A "Bright" Future for a Shadowy Game
  • A "Bright" Future for a Shadowy Game


    Role-playing games as inspiration for modern media is nothing new -- White Wolf was far ahead of the curve with its World of Darkness setting featuring a nightmarish blend of vampires and werewolves, and now Dungeons & Dragons is having a moment with a rich variety of fantasy-themed media. So perhaps it's not surprising that a combination of the two has arrived from Netflix titled Bright, and it looks an awful lot like another popular role-playing game.


    From the Shadows...

    Judging from the trailer, Bright is a typical buddy-cop action flick, with one twist:

    Humans, Orcs, Elves... everybody is just trying to get along. Get ready for the world of Bright, a new Netflix Original Film, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton.

    If this sounds familiar to tabletop role-players, it's because Shadowrun did it first. Assuming the film is set in modern times, the setting even slots into Shadowrun's timeline. In 2011, human babies were born with a condition described as Unexplained Genetic Expression, in which mothers gave birth to children that looked like elves and dwarves. Goblinization (human spontaneously changing into orks and trolls) comes later in 2021.

    Given the ascendance of all things fantasy, it was probably only a matter of time before fantasy elements were included in modern genres. Of course, Shadowrun had combined cyberpunk, urban fantasy, and horror much earlier when the game first debuted in 1989.

    A Bright Idea

    Netflix paid big bucks for Bright:

    A two-week bidding battle has finally ended and Netflix has won Bright, a Max Landis scripted cop thriller with fantastical elements and tent pole potential that David Ayer will direct, with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton starring. This is a game changer: Netflix’s Ted Sarandos got a big ticket feature, and he paid a premium for it. I’m told that Netflix will invest north of $90M in the entire package. That includes north of $3M for the Landis script, making it one of the largest spec deals for a writer in years. The film will cost around $45M to shoot, meaning that just about that much will be invested in talent fees, and also to buy out their back ends; while there could be a limited theatrical launch day and date, Netflix is doing this to serve subscribers to its streaming service in countries around the world and so there will be no backend residuals. This deal dwarfs by one-third the premium that Netflix paid to get the David Michod-directed War Machine, starring and produced by Brad Pitt.

    This is literally a big deal, because Netflix isn't just betting on a movie, it's betting on a franchise:

    This is a different kind of coup for Netflix. The package brought heat the moment Deadline revealed it was coming to market on March 2, because Ayer and Smith just completed the Warner Bros/DC film Suicide Squad, which is expected to be a major summer hit. Though it will be R-rated, Bright is much closer to Men in Black‘s commercial qualities and VFX than anything Netflix has done before, and it is meant to launch a franchise.

    If the movie does well, there could be a Shadowrun-style streaming series. The most obvious parallel is Alien Nation, which featured a similar premise (aliens living among humans; two mismatched cops of each species working together) and also went on to launch a successful television series.

    What This Means for Shadowrun

    Although the Shadowrun license has changed hands several times from FASA to WizKids to Topps, it has spread well beyond its tabletop incarnation including a card game, eight video games, an action figure game, magazines, an art book, and over 50 novels. The game is currently on its 5th Edition released back in 2013.

