CEO and chairman of Adara Acquisition Corp., said in a statement. “We are confident Alliance Entertainment will provide shareholders with a diversified investment alternative as one of the largest physical media and entertainment product distributors in the world. We believe their expanding use of automation technology to further impact efficiency, cost and capacity for future growth will deliver long-term value. We look forward to collaborating with Alliance Entertainment as they strategically position the company to achieve its growth objectives.”

Ubisoft’s ‘Valiant Hearts: Coming Home’ Among Games Newly Available on Netflix

Ubisoft’s game Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, the sequel to Valiant Hearts: The Great War, is now available exclusively on Netflix, the streamer announced.

The title joins the Netflix games roster in the Netflix mobile app with three others that launched earlier this month: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Narcos: Cartel Wars Unlimited and Puzzle Gods.

In Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, players become an unsung hero, solve puzzles, fly above chaos and heal the wounded in the follow-up to the adventure game inspired by World War I. As World War I rages on, two brothers fight to survive the trenches and find each other again. Their paths cross with new heroes who share in the joy of reuniting and surviving the horrors of the Western Front. Valiant Hearts: Coming Home is the second installment of the BAFTA Award-winning game Valiant Hearts: The Great War. The sequel follows in the footsteps of the original game and continue to tell stories of ordinary people thrust into the extraordinary circumstances of World War I.

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In Narcos: Cartel Wars Unlimited, a strategy game based on the Netflix series, players lead their own cartel.

In TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, players join Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo or other familiar friends in the 1980s-inspired game. Players battle as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles across a range of classic TMNT locations.

In the mythic puzzler Puzzle Gods Match, players switch elements to level up, defeat Little Hades and rescue the gods in the Land of Olympus.

CTA Tech Trends: Gaming Growing, Services Ascendant

LAS VEGAS — Gaming is increasingly taking over leisure time for the average gamer, said Steve Koenig, VP of research at the Consumer Technology Association.

Speaking during the opening “Tech Trends to Watch” presentation Jan. 3 on the eve of the CES event, he noted that in 2019 the average gamer spent 16 hours a week gaming.

“Today it’s a full day. 24 hours. 24 hours a week,” he said.

Why are people spending so much time gaming?

It’s for escapism, entertainment and competition, but it’s also for socializing, he said.

“Increasingly, it’s about connection and socialization,” he said. “The game is really a construct for socialization.”

After the pandemic, consumers signed up for more services and “consumers really are sticking with those,” he said, showing a chart that indicated the level of video streaming services would remain stable from 2021 through an estimated 2022 and 2023.

It’s “more about services and less about the hardware itself,” he said, adding “I think the whole ad-supported business model” will help extend the entertainment streaming business.

He presented CTA research that showed that 59% of consumers planned to use video streaming more post-pandemic, with 36% planning to use it about the same and only 5% planning to use video streaming services less. As for video game services, 50% indicated they planned to use them more, 39% about the same and 10% less.

Source: CTA

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Game Developer Spry Fox Joins Netflix as In-House Studio

Spry Fox is joining Netflix to become its sixth in-house games studio, according to a blog post from Amir Rahimi, Netflix’s VP of game studios.

“Spry Fox is an award-winning independent studio focused on cozy, original games,” he wrote. “Their unique approach to game development and success with titles like Triple Town, Alphabear and Cozy Grove will help accelerate our creative development in another beloved genre and add to the growing variety of Netflix’s games catalog that will have something for everyone.”

“When David and I founded Spry Fox 12 years ago, our goal was to create a place where kind, creative people could make beautiful, original games in a supportive environment that brought happiness to the people who played them,” Daniel Cook, co-founder of Spry Fox, said in a statement. “After many heartfelt conversations, we are all excited about joining Netflix as an in-house game studio and building amazing games together.”

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“We look forward to creating games with a studio whose values — a relentless focus on employee and player joy — align closely with ours,” Rahimi wrote. “Our games journey has only just begun, but I’m proud of the foundational work we’ve been doing to build out our in-house creative capacity so that we can deliver the best possible games experience — including no ads and no in-app purchases — to our members as part of their membership.”

