In another sign that the serialized GenZ-friendly comics published on mobile platforms such as Webtoon are a rising force in the media industry, Leeanne M. Krecic’s megapopular romantic comedy series Let’s Play just got a development deal from Allnighter to produce a live-action television series, the company announced today.
Let’s Play follows the personal and professional adventures of Sam, a 20-something female video game developer, taking an intimate, affectionate and often satirical view of the male-dominated industry. Things get interesting when Sam’s passion project gets savaged by an online game reviewer going by the handle “Marshall Law” – who turns out to be Sam’s new next-door neighbor. The series takes a light but thoughtful touch on a hot-button issue, playing up the romantic comedy elements in the manner of a Friends or New Girl aimed at the generation raised on YouTube and Twitch.
“I created Let’s Play because I was looking for characters like me – die-hard gamers, heartfelt romantics, and young women with dreams of success on their own terms – but couldn’t find them represented anywhere in the pop culture of the moment. So, I decided that was a story that I would have to tell for myself,” said Krecic. “On its surface, Let’s Play is a love triangle, but it’s also a contemporary, emotionally sophisticated reinvention of the form – one that soon will allow young women to see the loves, aspirations, and setbacks of people like themselves celebrated on screen at long last.”
Let’s Play debuted on Webtoon in 2016 and quickly struck a chord with readers, building a subscriber base of 3.6 million weekly readers. Considering that best-selling print comics struggle to sell 100,000 copies per month, that’s a staggering readership.
Because Webtoon and similar mobile-first platforms distribute comics outside of traditional channels and measure revenue differently, and because Webtoon readers tend to fit a younger, more female demographic than habitués of brick and mortar comic book shops, the success of this kind of work looks surprising to the legacy comics publishing industry. But lately we’re seeing more media deals, more migrations of mobile-first comics into print (Let’s Play has a print edition from Rocketship Entertainment), and the economic power of the Webtoon community showing up in huge numbers to back crowdfunded projects from favored creators. Krecic has spearheaded two Kickstarter campaigns that amassed nearly $1 million in contributions and currently rank in the top 20 most successful Kickstarters of all time.
Allnighter announced it will bring the story to television in collaboration with Krecic. Allnighter partners Amanda Kruse, Dinesh Shamdasani, and Hunter Gorinson will executive produce the series alongside Krecic and Tom Akel. Gorinson says the team will soon be approaching high-profile showrunner talent for the adaptation.
“Let’s Play has an incredible fanbase of ardent readers – the vast majority of them, young women – who have found within it exactly what Leeanne hoped to create: a community. I am one of them myself and discovering Let’s Play was a revelation,” said Allnighter co-founder and producer Amanda Kruse. “It’s an absolute honor to play a role in helping bring this story to screen.”
For the past decade or more, Hollywood has thrown piles of money at adapting comic book and graphic novel properties from the most successful to the most obscure. Meanwhile, webtoons, which became the dominant format for comics in South Korea almost a decade ago, have gained a massive following without a lot of air cover from big media in the West. Part of this is due to large expenditures in marketing and user acquisition by Webtoon and its parent company Naver (which recently acquired the popular prose fiction site Wattpad for an estimated $600M in an indication of its seriousness in dominating this emerging space) that have turned Webtoon into the largest comics distribution platform in the world.
But part is because work by creators like Krecic in genres that are not well-served by the traditional comics industry is finding its way directly to a new generation of readers, and they are feeling seen and validated by those stories. That’s a powerful dynamic with big implications for Hollywood over the coming decade.
In Webtoon’s home market, the toon-to-screen pipeline is already well established, with lots of top K-dramas adapted from properties that originated on the site. Here in the US, Allnighter – a studio with deep roots in the comics industry – is among the first to recognize the opportunities that work like this presents. But I don’t think they will be the last.