Since it first screened on Netflix, the mini-series The Queen’s Gambit has been a huge hit. The show is based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name which is an American period, a coming-of-age drama.
The series was released on October 23, 2020, and after just four weeks, it became Netflix’s most-watched mini-series.
While a few outlets declared the show to be an “unlikely success,” only a month later, Netflix proudly announced that 62 million households were glued to their screens to watch the series, which made it “Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series to date.” The director Scott Frank said he was “delighted and dazed by the response.”
In the series, we follow the character Elizabeth Harmon – played by Anya Taylor-Joy – a young orphan genius who waltzes her way into a world dominated by men and rises through the ranks by defeating her opponents with her brilliant chess playing skills, genius mind, and competitive personality.Elizabeth, who goes by the name Beth, ends up in an orphanage at the age of eight, where she finds two ways to escape her reality; first through the game of chess which is taught to her by a creepy janitor in a dark basement, and second, taking some little green pills (Librium) given to her and all the orphans, which helps keep the children sedated, but which opens her mind and allows her to play chess games in her head.
It doesn’t take long before her genius mind is discovered while playing a game of chess. She wins her way up the rankings, earning money, beating grandmasters. Her fashion sense is to die for, and her big brown eyes have captivated the hearts of millions across the globe.
However, the series is not the only thing that has grown in popularity, and some may even argue that it has surpassed the lead actor herself – it’s the board game itself. Chess.
As well as Taylor-Joy’s phenomenal performance and Netflix’s depiction of the competitive game, chess is once again popular. It’s trendy, and it’s the perfect way to show your braininess to your friends.
In the same week that The Queen’s Gambit was released on Netflix, there was a significant rise in people searching for the term “chess” on Google’s search engine in the United Kingdom and many other countries.
It’s an important time for chess. This unexpected and instant rise in popularity tracks back to Netflix’s successful series. The UK’s Metro newspaper reported that the search for chess sets have increased by 273% on eBay just after ten days the show was launched.
Chess.com, the most popular chess website and app with more than 50 million participants, has had several million new members join since the show’s release, while app downloads of Chess on the iPhone have leapt to number three in the United States and number two in the United Kingdom.Covid-19 also has a role in this rise in popularity, having more free time and hit by boredom, it is the perfect time to give your attention to a new sport.
“Since the release of The Queen’s Gambit we have seen roughly 2.5 million new members join,” the director of business development of chess.com, Nick Barton told AFP.
Having millions of subscribers, Netflix does not rely on advertising, nor do they intend to; however, many marketing companies visualise a massive opportunity.
Netflix, already loosely work with advertisers via brand partnerships. An example is a deal between Coca-Cola and Netflix show Stranger Things. Therefore, the question rises about whether Netflix could become a potential advertising powerhouse?
There is no doubt that Netflix is officially a definitive modern media company, almost a symbol for the 21st Century technologies. It has changed the way we consume films television shows in society, and it is now one of the most crucial providers of digitally delivered media content. The number of subscribers on Netflix is growing each year by around 10%.
There are 12.4 million subscribers in the United Kingdom according to the latest figures and 59 million in the United States. It is safe to say that Netflix is the new media, and its influence is undoubtedly recognisable in various industries.
Experts call it ‘The Netflix Effect’, and according to Forbes magazine this phrase is referred to as “when a new series catapults and unknown actor to fame overnight. As a result of millions of people binge-watching a show.”
However, the term has grown to refer to several factors: curating the content, the content itself and its social and economic influence, and different representation. Due to lockdown and everyone being stuck indoors, the Netflix Effect has reached a new high.
An important theme the series tackles is sexism, and with a female protagonist, it challenges the rarity of female players in the competitive world of chess.
David Llada, chief marketing officer of the International Chess Federation said that only 16% of the country’s licensed players are in fact female in the United Kingdom. The effect of The Queen’s Gambit has created a shift for women in chess.
Chess is a cool game, now thanks to the Netflix Effect, more and more people are coming to realise that and have decided to be a part of the chess community.
Nona Gaprindashvili, a Georgian grandmaster, said “You have to be psychologically and physically strong, and have a drive for excellence.”
Feature image by Adrian Askew via Flickr CC
Edited by Jussi Grut and Emil Brierley.