Gaming IP a Hot Commodity, According to Ampere Analysis Study

The number of adaptations of video game-based intellectual property (IP) by the TV and movie industries has been growing consistently over the past two decades, with 20 to 25 movies and TV series now released per year based on games, according to a new study by Ampere Analysis. The proportion of TV series in particular is increasing over time. 

An increasing proportion of these releases are attributable to subscription VOD platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon, which have been responsible for a number of original releases in the past five years, according to Ampere.

Historically, most franchise building across video and games sectors has focused on entertainment IP being adapted into spin-off games. In fact, over a 40-year period more than 2,000 games were released based on existing entertainment IP — movies, live-action or animated TV series and anime content. In the early 2000s, there were typically just a small handful of major adaptations based on video games, such as movies based on the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Resident Evil” and “Pokémon” franchises.

However, since the early 2010s, the volume of game adaptations into TV shows and movies has been rising, peaking in 2016. Examples include the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies and the “Arcane” animated TV series based on “League of Legends.”

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This boom in game adaptations has occurred during a period in which spending on film and TV content is at an all-time high, but a lot of revenue (especially box office) is concentrated around a small number of franchises. These are mostly owned by the major studios, leaving SVOD platforms searching for new sources of inspiration. At the same time, there has been an explosion of valuable original IP in the game world, through games such as “Roblox,” “League of Legends,” “Fortnite” and “Minecraft.”

Several high-profile game adaptations have performed very well recently, Ampere noted. These include “Arcane,” which remained in the Netflix top 10 for six consecutive weeks, and Uncharted (Sony), which grossed more than $400 million at the box office globally.

“From a cinematic viewpoint, studios recognize the value of utilizing gaming IP and brand recognition with pre-existing fan bases,” Ampere Analysis research manager Lottie Towler said in a statement. “SVOD platforms meanwhile also see it as an opportunity to create new original-based TV franchises, that differentiate them from competitors in an increasingly competitive market.”

Quality of content based on games has been rising, too, which in turn helps to increase the potential audience, Ampere noted. Since 2017, titles have been both higher-rated overall and critics’ ratings are reaching parity with audience ratings, implying a marked increase in overall quality without sacrificing audience enjoyment.

“We expect further growth in cross-format IP, particularly generated from games, and there is a consistent upward trend in game adaptations,” Towler said in a statement. “Of the 118 commissioned titles tracked since Q4 2018, just over half (63) are yet to be released, meaning the number of game adaptations available to consumers is only going to increase.”

Netflix Establishing Game Studio In Helsinki

Netflix is establishing an internal games studio in Helsinki, Finland, with Marko Lastikka as the studio director.

“This is another step in our vision to build a world-class games studio that will bring a variety of delightful and deeply engaging original games — with no ads and no in-app purchases — to our hundreds of millions of members around the world,” VP of game studios Amir Rahimi wrote in a blog post.

He wrote that Netflix is building the studio in Helsinki because it is “home to some of the best game talent in the world.”

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“This will be a games studio that we build from scratch, and our second games studio in Helsinki alongside Next Games, which became part of Netflix earlier this year,” he wrote. “Along with Night School Studio and Boss Fight Entertainment, these four studios, each with different strengths and focus areas, will develop games that will suit the diverse tastes of our members.”

Netflix and Ubisoft Announce Three Mobile Games Coming to the Streamer

Netflix and Ubisoft Sept. 10 announced plans to bring three mobile games from popular game franchises to Netflix, starting in 2023.

First announced at Ubisoft’s annual digital event Ubisoft Forward, the three games will expand on the “Valiant Hearts,” “Mighty Quest” and “Assassin’s Creed” universes and will be available exclusively on mobile to Netflix members around the world with no ads or in-app purchases. 

