The Last of Us hooked audiences before it premiered

HBO’s adaptation of the hit video game captured 4.7 million viewers on its premiere night.

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The Last of Us hooked audiences before it premiered


The Future. HBO’s adaptation of the hit video game captured 4.7 million viewers on its premiere night — making it the second-largest debut on the network since 2010. The marketing team helped achieve this record by dripping content to the IP’s fans over two years. As streamers leverage video game fandom to enhance their viewership, they could ultimately monetize gaming through a subscription model — adding a new dimension to their film and TV packages.

Fans first
Before HBO went mainstream, it breadcrumbed content “to show [fans that it was] going to stay faithful to the source material, but with the premium quality of HBO,” Emily Giannusa, VP of marketing, told Ad Age.

  • HBO partnered with game developer Naughty Dog to drop the show’s first image in 2021 and its first trailer in 2022 (which harvested 57 million organic views within 72 hours) during The Last of Us Day, an annual tradition for fans to commemorate the fictional pandemic’s outbreak on September 26.
  • The network continued to drop teasers throughout 2022, including an exclusive sneak-peak image shared with Playstation for Summer Game Fest.

Newbies next
Through IRL and virtual immersion experiences, HBO reached people beyond the core video game fandom.

  • At Brazil’s Comic Con, the network recreated an iconic setting from the game featuring a first look at one of the franchise’s monsters, which led to Pedro Pascal trending on Brazilian Twitter.
  • HBO took over NYC’s Angelika Film Center for a series of early screenings, where actors sent guests on missions to identify quarantine zones and decode radio broadcasts. 1,500 people attended the sold-out event over seven screenings.
  • A Snapchat lens transformed landmarks like LA’s Chinese Theatre into post-apocalyptic scenes, while a branded effect on TikTok placed fungal overgrowth into users’ environments.

Final destination
If the early success of The Last of Us proves anything, it’s that fans might establish video games as the new frontier of streaming. And we’re along for the ride.

Kait Cunniff

Kait is a Chicago-raised, LA-based writer and NYU film grad. She created an anthology TV series for Refinery29 and worked as a development executive for John Wells Productions, Jon M. Chu, and Paramount Pictures. Her favorite color is orange.


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