Netflix’s “Squid Game” is a nine-part thriller, where cash-strapped candidates play deadly children’s games in order to try win a prize of 4.56 billion won ($3.8 million) or pay with their lives if they lost. If you heard the premise of the show prior to release, you might not have guessed it would become a global, record-breaking sensation, but that’s exactly what it’s done.
“Squid Game,” was released on September 17 and has since captured the imagination of audiences around the world. The grim fictional drama series is based in South Korea and tells the story of 456 debt-ridden contestants who are brought to an island off the South Korean Peninsula for horrifying challenges, mixing social allegory with extreme violence.
The story follows the players including Seong Gi-hun, a laid-back mechanic from a broken family who has struggled with bankruptcy and gambling problems, alongside a variety of debt-ridden characters who are forced to compete for money or face certain death if they loose.
The gory scenes in ‘Squid Game’ show everyday citizens challenged in Children’s Games with very serious consequences, the choice of life-changing money or their life. The concept clearly struck a chord with viewers, on TikTok, “#SquidGame” has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times. Elsewhere online it spawned millions of memes across social media platforms and almost everyone with an Instagram account has seen someone share a video with the ‘Red Light, Green Light’ Filter that is based on one of the series most iconic scenes.
Netflix offers subtitles for the show in 37 languages and dubs in 34 languages. Some watchers who speak Korean, say the series authenticity and foreign viewers essentially “watched a different show”, while some say the brilliance of it was lost due to bad translations, it hasn’t hindered it from being a global sensation.
Hwang Dong-hyuk, the creator of the series and director, told Variety that he came up with the idea for the series while filming in 2008. However, he struggled for years to find anyone who wanted to pick it up and help him bring it to life.
Now Squidgame is Netflix’s most-watched original series ever released, the service revealed this week. The opening month saw a staggering, 111 million viewers tune in during in the first month, surpassing previous record holder Bridgerton, which had 82 million viewers when it launched last December.
The success was unprecedented, and while Netflix may have expected it to be a success in South Korea, the global popularity was most certainly not predicted. Netflix has banked big on Korean content, reportedly investing $700 million between 2015 and 2020. This year, the company says it plans to release more Korean series and films and set up two production facilities in the country.