Netflix needed to close out 2019 with a major win. The streaming service raised its subscription prices last year, lost several of its popular acquired series, and had to contend with Disney+, never mind the Peacock and HBO Max platforms that will be launching in the coming months.
Now, the streaming service appears to have found its winner in “The Witcher.” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings claimed that 76 million households viewed the series within four weeks of its December 20 release during Netflix’s Q4 earnings report. Bear in mind that Netflix’s numbers are based on the fuzziest of math and are unverified by independent sources, but Hastings’ claim would mean that as many as 46 percent of Netflix’s entire global subscriber base tuned in to Netflix’s Henry Cavill-led original series, which is based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s dark fantasy novels.
What can be confirmed is that it’s not just the streaming service that is reaping rewards from the franchise. The Netflix series has allowed “The Witcher” to secure a foothold across the entertainment industry in a way that few other strictly adult-oriented franchises have ever successfully pulled off.
For one, fans want the learn more about the source material: Orbit Books, which publishes “The Witcher” novels, recently released a statement noting that it would reprint over 500,000 copies of Sapkowski’s books to meet the renewed demand.
Sapkowski’s novels have already been adapted into a trilogy of critically acclaimed video games, and those appear to be enjoying a renaissance, as well. Steamcharts, which tracks player numbers on Steam, the leading platform for PC gaming, noted that “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” game had over 100,000 concurrent players following the release of the Netflix series, which is more than the number of concurrent players when the game was released in 2015.
Steamcharts is not affiliated with Steam and while that six-figure peak has since passed, Steam’s official player statistics — the platform releases daily player numbers but doesn’t archive the data — indicates that the “Witcher” craze has hardly subsided. At press time there were over 45,000 individuals playing the five-year-old “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” on Steam, according to the platform’s data.
“The Witcher” premiered a few months after the divisive “Game of Thrones” Season 8 left fantasy TV fans hungry for a new adventure, and though reviews weren’t universally positive, IndieWire’s Ben Travers lauded the show’s unrelenting strangeness and captivating performances in his Season 1 review.
During the earnings call Hastings championed “The Witcher” as “a massive new franchise that we’ll develop season after season” — Netflix renewed the series for a second season well ahead of its Season 1 premiere last year.
There’s no word on when “The Witcher” Season 2 will premiere, but Netflix is already making good on its franchising promise: The company greenlit “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf,” an animated feature film from “The Witcher” producers Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Beau DeMayo, early Wednesday.