    With the arrival of a similar franchise on Netflix, the time might be right for a new edition -- or it might open up other multimedia opportunities for the nearly 30-year-old setting. The success of Bright will be a litmus test -- for both Netflix and gamers -- to determine the viability of a Shadowrun-esque setting in future media.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. Lwaxy -
      Most people haven't even converted to 5e yet, and it has only been a few years. We definitely do not need a new edition, not for another 10 years if ever.
    1. Inchoroi's Avatar
      Inchoroi -
      As soon as I saw the trailer for this, I went, "Hey. This is Shadowrun. They're smart to not call it Shadowrun."
    1. Zarithar's Avatar
      Zarithar -
      I'm really looking forward to this. The trailer had the right mix of humor and gravitas in my opinion... and the "look" of both the fantastical and real-world elements seemed spot on. I hope it doesn't disappoint.
    1. unnatural 20's Avatar
      unnatural 20 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lwaxy View Post
      Most people haven't even converted to 5e yet, and it has only been a few years. We definitely do not need a new edition, not for another 10 years if ever.
      I wouldn't mind a new publisher. I don't mean to sound snark. I just long for more quality control.
    1. Bravesteel's Avatar
      Bravesteel -
      I'm certainly interested in this movie, but I doubt it will help Shadowrun as the brand seems half-dead.
    1. Deodand's Avatar
      Deodand -
      When I saw the first trailer, "...this looks like a cross between Shadowrun and Alien Nation..." was the first thing that popped into my head. Looking forward to the next trailer, and the whole film.
    1. AriochQ's Avatar
      AriochQ -
      Another way of looking at it is that the current Shadowrun license holder missed the boat. If the market is ready for a Shadowrunesque movie/series (which I think it is), they should have been pursuing that option. RPG's make money, but movies/television make big money.
    1. Stilvan's Avatar
      Stilvan -
      This fits quite well with an obscure 2003 WOTC D20 supplement from the 3.0 era called Urban Arcana (wikipedia link). It was a campaign setting for WOTC's previously published D20 Modern rules. Like Bright it is essentially Shadowrun without the cyberpunk. The D20 modern rules had some rough edges but were pretty good at delivering table satisfaction once you came to grips with those. Worth checking out if you haven't seen it before.
    1. Tyranthraxus's Avatar
      Tyranthraxus -
      Looks Interesting. Always thought there was room for this sorta stuff on tv. Keep it somewhat grounded and you are onto a winner.
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by AriochQ View Post
      Another way of looking at it is that the current Shadowrun license holder missed the boat. If the market is ready for a Shadowrunesque movie/series (which I think it is), they should have been pursuing that option. RPG's make money, but movies/television make big money.
      The rights for both Shadowrun and BattleTech are owned by Topps (yes, the baseball card company) from their purchase of WizKids in 2003. Topps closed down WizKids in 2008, which was then purchased by the current owners NECA, but Topps kept the rights to both games.

      Therefore, Catalyst Game Labs (who currently published Shadowrun) has absolutely zero control over movies, TV, or other media rights. That's all Topps.

      And just don't..don't get me started on the mess that is the video game rights. That'll take way too long to type out and I have to do it anyway for tomorrow's News Digest column
    1. Hutchimus Prime's Avatar
      Hutchimus Prime -
      Max Landis scripted
      Enough to keep me away...
    1. Hutchimus Prime's Avatar
      Hutchimus Prime -
      double post
    1. barasawa -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lwaxy View Post
      Most people haven't even converted to 5e yet, and it has only been a few years. We definitely do not need a new edition, not for another 10 years if ever.
      As it seems most people think 5th edition is the worst one ever made by far, perhaps a better edition would actually be a good thing and pull Shadowrun out of the hole they dug with 5th.
    1. RafaelLVX's Avatar
      RafaelLVX -
      It's clearly inspired in Shadowrun, but does it actually license anything from Shadowrun into film? Why isn't this clear?
    1. unnatural 20's Avatar
      unnatural 20 -
      Quote Originally Posted by barasawa View Post
      As it seems most people think 5th edition is the worst one ever made by far, perhaps a better edition would actually be a good thing and pull Shadowrun out of the hole they dug with 5th.
      Maybe I'm visiting the wrong forums, I thought 5th edition was pretty well received? Core I mean. The errors and quality control in various splats seem to be a huge issue.
    1. barasawa -
      Quote Originally Posted by unnatural 20 View Post
      Maybe I'm visiting the wrong forums, I thought 5th edition was pretty well received? Core I mean. The errors and quality control in various splats seem to be a huge issue.
      Right forum, and that's fine. I found SR5th disappointing, but I figured that was just me. I started hitting some forums a few months back, and the comments I saw were overwhelmingly negative. Maybe that's just the opinions of a bunch of grognards, but it's still just opinions. If you like it, and your group likes it, there's nothing to stop you from playing it! Having fun is the main goal of gaming in the first place, so have at it.
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