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High Scores and High Margins, the Big Business of Selling Games

Most of us play games for fun and entertainment. Some play games competitively, on a professional level. But as fun as video games are, most of these games are created and developed by businesses for one reason only: profit. Developers like Nintendo, Rockstar, and SquareEnix have been creating hit games for decades, but what game claims the ultimate high score when it comes to the best-selling games of all time?

High Scores and High Margins, the Big Business of Selling Games
Courtesy of 123RF

The first three top selling video games are all franchises because of their multiple titles over the years. These are Mario at $32 billion, Pokemon at $19 billion, and Call of Duty at $18 billion. These games have worlds that players can get immersed in and fun, repeatable gameplay. They also dominate their respective genres; Mario was integral to the success of the Nintendo brand, especially in America. If you asked some people the mascot of Nintendo, most would probably answer Mario. 

Next in line for games that made the most money are games in the Wii series. Wii Sports made $8 billion, Wii Fit made $5 billion, and all the other games on the Nintendo Wii came up to a grand total of $14 billion. Wii Fit and Wii Sports were by far the best-selling games on the Nintendo Wii. This is in large part because these games were the first simulation sports games that people were able to afford and play in their homes. Before Wii Fit and Wii Sports, people considered video games the antithesis of physical activity. 

The next two games that have made the most money are two classic arcade games that haven’t changed much since they were first released. These are Pac-Man with $12 billion, including Mrs. Pac-Man which made $1.2 billion, and other versions of the game which bring the grand total to $14 billion. Space Invaders comes next on the list with $13.93 billion dollars, making it a close contender to Pac-Man. These games were insanely popular back when they were first released. You used to have to stick a quarter into arcade games to play them each time. Space Invaders was so popular that it had grossed $1 billion dollars two years after its release; that’s four billion quarters! Back in the arcade days, arcade machine owners would have to purchase expansion-packs for the games once people mastered the original game so that they could sit at the machine all day playing off one quarter. 

Space Invaders Arcade Machine courtesy of Arcade City

Next on our list gets into the MMORPG genre. Dungeon Fighter Online is a Korean fighting action MMORPG. It was originally released in Korea in 2005, was slowly released across the rest of Asia, and then came to North America in 2010. In March 2018, Dungeon Fighter Online was the highest grossing PC game of the month, ahead of even League of Legends. Dungeon Fighter Online was also the second highest free-to-play game of 2018, making $1.5 billion that year and $1.6 billion in 2019, bringing Dungeon Fighter Online’s grand total to $13 billion. This is a testament to the game’s design and gameplay since it is a 2D game competing against titles like League of Legends and World of Warcraft

This list could go on forever breaking down statistics of which games made the most money, but it seems that the games that make the most money all have one major thing in common: fun gameplay. Games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Dungeon Fighter Online show us that you can compete to this day with a 2D game in a 3D world. Call of Duty, Pokemon, and Mario show us that people will keep buying games in a franchise for years and years if they get new features and new updated gameplay while still keeping a feeling true to the classic. 

High Scores and High Margins, the Big Business of Selling Games
Courtesy of Nintendo World Report

Some other notable mentions that couldn’t make into our list are Blizzard’s Warcraft series which has grossed $11 billion over all titles, with $9 billion coming from World of Warcraft and $1.6 billion coming from free-to-play Hearthstone, as well as the FIFA series, coming in with $11 billion, Final Fantasy with $10 billion, and League of Legends with $10 billion. 

Next time you play your favorite game, be glad that you’re doing your part to ensure that the designers are flushed with cash.

Courtesy of Parks and Rec, Ben Schwartz
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