Saturday 23 September 2023

RUMOUR: Netflix interested in developing a BALDUR'S GATE adaptation

File under "highly tenuous" for now, but a couple of outlets are reporting rumours that Netflix has expressed an interest in developing a live-action Baldur's Gate TV series, based on the hot video game property.

Baldur's Gate III launched on PC at the start of August and reportedly sold five million copies in its first few weeks on sale (before it even launched on console), making it a remarkable success for something of an old-fashioned, party-based roleplaying game with turn-based combat. The game's critical acclaim was also off the charts, with the game becoming PC Gamer's highest-rated title in two decades. The game's voice cast have become almost immediate, breakout stars, and the memes have been constantly flowing since the game's launch.

The Baldur's Gate series comprises three games and three expansions in the core series and three games in the spin-off Dark Alliance series, as well as associated comics and roleplaying products. The series revolves around the titular city of Baldur's Gate, a great port on the River Chionthar and a hugely important trading post for the Sword Coast region of the continent of Faerûn. The city keeps getting into various scrapes, but of course handy adventurers keep showing up to help save it.

The series is set within the much wider Forgotten Realms fantasy universe, created by Canadian writer Ed Greenwood in the 1960s as a setting for short stories and worldbuilding as a hobby. He sold the setting to TSR, Inc., the company behind Dungeons & Dragons, to be turned in an official D&D setting in 1987. Continuously in print since, the setting has sold millions of roleplaying products, tens of millions of novels and has been the setting for almost three hundred books and over fifty video games. Ed invented the city of Baldur's Gate in 1968 for a short story called "The Box That Crept on Talons," whilst it got its first mention in print in Dragon Magazine #81 (January 1984), as the home of a wizard who is an expert on basilisks.

The video game Baldur's Gate was released in December 1998, having been developed by Canadian video game studio BioWare and published by Interplay. A smash-hit success, Baldur's Gate told the story of the Bhaalspawn, a number of progeny of the slain God of Murder, Bhaal, and the various attempts to resurrect Bhaal, a prospect welcomed by some of these progeny but fiercely resisted by others. Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn followed in 2000, and both games had expansions: Tales of the Sword Coast (1999) and Throne of Bhaal (2001). Remasters of the two games, known as Enhanced Editions, were released in 2012 and 2013 respectively. An interquel expansion set between the two games, Siege of Dragonspear, was released in 2016. Baldur's Gate III was developed by Larian Studios in Belgium.

The prospects of a Netflix-produced series are dubious for the time being. Hasbro's TV and film division, eOne, currently has the TV and film rights to all D&D and Forgotten Realms related products. They recently produced the film Honor Among Thieves set in the same world, and are developing a number of further projects, including potentially an adaptation of R.A. Salvatore's mega-selling Legend of Drizzt book series, as well as a possible project based on the popular Dragonlance world of Krynn. eOne is developing these projects with Paramount, for potential airing on their Paramount+ streaming service. If a Baldur's Gate TV project was to be developed, Paramount+ might be a better bet than Netflix at this time.

However, Hasbro have also been entertaining offers to divest eOne (either spinning it off as an independent company or selling it outright, possibly to Paramount), in which case it is unclear what would happen to the D&D rights. It is possible they might entertain an alliance with Netflix at that stage.

Given the massive popularity of Baldur's Gate III, I wouldn't be surprised to see such a project go into development, but given the game is around 100 hours long with a massive cast and a story that can vary immensely from player to play based on the cumulative weight of hundreds of choices, it will certainly be a formidable challenge to bring the story to the screen.

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