In recent times Games of Thrones show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have voiced their desire to wrap up their small screen rendition of author George R.R. Martin’s massive Medieval fantasy/political intrigue yarn by seven or eight seasons. Were this another TV series, their words might seem like an example of counting your chickens before they’ve hatched; in this specific case, however, it’s closer to being a promise that the show won’t end any sooner than that.

The Thrones season four premiere episode, titled “Two Swords” (read our review), set a new ratings record for the already extremely-popular cable series, pulling in 6.6 million viewers – the largest audience that any HBO program has attracted since the finale to The Sopranos aired back in 2007, as well as a 52% increase on the season 3 premiere’s crowd (and that’s not taking into account those who caught the episode during a later showing that same night).

Hence, HBO has gone ahead and officially renewed Game of Thrones for two additional seasons, thus ensuring that this tale of warring-kings, witches, Wargs, Wildlings, White Walkers and countless other groups of characters whose names don’t begin with “W” shall continue on through to season six. It’s little more than a formality at this point, which is perhaps why the president of HBO Programming, Michael Lombardo, kept his official statement on the decision short and to the point:

“GAME OF THRONES is a phenomenon like no other,” noted Lombardo. “David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with their talented collaborators, continue to surpass themselves, and we look forward to more of their dazzling storytelling.”

Those who’ve read Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels have, no doubt, already noted how Benioff and Weiss have started to mix things up from the source material in Thrones‘ fourth season (see: the ‘Purple Wedding’ happening so soon). The bulk of this season will be drawn from the second half of A Storm of Swords – the third book – though there may also be narrative material covered in the fourth and fifth novel, A Feast for Crows and A Dance of Dragons, in order to keep Game of Thrones moving through events in chronological order.

Why mention that at all? Well, because the faster that the show burns through story material, the better the chance that by the time season six ends, Benioff and Weiss will be nearly caught (if not entirely caught up) to Martin, in terms of his published material. Recall, the author still has two more books to churn out, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, before he’s done.

Martin ought to have the sixth installment finished sooner than later (maybe even this year), though he still has one more book to go after – one that could be over 1,000 pages long, no less. A possible Game of Thrones movie has been discussed, according to the author, in order to properly conclude the series and, as a bonus, give Martin more time to finish his books. If nothing else, we can pretty much guarantee Thrones won’t only be six seasons and a movie in length, as funny as that would be.

Game of Thrones will continue next Sunday with “The Lion and the Rose” @ 9 p.m. EST on HBO.