You have probably heard of the popular video game, League of Legends. At a minimum, you’ve heard the distant screams of someone losing a match. It’s unavoidable because League It is an insanely popular game with a mountain of dedicated players willing to buy figurines and other merchandise.

But have you heard of Arcane? If you’ve been on Netflix recently, you’ve probably scrolled past the animated TV show. It’s gotten a lot of attention from League players and general TV viewers alike.

Arcane is a brilliant idea from a studio with some Heimerdinger-sized brains on staff. Basically, every video game adaptation into TV and film has failed. And yet League managed to pull off what just about no other studio could with Arcane – make a TV show based on a video game that people actually like.

Arcane downloadable wallpaper – available here

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

Why video game adaptations used to fail so badly

The video game market is one of the biggest and dominant forces in the entertainment industry. It’s expected to earn $268.8 billion annually in 2025, up from $178 billion in 2021.

But the companies that produce video games are gigantic, and they see opportunities in other industries as well. That’s why so many video games have been turned into TV shows or feature films. Making one of these is a great way for a company to expand beyond the video game market and pull in money from other industries as well.

Sadly for many years, the grubby hands of Hollywood have cursed most video game films. Sometimes, it’s possible to conceal a profit movie, but for video game movies and shows, they seem unable to present as anything other than cash grabs on marketable IPs.

This isn’t just me griping either. Check out this list of 48 video game movies on Rotten Tomatoes. Notice that only 4 of them are “certified fresh.”

However, recent films like Detective Pikachu and Angry Birds have succeeded because the directors and producers have cared about making good films. They are still cash grabs, to be sure, but the people involved in the making of the film understand the fans and try to please them. It doesn’t hurt that modern video game movies are pulling in grade-A celebrities.

There has also been a change in how people view video games and video gamers as a demographic. For a long time, video game films were made just for gamers. But now video games are being made for a global audience and directors are trying to make them into “four-quadrant films.”

All these changing forces, combined with a lot of care and attention has given Arcane a chance to really succeed. And that’s why it’s possible today for Arcane to proudly tout a 100% Rotten Tomato Rating.

Arcane is the show that League players actually wanted – and that counts for a lot

League of Legends has a massive 150 million users with 125 million of them playing a month. Considering that the game first came out in 2009, this is really impressive. These active players invest millions of hours into the game, resulting in the publisher, Riot Games making $1.75 billion in revenue in 2020. Not bad!

Over the years, Riot Games have improved their cinematics for their video game by employing Fortiche Production Studio. This bond between the studios made it feasible for Riot Games to eventually create a full-fledged TV show, something that many League players wanted.

Wonderfully, those seeds grew into Arcane with Fortiche Production doing the heavy lifting on visuals. Their history and ties with Riot Games made everyone sigh with relief as it reassured the fans that the League of Legends IP was not simply given to the lowest bidder who would draw up crude CGI stick figures and call it a day.

Good animation studio? Check.

Riot Games supervising the production to make sure it has all the qualities League players love?

Is it any wonder that the result was a visually stunning, well-produced TV show?

But Riot Games didn’t just make a good product (show) in the first place, they distributed it smartly too. Arcane was pitched to Netflix as a TV show instead of a film. That meant the show could be distributed to a wide audience without bearing the stigma of being “another video game-adapted movie.”

Picking Netflix was smart too. Even with intense competition, Netflix is still the number one streaming service in its category. Plus it saw a 100% increase in anime viewers during the pandemic of 2020.

Riot Games understands its audience and how to appeal beyond its target market as well

Riot Games understood that their target demographic was going to be League players, so they fully committed. Why not make the show for them first and foremost? They knew they had a large and loyal audience, and that they would be reaching them on a platform they already subscribe to.

The young adult crowd (18-34) makes up 75% of Netflix’s audience. But it’s also worth knowing that those ages 2-18 watch about 2 hours of streamable content per day as well. The average League player is around 13-17 years old. That’s also probably the age of the average Arcane viewer.

This alone would have been a solid enough strategy. Zero in on the target market. Make what they love. Make bank. It’s a fundamentally sound marketing plan.

What’s really interesting is that Riot Games was also able to make Arcane appealing to non-League players as well. They’ve been writing lore for all the champions in their game for 13 years. They know how to form a good story and it shows. They’re making the kind of show that young adults would want to see. (They’re also wisely keeping it TV-14 – not too childish, not too adult).

