Story at a glance
- The Queen's Gambit is a book-to-streaming adaptation that debuted on Netflix on Oct. 23.
- Since its release, the miniseries has broken streaming records and increased sales for related items.
- The show follows a chess prodigy and orphan as she grows up and manages addiction.
Have you watched “The Queen’s Gambit?”
Even if you haven’t, you probably know someone who has - and odds are, they recommended you watch the Netflix miniseries written and produced by Oscar-nominated Scott Frank, known for "Godless."
READ MORE LIKE THIS FROM CHANGING AMERICA
Many Americans are watching more television in quarantine and lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, but the plethora of content is often niche. Still, in a year of polarizing politics, “The Queen’s Gambit” has united viewers around the world.
Seven episodes were enough to garner the show a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and accolades from major critics and publications. A more surprising measure of the show’s success, however, shows just how much one show can change American culture.
“The idea that a streaming television series can have an impact on product sales is not a new one, but we are finally able to view it through the data,” said Juli Lennett, toys industry advisor for NPD, in a statement. “The sales of chess books and chess sets, which had previously been flat or declining for years, turned sharply upward as the popular new series gained viewers.”
Sales of chess sets rose by 87 percent in the United States while sales of chess books jumped by 603 percent, according to U.S. Retail Tracking Service data from NPD, which showed that week-over-week sales had been relatively flat for 13 weeks before the show debuted. Google searches for "chess" and "how to play chess" hit a nine-year peak, according to Netflix, and the number of new players on Chess.com quintupled.
The show had already set streaming records on Netflix, where 62 million households watched the show in the first 28 days after its release in October, putting it in the Top 10 in 92 countries, Netflix reported, and No. 1 in 63.
"I don’t think any of us could have predicted that The Queen’s Gambit - and the extraordinary Anya Taylor-Joy - would become the global phenomena they are today, or our biggest limited scripted series ever," wrote Peter Friedlander, Netflix's vice president of Original Series, in a blog post.
Walter Tevis’ 1983 book, "The Queen's Gambit," which was the basis for the miniseries adaptation, also reaped the benefits, making it on the New York Times bestseller list 37 years after the book was first released.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA