‘The Last of Us’, HBO’s third-highest debut of all time: why the video game-based series is so successful

The video game adaptation of The Last of Us eclipses some of HBO’s best-known series.

WarnerMedia has revealed that the video game adaptation has racked up 4.7 million viewers on conventional TV and streaming for its January 15 premiere. It’s HBO’s third-highest debut in the streaming era.

Only the Game of Thrones spinoff, House of the Dragon, had a higher share, with over 9.9 million, and the Boardwalk Empire launch, with 4.81 million viewers since 2010 (when HBO Go launched).

The Last of Us, a resounding success

The Last of Us nearly “doubled” the audience for the season two launch of Euphoria, according to WarnerMedia. While it’s not yet clear how well the game-based series will do in the long run, the company notes that Sunday night viewing for an HBO series tends to account for 20 to 40 percent of the total gross audience per episode.

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The strong initial performance is not surprising. In addition to the long-running campaign, The Last of Us has well-known names in the cast (including Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey and “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin), as well as the benefit of a consecrated fan base from the Naughty Dog game franchise. Plus, availability on HBO Max and a good early critical response: it results in many people willing to watch the first episode.

It’s too early to tell if The Last of Us will be the most popular game-based TV series to date. It has to compete with such successes as Netflix’s League of Legends series Arcane, among others. However, initial viewing data suggests that this bet on a lavish production has paid off for all involved.

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In this light, it’s easy to see why Sony was willing to commit to TV series for God of War and Horizon. As with rival shows like Halo, this is a chance to expand interest in a franchise to more people.

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