After 30 years, the franchise is still going strong; even the less-than-stellar games have made a surprising profit. Since his first game his series has had one game released per year with no stop. After all he is SEGA's mascot and prime series.
The film was one of the most successful of an otherwise dreadful year 2020, the sequel got fast-tracked and several more films and a Spin-Off streaming series for Paramount+ have been announced after the latter's release.
Ultima, which saw its first commercial product released in 1980 and is still going strong today, over 30 years later, thanks to Ultima Online. The franchise has only really dropped in current relevance due to the widely reviled 8th and 9th games killing the original series (and even that happened well over a decade ago), and EA'sparanoid cancellation of every product that might compete with UO in favor of yet more expansions.
Final Fantasy XI stands out among the other entries in the series as the most profitable game, with the developers proudly proclaiming in 2012 that the total playtime of all players over the game's run at that point equaled over 200,000 years. Even with a new MMO entry making good coin for Square, XI has been going strong since its launch in 2002.
Kingdom Hearts, as detailed in the Disney section. It was, perhaps inevitable, given both Disney and Square's tendency towards cash cows.
Since the earliest days of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest has walked right alongside it. Its status as something akin to a national holiday when a new game is released in Japan ensures it will not die quietly, if at all. The Final Fantasy series didn't get its first million-copy seller until the release of Final Fantasy III in 1990, while the very first Dragon Quest game, which was released in 1986, sold over 1.5 million copies. Even until today, every single major release in the Dragon Quest franchise beats Final Fantasy in Japan.
World of Warcraft: Reaching peak at 12 million subscribers, even despite the consistent decline in the decade since that point it still remains the largest western MMORPG on the market. The series that spawned it has only had three installments and a number of expansions since it started in 1994, but has nonetheless remained perennially popular.
Also from Blizzard, the Starcraft franchise has only two games and one expansion each since 1998, but due to its never-ending popularity, it has remained a moneymaker the whole time (despite nearly a decade between installments in the series). Being the national sport ofKorea helps.
Somewhere close behind Mario and Sonic in the sales department is Mega Man. Just see his page on this wiki to find out how many games the Blue Bomber has appeared in (and that's not counting the Capcom vs. titles). It has at least made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for having more sequels than any other video game. As for the numbers...well not so much. You could take all the Mega Man games ever sold and multiply their number by a factor of ten and not beat Mario. The Mega Man series is far behind them in terms of sales. Granted, this is probably because a huge chunk of these are PC/mobile games and spinoffs that may or may not have been released outside Japan. That, and the fact, Mega Man games have never been bundled with any console. Still, around 30,000,000 units for the series certainly isn't peanuts.
Street Fighter. Even the onset of Capcom Sequel Stagnation hasn't prevented the series from raking in the dough from its rabid fans (and the competitive fighting game community, but that's an entirely different animal).
Monster Hunter is Capcom's third best-selling franchise, trailing Resident Evil and Street Fighter but outdoing Mega Man. If this seems surprising to you, most of those sales come from Japan; a good fraction of Monster Hunter games have been released in North America, Europe and Australia but unfortunately don't sell as many copies, with the exceptions of 4 Ultimate and Generations (which did become million-sellers in the west), as well as Monster Hunter: World (their best-selling game ever at over 16 million copies in just three years) and Monster Hunter: Rise (9 million copies sold after one year and a half).
Ever since its release, Granblue Fantasy is known to be one of the most profitable titles of Cygames in Japan, to the point that:
Of all things, the 2019 Cygames Corporate Introduction Movie previews Granblue first among the company's "Published" and "Anime" sections. Some fans interpret this as the Cygames's way to boost awareness for the Relink and Versus games to the Western gaming audience, while others speculate that this is really due to Granblue being the cash-cow of the company.
The Sims might not be what it once was, but it was a huge deal for a number of years, and the original even surpassed Myst as the best-selling computer game of all time! Three major releases, each with about 8 expansion packs each, PLUS with Sims 3 they now have an easy built-in online store where things can be bought with real money.
