Activision-Blizzard has come a long way in the past few years.
It wasn't that long ago that the company was an also-ran in
video game industry, making some strong franchises, but never really dominating
the sales charts. These days, though, the company is responsible for five of
the 10 highest grossing games of all time.
Activision's archrival Electronic Arts isn't on the list at
all. Nintendo holds four of the other spots, while Viacom holds the final one.
The powerhouse "Call of Duty" franchise fills up three slots on the best selling list - with the most recent installment "Black Ops" showing every sign that it will soon become the best selling game of all time, as judged by gross sales. (As of the end of February,
it was just $43.5 million behind the leader - and "Black Ops" remains
the industry's current best selling title.)
It is, however, a franchise that Activision recently
cancelled that currently leads the top selling list: "Guitar Hero".
The series' third installment - subtitled "Legends of Rock" - has
life to date sales of $830.9 million, according to The NPD Group, which tracks
video game industry sales.
That's just retail sales, too. The game continues to
generate revenue from digital song downloads (just as the three "Call of
Duty games do).
The data, gathered from NPD, reflects gross sales since
1995 and is not inflation adjusted. Nor does it include titles that were
shipped bundled with game hardware. Only standalone titles were considered for
Were bundled games put into the mix, Nintendo's Wii Sports
would be the runaway industry winner in terms of both dollar sales and units
sold. (The company has sold 75.66 million systems and copies of the game,
according to its most recent earnings.)
Similarly, "Super Mario Bros." from the original
Nintendo Entertainment System (NEWS) was a bundle game, leading to over 40
million copies being distributed since 1985.
Among standalone games, the inflation-adjusted winner
appears to be "Super Mario Bros. 3" - which sold 18 million copies on
the NES. The game carried an original price of $50. When total sales are
converted to today's dollars, they reach $1.7 billion. No other title comes
Life-to-date sales from the top five games in NPD's list
top $3.7 billion. (The company, which no longer releases bulk sales data to
non-subscribers, declined to give sales for the games ranked 6-10.)
While the music genre has evolved greatly in the past two
years, switching from plastic guitars to dance games, the list shows how
powerful the games were at their peak. Between "Guitar Hero" and
"Rock Band," music games make up three of the best selling games of
all time. Two versions of the "Wii Fit" franchise are also on the
list, indicating the effects the changing demographic of gamers are having on
Five years ago, the idea that an exercise game would be the
third-best selling game ever was ludicrous. In fact, many scoffed when Nintendo
introduced the product in 2007, but the Wii's audience of casual and older
players loved the idea. Today, the series is the only video game that has been
endorsed by the American Heart Association.
The list further shows how quickly the industry is changing
- and growing - these days, as no title before 2007 is included - meaning
industry stalwarts like Microsoft's "Halo" and Take-Two Interactive
Software's "Grand Theft Auto" series are absent.
Keep in mind, though, that several of the highlighted
titles also carried retail prices that were significantly higher than the
industry standard $60 (or $50 for titles in the previous generation). "Wii
Fit" cost $100 when it was released - and "Wii Fit Plus" is
still a $90 title. And all of the music games carried higher prices, as they
shipped with peripherals, sometimes topping $200.
That didn't stop consumers, though, who looked beyond the
price tag as they hunted for fun entertainment options.