Done Deal? Amazon’s Epic Leap into the Warhammer 40k Universe

Amazon Studios to take on Warhammer with Henry Cavill

The world’s most popular miniature tabletop wargame looks set to do battle on our screens with Henry Cavill and Amazon now marching into development of several new films and TV shows. But is it a done deal?

Amazon has confirmed its collaboration with Games Workshop to adapt the iconic Warhammer 40,000 universe into a series of films and TV shows. This venture marks a significant stride for Amazon Studios into game adaptations, particularly with the enlistment of Henry Cavill, a well-known face in both the film and geek culture, as an executive producer and potential lead.

The development of the Warhammer 40,000 universe into multiple films and television series, by newly integrated Amazon Studios and MGM, was officially announced through a press release from Games Workshop on December 16, 2023. News broke after a year-long negotiation process.

The tentative deal includes a grant of exclusive rights for Amazon to develop films and television series set within the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and the potential for Amazon to license rights following the production of the initial film or television series. In its press release, Games Workshop stated that it will work with Amazon for 12 months to agree “creative guidelines” for films and TV shows to be developed by Amazon. Importantly, the company stated, “The agreement will only proceed once the creative guidelines are mutually agreed between Games Workshop and Amazon.”

Who’s Talking?

Engadget broke the news, detailing the agreement between Amazon and Games Workshop. This deal grants Amazon exclusive rights to develop films and TV shows based on the Warhammer 40,000 intellectual property. Games Workshop has hinted at an “elite band” of screenwriters, each harbouring a unique passion for Warhammer, to spearhead this ambitious project​​.

The announcement was picked up by most news outlets, including the BBC and the New York Times.

“Warhammer 40,000 has captured the imagination of fans of all ages, from all walks of life, and all over the world,” Variety quotes Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon and MGM Studios as saying. “We are excited to work with Henry, Vertigo Entertainment, and Games Workshop across our Amazon entertainment businesses on this brilliant, immersive franchise for our global customers to experience for years to come.”

Gizmodo and GameSpot echoed this announcement, emphasising the formal signing and Cavill’s involvement, bringing a sense of reality to a long-anticipated dream for fans of the game.

IGN and Yahoo further amplified the excitement, portraying the adaptation as one of Amazon Prime Video’s most thrilling upcoming endeavours. The project is not just a mere adaptation but a potential cornerstone for Amazon Prime’s future library and programming​​​​.

Looper and Meristation provided deeper insights into the project’s development. They noted the absence of a release date and lack of specifics on the plot, underscoring the early stages of this grand undertaking. However, what stands out is Cavill’s dual role as both the star and a guiding force behind the scenes. His deep-rooted love for the Warhammer universe is expected to infuse authenticity and passion into the adaptation​​​​​​.

Why It Matters

Negotiations for this deal have been long and slow.

The announcement of the collaboration was initially made in December 2022 with actor Henry Cavill, a devoted Warhammer 40K enthusiast, being a significant driving force behind adapting the turn-based, tabletop game’s universe. Cavill is set to contribute as an executive producer and potentially appear in the upcoming projects.

However, Amazon’s treatment of the game’s themes and characters is clearly a sensitive issue for Games Workshop, which emphasised the tentative nature of the deal pending agreement on development guidelines. The tentative nature of the deal was not emphasised by any of the major news outlets.

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Games Workshop emphasised the complexity and scale of TV and film production, noting that it’s not unusual for projects to take two to three years in the development stage before something is ready to be screened. They assured fans that despite the lengthy development process, they would provide updates and snippets as soon as they were able​​.

Amazon’s Warhammer 40,000 project is more than just another addition to the growing list of game adaptations by Hollywood studios. Studio bosses have long been attracted to the built-in audiences associated with popular video games. From Laura Croft to The Last of Us, video game adaptations have provided considerable film and television franchise material, and profits. But tabletop games have proven to be a more elusive source of screen entertainment.

The name recognition for the most popular tabletop games, such as Warhammer 40,000 and Hasboro’s Dungeons & Dragons is a substantial attraction to film and television audiences. Hollywood’s investment into adaptation and franchise development, however, is both significant and highly sensitive to comparable box office statistics. 

Universal’s adaptation of Hasboro’s Battleship board game may have hindered serious discussion on tabletop gaming. Released in 2012, Battleship was a box office disaster with a Rotten Tomatoes score of only 34%. The results of that release placed discussions for the adaptation of Hasboro’s Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game into turmoil when development began in 2013. This followed critical and financial flops in earlier attempts such as as the 2000 release of Dungeons & Dragons, which both lost money and received a 9% Rotten Tomatoes score.

After ten years in development, and moving from Universal Pictures to Warner Bros. and finally to Paramount Pictures, the latest attempt at adaptation, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, has proven the argument in favour of tabletop game adaptation. Staring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, this film raked in US$208.2 million at the box office with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 91%.

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is, arguably, a richer and more diverse content universe for franchise film and TV, featuring a complex tapestry of futuristic warfare, political intrigue, and cosmic horror. By bringing this universe to the screen, Amazon is not just adapting a game but is reviving a genre, offering a fresh narrative to the fantasy/sci-fi domain.

This adaptation has the potential to introduce Warhammer 40,000 to a broader audience. While the tabletop game enjoys a cult following, particularly in the UK, a film and TV adaptation could transcend the niche market, attracting new players who may not be familiar with the game but are drawn to it through film and TV.

The key for this content will be agreement between Games Workshop and Amazon on the guidelines for adapting this rich universe, played on a tabletop, into high quality film and television content. 

Watch this space.

1 Comment

  1. I’m eager to see how well Amazon adapts this huge pool of IP into commercial film and television. It’s interesting that Games Workshop is in a position to hold Amazon to an obligation to agree guidelines on adaptation. I hope the result adds to both the gaming side and the content side. It seems it doesn’t happen as often as it could.

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