Skydance Media has snapped up the global live-action rights to Sword Art Online, the über-popular Japanese anime franchise that centers on a bleeding-edge VR role-playing game. Alita: Battle Angel and Shutter Island scribe Laeta Kalogridis is attached to write the pilot episode, while also holding an executive producer credit opposite David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Marcy Ross.
Tracing its roots back to Reki Kawahara’s novel series, SAO was birthed in 2009 and imagines a near-future where budding players delve into the title alternate reality via the NerveGear, a head-mounted device that stimulates all five of the user’s senses to create an unprecedented and immersive experience. It has since gone on to inspire two TV anime adaptations, a spinoff anime special and an upcoming anime film. Beyond that, Sword Art Online also spans multiple manga series, games, and a virtual reality demonstration in Japan.
“At Skydance we are in the business of world-building and SAO is a massive pop-culture phenomenon from which we plan to launch a full-scale and wide-ranging set of live-action franchise extensions across our business verticals, beginning with television,” Skydance Media CEO Ellison said. “We look forward to working alongside Laeta, Reki Kawahara and the teams at Kadowawa and Aniplex to build out a deeply immersive new universe of SAO in an authentic way that honors its well-established fan base around the globe.”
“For years I have been inspired by the inventive and masterful storytelling of the SAO franchise,” Kalogridis said. “I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to work with such talented partners to bring this cutting-edge yet timeless story to a new format at Skydance.”
Though its credits stretch far beyond the video game industry, Sword Art Online is one of many live-action TV series to be announced in recent months, with the likes of Life is Strange, Battlefield and DICE’s Mirror’s Edge in line for the serialized treatment as well.