Guitar Hero is a fine example of how excessive cash cow milking can come back to bite its owner in the ass: it was a big money-printer for Activision when it first picked up the original game's publisher. Then Activision pumped out titles by the truckload with reckless disregard for supply and demandnote 2009 alone saw fiveGuitar Hero games!, inducing such a sharp decline of interest in the entireRhythm Game genre among consumers, bringing along a massive hit to sales of all rhythm games, that Activision just killed it off on February 9, 2011... and pooled whatever resources its corpse had left into its other cow. Although it saw a brief second life with Guitar Hero Live between 2015 and 2019.
Rock Band was skirting close to the line 'till the Guitar Hero oversaturation delivered a plunge to its sales too. And after letting the cow rest until a new console generation, Harmonix announced Rock Band 4 in 2015, which still gets new DLC (there's also a VR version).
Konami's BEMANI series, which spans about a dozen and a half games with a few hundred' releases across all of them. beatmania IIDX in particular is a consistent top-grosser in Japanese arcades. In additon to being a Konami Amusement propertynote Konami Amusement being the arcade and parlor game branch of Konami, as opposed to Konami Digital Entertainment which produces consumer-software (console, PC, mobile) games, BEMANI's consistent commercial success may be why it took a few years for the Konami scandals of 2015 to catch up.
Tomb Raider. Several games (with even the worst ones selling pretty well), comic books, Lucazade promotions, movies and tons of merchandise. The publisher, Eidos, has relied on Tomb Raider to keep them afloat in various instancesnote :it was since bought out by SCi Entertainment, and then it was taken over by Square Enix.
Madden NFL. Each iteration usually falls among the top ten best-selling games each year, if not reaching number one. A Fanboyscomic has a farmer showing a literal cash cow. He's deciding on a name for it, "Madden", "Mario" or "Tony Hawk".
Metal Gear (1987-Present): Twooriginal classics, fivepopularMGSconsoletitles and threeportabletitles , 5 Updated Rereleases (Integral, Substance, Subsistence, the HD/Legacy Collection, and V'sThe Complete Experience), two remakes, five side-stories, three mobile games, one arcade game, three online shooters, some digital graphic novels and documentation discs, novels, radio drama, comic books, and action figures, but a solid (no pun intended) fanbase isn't wishing to see more after 2015 when Hideo Kojima departed from Konami.
Halo spawns not only games, but books, comics, graphic novels, movies, an anime, action figures, controllers, consoles, live-action serials, a Mountain Dew flavor, and much more. It is Microsoft's most profitable franchise, and some columnists have went as far as calling it "the new Star Wars".
The Grand Theft Auto franchise reached this with Grand Theft Auto III and hasn't looked back. The potential revenues from Grand Theft Auto IV were the Crown Jewel of the massive Electronic Arts-Take Two takeover fight. Grand Theft Auto V made $1,000,000,000 in three days. It went on to become the first-ever non-Nintendo franchise to have surpassed 200 million copies sold, the fourth franchise known to have reached that milestone, and is currently the third-most successful video game franchise of all-time.
It took one series to give Humongous Entertainment a profit, and it is the only one they still make. That series is Backyard Sports.
The Call of Duty series has always sold well since its debut in 2003, but as of November 2009, the franchise is officially a juggernaut. As of the end of 2018, it is by far the most successful shooter franchise ever made, having sold more copies than the next five biggest combined,note According to the above Wikipedia page, that would be: Halo (70 million), Battlefield (65 million), Counter-Strike (50 million), Uncharted (42 million), and Medal of Honor (40 million). and is the second highest selling franchise in video game history, period.
Modern Warfare 2 (the sixth major release in the series) sold approximately 4.7 million copies worldwide in 24 hours, becoming the largest entertainment ever in the middle of a recession! The franchise as a whole has sold over 55 million units worldwide and brought in more than $3 billion dollars in revenue for publisher Activision. note Unfortunately, Activision decided to sack many Infinity Ward employees, including its chiefs, just to keep its money in its pockets, making Modern Warfare dangerously close to Franchise Zombie territory. The ex-Infinity Ward employees decided to retaliate.Call of Duty: Black Ops did EVEN BETTER.
