2015 was a colossal year for video games. In just 12 months, we saw the release of blockbusters like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Bloodborne, Fallout 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight. Gamers were swarmed with multi-million dollar visuals, massive open-worlds and narratives that only ended when you wanted them to.
Then came Life is Strange. With a noticeably lower budget, an episodic story format and a high-school setting featuring two teenage girls, it was practically nothing like the Hollywood-imitating creations that surrounded it. And yet, it was an immediate hit, selling one million copies before the fourth episode of its five episode schedule was even released.
There was something refreshing in the story’s simplicity, made interesting by a time-traveling twist and choices that affected each character’s fate. With a narrative that tackled themes of mental illness, sexual identity and female friendship—all centered around high schoolers—it’s easy to see how it stood out amongst the masses.
So, after a successful release that soon garnered a passionate cult-following, it was no surprise when Square Enix announced Life is Strange was to receive its own TV adaptation.
At least, that was the plan. So what happened?
Legendary Entertainment Acquires Rights
2016 saw the first official announcement for a Life is Strange TV show, with Legendary Entertainment nabbing dibs for the adaptation. Square Enix even revealed Dontnod would be partnering with dj2 Entertainment during the creative process, though it was unclear how much input the game’s original creators would have.
As it happens, dj2 Entertainment played a part in the production of 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog film…which was announced in 2014. A six year production length is fairly uncommon, (Detective Pikachu only took three years, and had a similar approach to CGI mixed with live-action), which could explain the halt on their Life is Strange adaptation.
In late 2017, a Deadline report revealed dj2 Entertainment quietly sold their rights to Life is Strange to Hulu. Despite this, dj2 Entertainment’s website still claims they’re producing the series, which may be out of date.
Hulu themselves have yet to announce anything regarding the show, which makes the delay all the more worrying. From their silence, it can be assumed the project has yet to find a writer or director. Regardless, a three year search is no good sign.
Video game adaptations have a reputation for complicated development cycles. 2016’s Assassin’s Creed film took nearly seven years, and a Halo TV show has been in the works since 2013. Let’s not forget about the Uncharted film, which fans have been expecting for over a decade.
Everything considered, it’s likely that Life is Strange has fallen into the worst of development hells. Hulu doesn’t seem to keen on revealing anything about the show, and the original creators themselves are surprisingly quiet on the matter.
For now, it looks like Hulu is sitting on the rights for the franchise, but whether or not they plan to do anything with it remains to be seen. Despite the excitement fans held for the project, chances are it may very well be already dead—that is, if Hulu doesn’t drop a surprise announcement in the next coming months. But with the looming threat of COVID-19, production schedules are already tremulous enough for television projects already underway—let alone those trapped in pre-development. Unfortunately, appearances suggest this is a consequence there’s no turning back from.
Do you think there’s still hope?