Video games are big business. Fact. Did you know that Grand Theft Auto 5, released in September 2013, made $1.98 BILLION dollars in its first 18 months alone? To put that into some sort of perspective, the only blockbuster movies to make more money than that are Avatar, Titanic and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s incredible to think that we are now in an age where video games make more money than Hollywood movies and best-selling novels. We are going to look today at those gaming characters and story lines that have generated a truly ridiculous number of sales over the years…so where does Grand Theft Auto rank as a franchise against some properties that have been going for 30+ years? Well lets find out!
Just to clarify, it’s only fair that we look at number of copies sold as opposed to profit generated to take into account the recent ridiculous inflation in game prices.
10. Minecraft (106.86 Million Copies Sold)
Sneaking in at the number 10 spot is possibly the youngest franchise on the list, making it to this figure in only 5 years. Minecraft has recently captured the imagination of the gaming public, enabling players to build and explore to their hearts content – with minimal restrictions. Combine this with the release of Story Mode and I’m sure it won’t be long before Minecraft starts climbing higher on this list.
9. Sonic the Hedgehog (112.82 Million Copies Sold)
Sonic has been SEGA’s mascot now since 1991 and it’s fair to say that the 90’s were his best years. Despite the recent slump in game quality (not for the want of trying) there is still a massive call for the original games on many console platforms. SEGA’s licencing deals over the past 10 years have helped to keep Sonic relevant and the original 3 games still sell well across all non-SEGA platforms (Sony, Nintendo & Microsoft). Whilst the games haven’t been as revolutionary or well-received as those starring a certain Italian plumber, I’m sure Sonic won’t be going anywhere fast (get it?) on this list.
8. Final Fantasy (115 Million Copies Sold)
It’s incredible to think that Final Fantasy – a game so named due to the company’s financial struggles and seeing it as their last ditch attempt to make a successful game – is now the 8th most successful gaming franchise of all time. Final Fantasy VII has sold 11 million copies since 1997 (with an HD remake on the way). As the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV is due to be released later this year, expect to see this franchise climb!
7. Need for Speed (150 Million Copies Sold)
Need for Speed is the only racing franchise on the list and is, for me, the most surprising entry in this top 10. Granted I’m not the most avid racing gamer (for me once you own one racing game, that’s pretty much enough – they’re all the same right?) but I expected older properties like Gran Turismo or Ridge Racer to place higher. But after reading more about this franchise the numbers are pretty incredible. There has been so much interest in Need for Speed over the last decade that Hollywood even made a (crap) movie version in 2014. I stand corrected…
6. The Sims (175 Million Copies Sold)
The Sims helped to re-define the sandbox gaming genre in the early 2000’s with a game that gave the player the opportunity to control multiple characters, put them in houses and affect their relationships & moods. The sheer number of sequels, add-ons and downloadable extras have helped to place this PC classic on our list.
5. Grand Theft Auto (235 Million Copies Sold)
But of course Grand Theft Auto is on this list! I remember playing the first, top down, version on my PS1 and thinking what a cool, revolutionary game it was…no, no that’s a lie. I actually remember thinking how awesome it was that I could steal a car, beat the driver to death and then drive said car off a pier onto a yacht. And Vice City was my jam! Good times….
4. Call of Duty (250 Million Copies Sold)
Now this one is a real juggernaut of a game series. Started in only 2003, this game franchise has stormed up the rankings, in no small part due to the enormous popularity of its online multiplayer features. It started off as simply a clone to the incredibly successful ‘Medal of Honour’ franchise and actually succeeded in pretty much burying it by the turn of the 2010’s. The developers (3 sets of them) have managed to continue popping out a game a year, with Infinite Warfare hitting the shelves this week.
3. Pokémon (279 Million Copies Sold)
This series started as a pair of games (Red & Green) for the Game Boy in 1996 and has never looked back. It has since branched off into trading cards, TV shows, movies and a tonne of other media avenues. There have also been over 25 different games to own across the years. Gotta catch ’em all!
2. Tetris (495 Million Copies Sold)
Tetris was originally created by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 and was the first piece of entertainment software to make its way from the USSR to the US. The combination of lateral thinking and the simplicity enabling new gamers to jump straight in made Tetris an instant success. The developers have now signed a deal to bring a brand new version of the game to Xbox One & Playstation 4.
1. Mario (950.56 Million Copies Sold)
So here it is, the number one…and is anyone really surprised? It feels as though Mario & Luigi have been around forever; jumping over pipes and saving princesses from a weird tortoise thing called Bowser….or is it King Koopa….Barry, that’s it, Barry (been a while since I’ve played). The key to this incredible sales figure is partly down to just how well Mario has diversified and spun off into other gaming genres like party games, RPGs, sports games and even a little known karting series. Surely no game will ever knock this plumber off his perch, surely…
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
Much love, Chris