Riot Games used Twitch to great effect when the showed premiered

Before we get into the story of this great show, let’s talk about the way Riot Games chose to release it. They used Twitch really brilliantly for the global premiere, which was on November 6, 2021. They allowed Twitch streamers to co-stream the first three episodes.

Gamers love watching streamers play their favorite games. League players can get a whole lot of streamers on Twitch. As in, over 200 thousand. So you can imagine the amount of exposure a League-based show got when League players shared it on their channels.

Riot Games is already connected to Twitch pretty closely. When people watched their favorite content creators co-stream Arcane, they’d League loot for free just for watching via Twitch Prime.

The end result was a great arrangement for both companies. Twitch gained a bunch of new subscribers to Twitch Prime because people wanted to watch Arcane and get free loot. And, of course, because Twitch was profiting, they pushed the Arcane launch as much as possible. So the show made a massive splash upon its release. Everyone was a winner.

Riot Games then went on to patch another one of their popular games, Teamfight Tactics to have a theme that matched the ending of Arcane and to connect it to characters in the show.

So in the end, Arcane pulled people into League. League pulled people into Arcane. And even Teamfight Tactics got a little boost from it as well. Huge win!

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.

The story of Arcane is also great

Now all this wonderful promotion wouldn’t go very far if the story sucked. But fortunately, it doesn’t. In fact, it’s great.

The story of Arcane is the origin story of two well-known League of Legends characters: Vi and Jinx. League fans know what I’m talking about – they’re very familiar faces.

Heck, Jinx got a music video for her champion and it’s hella catchy. So suffice it to say, they started off on the right foot by focusing on popular characters.

(Also, it’s worth noting with the music video is from the same studio that made Arcane and you can see how far they’ve come since 2013.)

However, if you are unfamiliar with them, don’t worry. Even League players don’t read the lore for every champion in the game. Too time-consuming. The characters, after all, are easy to see as just vessels to be used to win the game at the end of the day.

Without giving away too much, the show hits all the right notes for something pitched to the teen demographic. There’s a history of conflict between Piltover and The Undercity in the game, and plenty of room to explore why that is. This conflict resembles the kind of modern dystopia that you would find in something like the Hunger Games. It’s a well-worn, well-loved angle.

Vi and Jinx fit right into this story, being charismatic and popular characters within the game who move around naturally in this dystopian society. I’ll just leave it at that because I’d hate to spoil the story.

And as if this compelling story were not enough, I mentioned above that the animation studio wanted to make a visually pleasing show. Well, they delivered a visual feast to the eyes that drew parallels to bombastic, outlandish, and jaw-dropping visuals of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

I mean, just check this video out and appreciate it. (But skip it if you’re in the middle of the show or you want to otherwise avoid spoilers.)

SPOILER ALERT FOR VIDEO BELOW

Arcane also delivers anime-style fights which are wonderfully realized magnum opuses of detailed animation. Fans of the game will finally get to see champions do things they do in the game but in much greater and more stylized detail.

How well did Arcane actually do?

Let’s talk numbers.

Saying Arcane did well is an understatement. That’s like saying the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy did alright.

Arcane managed to acquire 6 top 1 spots on Netflix and it acquired 72,590,000 hours viewed globally.

Very shortly after the initial release of Arcane.

The final three episodes sat around the number five, which was an incredible position to be in as it was against two mega-Marvel films Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

It also casually got a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating which is insane and it’s no surprise that it now has a second season in the works. (And thank goodness because after the ending of season one it would be a catastrophe to end it there.)

Final Thoughts

Riot Games pulled off something incredible. They not only released a good video game adaptation, but they shattered all expectations and elevated the animation film industry in the process. It’s not everyday that you see a piece of media becomes the standard that every other studio should now be trying to attain.

They understood that out of all the 13 years of League lore, that the story of Vi and Jinx was perfect for every demographic. They’re great action stars, but their story also pulls at your heartstrings, telling a deep and meaningful story of two sisters.

Finally, their marketing team blew it out of the water by tying their show together with Twitch co-streaming and then integrating the story of Arcane with their existing game Teamfight Tactics.

Arcane has made its mark on the industry as much as Jinx did on Piltover. I’m pretty sure this show will be taught in schools, and analyzed by animators because Arcane has become the legend of its league.

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.