Just what is it that makes a best-selling video game? This is a question that developers have been mulling over for the best part of sixty years or so now. Only few, of course, have been able to finesse the formula and capitalize on it accordingly. The rest, however, have spent years pouring heart and soul into mediocre franchises to no avail.
Another burning question that comes to mind, of course, is which franchises have managed to crack the podium and reserve their spots in the hall of fame. Well, we thought we’d do a little digging and figure out which of the countless video game series have been able to turn the most heads and, in turn, flip the highest profits. So, if you’re interested to know which franchises dominate the monopoly, then you’re in the right place. Here is everything you need to know about the industry’s giants.
5. Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto has retained its position as one of the highest-grossing video game franchises for the best part of twenty-five years. Since its PlayStation debut back in 1997, Rockstar Games has only worked to evolve its empire by developing spin-offs, handheld ports, and an entire online world with infinite room for growth. Today, the franchise has an estimated value of over $10 billion, which stems from a catalog of twenty games based over multiple platforms.
Of course, Grand Theft Auto V, being one of the best-selling video games of all time, has been piloting the ship for almost a decade now, with the bulk of the series’ revenue coming from its Online counterpart. As it stands, the Grand Theft Auto series has shipped over 370 million copies worldwide, making it the fifth best-selling franchise on the planet.
Pokémon may not be the best-selling video game franchise of all time, but it certainly is the biggest. And although only a fraction of its revenue comes from the 386 million games sold, combined they still make up a whopping $17 billion, making it one of the highest-grossing collections in existence. If we were to, say, pull the scope back, then you’d essentially be looking at a $90 billion empire.
While less than $20 billion comes from its countless handheld and console games, its remaining $70 billion stems from its merchandise, in which there is an ocean full of it. Take into account all the movies, books, t-shirts, and plush toys — and you’ve got yourself one monster of a media franchise. A franchise that, in all honesty, shows no signs of letting up in the near future.
3. Super Mario
It’s hard to picture anyone other than Super Mario as the poster child of gaming. This is a position the beloved plumber has retained for well over twenty years now, which of course makes him one of the longest-running icons in the known universe. During his time on the podium, Nintendo has established a myriad of series, ports, and spin-offs to help flesh out the gold-plated Mushroom Kingdom and all its regions.
Since the launch of Super Mario, the franchise has shipped just under 400 million units worldwide. From these 400 million, Nintendo and its associates have been able to make over $22 billion in sales. And this is only a minor portion, with even more revenue being accrued elsewhere through various merchandising opportunities. Video games alone, though, make it the third best-selling series of all time.
2. Call of Duty
Avid gamer or not, you’ve more than likely heard of Call of Duty. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most influential first-person shooter on the market, made even more famous from its globally recognized online counterparts. To this day, the series boasts millions of players over multiple platforms, all of whom pledge heart and soul to the critically acclaimed kingpin of war-themed gaming on a daily basis.
As of 2022, the Call of Duty series has shipped over 400 million copies, making it the second best-selling franchise in the world. From these 400 million units, its owners have managed to accrue upwards of $30 billion in wealth. This, of course, mostly stems from the game’s online microtransactions and season passes, which its developers are known to bring out more frequently than most other first-person shooters on the market.
Yes, it is Tetris, one of the long-standing pioneers of gaming. As of this year, the blocky phenomenon has managed to move just under 500 million units, giving it that awe-inspiring status of being the best-selling video game franchise on the map. Although its presence on most modern consoles is almost unheard of, it most definitely retains its place amongst the portable gaming diehards and avid collectors of all things retro.
Tetris first came about back in 1984 as a fish-out-of-water puzzler for the Electronika 60. Fast-forward several years, and the franchise shipped over 400 million copies on handheld devices alone. As of 2022, the game is considered one of the most ported titles of all time, with countless versions being made available across nearly every platform in existence.
So, what’s your take? Are you surprised by the top five highest-grossing video game franchises? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.