As of July 2021, the series had sold over 400 million copies. Only Mario has sold more among all video game franchises, and even then, only by counting every single spin-off (especially Mario Kart) - the main series had "only" sold 390 million as of the same year.
Pac-Man (1980-present) has always been Namco's mascot and a major success for them.
Atlus has enjoyed a major boost in the Western market thanks to the Persona series (with Persona 3 being the first to make a real splash there), so much so that the release of Persona 5 was guaranteed even before they officially announced they were working on it, because the series is just that big. It even has its own (irregularly-published) magazine! This is very impressive, given that the Persona series is considered as a spin-off to the mainline Shin Megami Tensei franchise because it originated from a What If? SMT game known as Shin Megami Tensei if.... Little did they know when they made it that Persona's popularity would grow to become bigger than the mainline Shin Megami Tensei franchise itself.
Persona 3 is popular enough in Japan that it currently has two remakes, a few cell phone games, a spin-off anime, some novels, a ton of figures, a manga, a movie series, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The resurgent popularity of the series has lead to PSP remakes of the earlier Persona games; for Western audiences, this meant both a competently-translated and complete version of the first Persona, and the first official overseas release of Persona 2: Innocent Sin. On the other hand, the remake of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment didn't do nearly as well back in Japan, and Western gamers were stuck with an unaltered rerelease of the original North American PS1 localization as a consolation prize.
To drive the point home, Atlus USA had a booth at Anime Expo 2014. The games they showcased were Persona 3 and 4, as well as their spinoff games, and nothing else.
Mass Effect has turned into this, with a full trilogy, four novels, two phone games, an anime movie, and eight comic miniseries from Dark Horse Comics. The DLC is continuing to flow steadily too. Especially when you realize that Bioware literally created a verse that has depth that rivals Star Wars and Star Trek.
Tom Clancy, Assassin's Creed and Just Dance are Ubisoft's big moneymakers. Critics blasted the first game for being little more than a barely-interactive dance video with shoddy motion control and practically no content. As it turns out, it seems the game's target audience doesn't care about such things, and as such the game was a runaway hit. Then the sequel came out, and just for the hell of it Ubisoft decided to fix almost everything the reviews complained about. As expected, the sequel sold even better. Now the series also has two spinoffs and a Creator-Driven Successor in the form of Michael Jackson: The Experience, plus plenty of knockoffs from other developers, and it doesn't look like it's gonna stop there.
The Battlefield series. Don't be fooled by the numbered sequel. Although the main series did not reach number 3 until the end of 2011, the number of Battlefield spin-offs is simply astounding. In chronological order: Vietnam, Modern Combat, 2142, Bad Company, Heroes, 1943, Bad Company 2, Online and Play 4 Free, all developed or co-developed by DICE while they are also experimenting another franchise of their own and help co-developing EA's other cashcowfranchisesand put out a huge DLC for their released game. Kudos to DICE for not having Attention Deficit Creator Disorder syndrome despite all this.
Gran Turismo is also a good example. With six primary releases, seven secondary releases and a grand total of over seventy million units sold, it's become a best-seller overnight. Oh, and it happens to have an E rating, too.
Need for Speed has the pole position in Racing Game sales though, with over 150 million copies sold overall. It helps that it's one of EA's few non-sports franchises that has an annual release cycle.
The NHL Hockey series is one of the more popular games in EA's roster, behind Madden NFL. It's particularly popular with Canadians, with hockey being their national sport and all.
Beating both NHL and Madden into a cocked hat, however, is FIFA Soccer. Outside of America, this is EA Sports biggest franchise. To put things in perspective, Madden '12 sold five million units. FIFA '12 sold over ten million. Not for nothing has one EA executive been reported as describing FIFA as "a license to print money".
