The power of ‘Squid Game,’ Netflix’s surprise smash hit

A bloody South Korean drama about deadly games is exploding on Netflix and beyond.


October 6, 2021

Photo: Netflix

South Korean drama “Squid Game” has exploded in meme-form on the internet and, according to Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, may become Netflix’s most popular original series ever.

Squid game! Sounds fun?

Wrong! In “Squid Game,” people play simple children’s games, like “Red Light, Green Light.” If they win all 6 games, they get a piece of a ~$38m pot. Lose even 1 and they’re dead.

It might sound like torture-porn a la “Saw,” but its tense drama and likable characters have reeled in a huge audience.

Netflix also makes the content frictionless for global audiences by dubbing it in 34 languages and subtitling in 37, per Vulture — though not with complete accuracy.

And those audiences are growing

Data science company Parrot Analytics uses social media engagement, downloads, search results, and other interactions to measure and predict audience demand for content.

Wade Payson-Denney, Parrot’s press insights analyst, told The Hustle that “Squid Game” demand has gone up 481% since its Sept. 17 launch, increasing every day.

This is rare for a Netflix Original, which Payson-Denney said typically peaks 2-4 days after release.

As of Oct. 2, “Squid Game” had 102.9x more global demand than the average show. By comparison, peak demand for “Game of Thrones” was 353.8x the average during its 8th and final season.

More Squid numbers:

  • 82m+ people are expected to watch “Squid Game” in its 1st 28 days on Netflix, per Fortune
  • Netflix stock closed at $610.34 earlier this week, a new high Forbes credited to the show’s proof that Netflix can still make hits
  • A Seoul candy maker says he now sells 500+ dalgonas (a treat featured in the show) a day — 2x+ more than before
  • The #squidgame hashtag on TikTok has ~27B views — including recipes for dalgona

BTW, if you loved “Squid Game,” find more terrifying games in: “Alice in Borderland,” “Battle Royale,” “Ready or Not,” “The Belko Experiment,” “Escape Room” (2019), “Cube,” “The Platform,” and “As the Gods Will.”

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