Squid Game is now Netflix’s No 1 show – a fact the streaming company confirmed this week. The dystopian series from South Korea tells the story of what happens when contestants who are deeply in need of money, play deadly children’s games to win cash prizes. It’s been viewed by 111 million accounts since debuting on Netflix on September 17.
To give this number some context, Netflix announced earlier this year that 82 million households watched Bridgerton in the first 29 days following its Christmas debut – and Squid Game has surpassed this number in a shorter amount of time.
The series is No 1 on Netflix’s Top 10 lists in 94 countries around the world, including Australia. It’s the platform’s first-ever Korean series to reach No 1 in the United States. It’s made waves around the world, pulling us in with its captivating and intense visuals unfolding before our eyes.
On social media, Squid Game is taking pop culture by storm. Memes, TikToks, Reddit and Twitter threads — it seems like everybody’s talking about this series. But you should know – this show’s not for the fainthearted and it’s definitely not for kids. The thrilling series is ultra-violent and many people have said while it’s ‘deeply disturbing’ on some levels it’s also ‘unturnoffable.’
So what’s it’s all about?
The new series is about 456 debt-riddled people who are competing in a series of children’s games in the hopes of winning enough cash to cure their financial woes. These people are first tricked into this deadly tournament of children’s games, but then as the games go on, many of them volunteer to come back because they realise the games may be their only chance to win the money they need to survive.
Big dollars at stake but the odds of survival aren’t good. As you watch it you’ll probably get some flashbacks from the Hunger Games. But Squid Game doesn’t feel like a copycat – it’s a well-done drama/horror series. Rich backstories are developed not just for the desperate contestants, but for those running the game.
The nine episodes of this show are definitely bingeable and it’s easy to see why this thriller has become Netflix’s No 1 show. And make sure you don’t miss the final episode because it’s a real roller-coaster.
Netflix’s VP for Content for Asia, Minyoung Kim, told The Hollywood Reporter: “I never thought that a Korean-language show, with a Korean childhood game at its core, would be racing toward being our all-time global number one show,” she said.
“But then I started seeing more and more posts on Instagram and TikTok. And then I watched as Ho-yeon Jung’s (who plays pickpocket Kang Sae-byeok) Instagram following grew from 400,000 to over 14 million in less than a month. And even on LinkedIn, most of my whole feed started to be about Squid Game, which is really rare.”
When asked why this, sometimes deeply disturbing yet always “unturnoffable” show has captivated a global audience’s attention, Kim put it down to a couple of factors: “Number one, the genre itself is something that has global appeal,” she said. “The director also wanted to make sure that even if you don’t already know those very Korean children’s games, the barrier of entry would be low and you could still easily enjoy it. He put a lot of focus into making sure the rules of the games he chose were very simple — and I think this simplicity is a big element of the international success.”
Referencing the beautiful way in which the series is shot, Kim also noted the whole look would be appealing, while always keeping in mind the fact if the way a show is filmed is able to generate conversation, it has the best chance of taking off.
“Squid Game has a lot of those memorable, meme-able moments that people can play around with, and which drive conversation,” Kim adds. “So I think that was another factor.”
“But as a creative executive, I think the essence of the show is its commentary on social injustice — class divisions and financial inequality, or even gender-related issues,” she says.
“These social injustice issues aren’t only Korean — the whole world is struggling with them. These elements made the show resonate strongly outside of Korea as well.”
At first, Squid Games was slated to be a film
The series was first presented to Kim and her team as a film, but she worried that the confines of a feature would force them into a corner of trying to fit too many stories into just two hours. Hence, the film version became a series and one that almost bore a different name to the one now on everyone’s lips.
“Squid Game, or ojingeo in Korean, is a real kids’ game here, but not all Koreans actually know it,” Kim explains. “My generation knows it, but my niece’s generation probably wouldn’t. So, initially, we knew we wanted this show to travel but we were worried the title Squid Game wouldn’t resonate because not many people would get it.
“So we went with the title Round Six instead, wanting it to be more general and helpful for telling people what the show is about — there are six rounds to the game.
“But, later, director Hwang Dong-hyuk suggested that maybe we should go back to Squid Game because it’s a unique show and this game is the essence. I think the more authentic title has actually played really well.”
With the resounding success of season one of Squid Game clearly documented – and with a finale which certainly leaves the door open for more of the story to be explored, fans are desperate to know if we will be seeing a sequel to this first season.
Kim says they’re still in conversation about this: “Regarding a season two, we’re still having that conversation with the director and the producer, and hopefully we’ll be able to come back to you with that answer soon. So, it’s all in the works, but if you think about it, the show only launched less than a month ago. This is just the start.”
Season one of Squid Game is streaming now on Netflix.