Cyberpunk: Edgerunners - Anime as a Marketing Tool

Releasing on Netflix at the tail end of the Summer 2022 season, produced by CD Projekt Red, the developers of Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher game series, and created by studio Trigger, most famous for Kill la Kill, Star Wars Visions, and Darling in the FranXX. The director for the series, Hiroyuki Imaishi, has also worked on huge titles like Evangelion, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and FLCL, so the backing behind this anime was stacked from the start. Additionally, the adaptation of a game world has proven a successful marketing tool in the past, with adaptations of classics like Pokemon being used to promote a new game, or passion projects like Arcane leading to a spike in the player count for the likes of League of Legends, so today we will explore anime as a game marketing tool.

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is set in the same world as CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 game and follows David Martinez as he navigates the dystopian world of Night City after his mother's death, trying to pay rent, get through school, and avoid trouble. After using a military-grade cybernetic implant called a Sandevistan that slows time for him to get his cyber-wallet back from a pickpocket on the train, David impresses the woman, Lucy. So David goes to join her gang of Edgerunners, led by the tank of a being Maine, and gets embroiled in a corporate showdown between Militech and Arisaka Corp as they battle for dominance of Night City.

Not a Surefire Method

Not every video game adaptation into anime has been successful in promoting the game, even if the anime has been well-received or lauded for its aesthetics. On the bottom end of the spectrum, we have the likes of the Dragon’s Dogma Netflix adaptation from 2020 based on the RPG of the same name, which suffered from janky 3D modelling and was received poorly by fans and interested parties alike. Much the same, the early 2000’s adaptation of Devil May Cry, a beloved game franchise following the stoic and aloof demon hunter Dante, relied on corny voice lines familiar to video game fans but fell flat to external audiences.

Other iterations turn out as good anime that act as fan service for those that enjoy the game, much like the ‘Tales of’ series, with the Tales of Zestiria the X being the most recent in 2016 and doing enough for fans of the game series, but not making waves into the mainstream. On the flip side, the adaptation of the likes of Steins;Gate, one of the most critically acclaimed anime of the 2010s, brought some new blood to the visual novel but just stood out as a stellar anime in its own right.

When It Works, It Works

Video game adaptations have done well resulting in considerable spikes in player counts. Recently, the likes of Arcane have shown the merit behind game studios venturing into the world of anime. With a huge budget and dropping on a platform like Netflix, blend the visuals and storytelling necessary for a big title to hit hardcore fans' desire to see their game world brought to life and mainstream fans to gravitate towards playing the video game.

This has been the case for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Taking a title like Cyberpunk 2077, which had a rocky launch seeing the game pulled from the Playstation store for a period due to bugs making it unplayable, and an innumerable amount of memes about how nothing worked the way it was designed. Enter Netflix and Studio Trigger, adapting a standalone story that moved away from the characters of the main Cyberpunk 2077 story but with enough familiarity in the setting with the likes of the Afterlife bar, now serving the David Martinez drink in-game, to keep original fans invested. The heartwrenching journey of David and Lucy navigating the dystopia of Night City to achieve their goals has been enough to see the game return to the Steam top sellers page, even if people are only buying it to have a crack at getting revenge on Adam Smasher.

Final Thoughts

Adapting a video game into anime is risky for any developer studio. Arcane and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners have illustrated that with enough thought put into the story and dropping it on a popular platform can result in the best marketing play since TV ads during Saturday morning cartoons. What do you think of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners? Are there any anime adaptations that changed the fate of a game series? Let us know in the comments!

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Author: Lewis Williamson

A researcher from Ireland, I watch and write about anime in my spare time, and I also play a lot of video games.

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