A new “Valiant Hearts” game, sequel to Ubisoft’s game Valiant Hearts: The Great War, is directed by the original core team and “will retain the same DNA while featuring a new story,” according to a Netflix press release. It will be available to Netflix members in January 2023. After The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot mobile game, “The Mighty Quest” will come to Netflix in 2023 with a new game. “This time, the game will draw inspiration from the roguelike genre to deliver an experience that celebrates the series’ premiere hack-and-slash combat in a fresh and highly replayable format,” according to the press release.

“Assassin’s Creed” fans will be able to immerse themselves in the universe on Netflix in more than one way: in addition to the previously announced live-action series, an all-new mobile game is being developed exclusively for Netflix.

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“We’re thrilled to work with Ubisoft, whose track record creating memorable worlds for fans is unmatched,” Mike Verdu, VP of games for Netflix, said in a statement. “This partnership will provide our members with exclusive access to some of the most exciting game franchises as we continue to build a catalog of great mobile games for our members around the world.”

“As we continue to create great experiences on all platforms, we’re glad to be partnering with such an innovative and creative partner as Netflix,” Jean-Michel Detoc, chief mobile officer for Ubisoft, said in a statement. “I believe that this partnership will be a great opportunity for Netflix members to further explore our worlds and universes on mobile.”

NPD: July Video Game Sales Declined 9% From 2021

Sales of video games, hardware and accessories fell 9% in July to $3.83 billion, from $4.17 billion in the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group. Software sales fell almost 10% to $3.66 billion, from $4.06 billion a year ago, while accessory spending dropped 22% to $148 million, from $189.7 million.

Hardware sales rebounded 12% with revenue of $411.3 million, from $362 million a year ago, driven by sales of the Sony PlayStation 5 console. Total video game software spending through July is off 10% at $26.8 billion, from $29.7 billion during the previous-year period. Accessory spending is off 15% at $1.2 billion, from $1.41 billion. Hardware spending is off 7% at $2.49 billion, from $2.67 billion.

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Top 10 Selling Video Games July 2022

Rank Rank Last Month Title Publisher
1 NEW MultiVersus Warner Bros. Interactive
2 1 Elden Ring Bandai Namco Entertainment
3 2 LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Warner Bros. Interactive
4 NEW Xenoblade Chronicles 3* Nintendo
5 11 Call of Duty: Vanguard Activision Blizzard (Corp)
6 4 MLB: The Show 22^ Multiple Video Game Manufacturers
7 6 Mario Kart 8* Nintendo
8 NEW Digimon Survive Bandai Namco Entertainment
9 10 Minecraft Multiple Video Game Manufacturers
10 12 F1 22 Electronic Arts

* Digital sales not included
^ Xbox & Switch digital sales not included

Netflix Launching Daily Trivia Game

Netflix is launching “Trivia Quest,” its first daily, interactive trivia series, based on etermax’s hit multi-platform franchise Trivia Crack, according to a blog post. 

“Starting April 1 — and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s Joke — we will launch one new episode every day throughout the month (30 total),” Andy Weil, VP of comedy series and interactive programming, wrote in a blog post. “Adapting Trivia Crack’s acclaimed game play, each episode features 24 questions (12 standard and 12 hard) across categories including science, history, entertainment, sports, art and geography. Each question is a multiple-choice play, with four potential answers to choose from.”

Trivia Quest also has a narrative twist, taking players on a mission to help the hero, Willy, rescue the animated citizens of Trivia Land from the Evil Rocky, who’s bent on hoarding all the knowledge in the world.

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“So it’s up to you, the player, to select the right answers and save the day,” he wrote, adding the series is “a complement and expansion of what we’re trying out with our mobile gaming initiative.”

Trivia Quest, produced by Daniel Calin and Vin Rubino of Sunday Sauce Productions, will be available on all supported devices, including smart-TVs; streaming media players; game consoles; computer browsers; Android phones and tablets; and iPhones, iPads and iPod touches.

Viewers can also replay quizzes in order to get to the correct answers and keep accumulating points. At certain milestones, the kidnapped characters are released from Rocky’s dungeons, with exclusive animations inspired by Netflix favorites. Each quiz also features a definitive ending.