Compile built the Puyo Puyo series into a cash cow in the 1990s, led by the runaway success of the first arcade game and especially its Even Better SequelPuyo Puyo Tsu. In addition to the mainline games, there were various spinoffs and tons of merchandise. Unfortunately, Puyo Puyo's success emboldened Compile to rapidly expand, a move that would almost immediately blow up in their face and ultimately seal their doom. Sega picked up where Compile left off, using a Retool to keep the series fresh, and would eventually come across their own major hit with Puyo Puyo!! Quest on mobile.
Even ignoring the games themselves, Angry Birds has become quite the force of merchandising, with plushies and all sorts of other tie-in products.
Ganbare Goemon had about two dozen games in Japan, plus multiple anime and manga adaptations.
Animal Jam, created to follow the children's MMO trend started by Club Penguin, proved insanely successful for WildWorks that the company showered it with attractive ads with Detail Hogging Covers, The Merch, and regular mountain-sized loads of new updates, in less than a decade.
Minecraft's consistently insane popularity allowed its creator to build his own game company in record time. XKCD's money chart shows that the game brings in about $193,500 daily. Not bad for an Indie Game about punching trees.
Taomee's games like Mole's World and Seer started as browser games, and were popular enough that it spawned other works like films, trading card games, and magazines.
Professor Layton is one of the best-selling video game series of all time in Western Europe and is probably the franchise that keeps Level-5 afloat.
Sakura Wars, in its heyday in Japan, not only spawned numerous spin-off games and OAV, TV and theatrical anime, but had semiannual stage shows and even a Cosplay Café of its own.
Five Nights at Freddy's turned out to be a massive success for its creator, Scott Cawthon. The first game was released in 2014, and thethreesequels (ironically, only one was a sequel timeline-wise) followed it in less than two years, each one quickly topping the Steam charts in digital sales. After fourmoregames, a VR title came out, now one of the best VR titles on Steam, and it was followed a few months later by an AR title, and more games will come out. Anoveltrilogy was going through 2015 to 2018, an anthology novel series started in 2019, there are few more books without pages here, and a movie based on the franchise will start filming in Spring 2021. It took Cawthon from barely scraping by to being able to donate a quarter of a million dollars to a children's hospital in 2015.
Yo-Kai Watch is this way in Japan. It's to be shown how well it fares internationally but it's nothing to shrug at in its home turf. It has spawned an incredibly popular anime (which has movies already), several manga, multiple spin-off games, and a huge amount of merchandise in under three years. It's often considered almost on par with Pokémon during the late 90s.
Webkinz makes quite a lot, considering each Webkinz costs at least $15.
Ninja Kiwi's highly successfulBloonsseries continues to get millions of plays per game. Their mobile ports also have countless downloads to their names. Ninja Kiwi even announced a crossover with Adventure Time!
The Plants vs. Zombies went from being just a single game to having an official sequel, quite a few spin-offs and a large collection of books among other things. Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time alone mades EA thousands of bucks each day through in-app purchases and it's one of the few Tower Defense games to rival Bloons Tower Defense 5 in the number of YouTube videos department.
Somehow, Hello Neighbor has managed to spawn several prequel novels, a prequel game, two multiplayer spin-offs, a sequel in the works, and an animated series, despite the fact the full release wasn't met well and the game has passed its prime as a "YouTuber/Streamer bait" game. All of these started development within a span of three years.
Tetris has been ported to damn near every console and computer known to mankind. Hell, hackers have managed to port it to things that generally don't play games, from printers to the sides of buildings.
The Neptunia series is the most popular Compile Heart game thanks to its combination of funny and endearing characters, the tons of Shout-Out to other media the series puts out, the numerous fourth wall breaking jokes, and just the concept of Console Warsas a video game alone. Coupled with an all-girl cast with barely any male characters, the tons of Ship Tease despite the characters being based on consoles and handhelds, and it's not surprising to see that it has an anime, some manga, merchandise, and a ton of spin-offs for the fans to enjoy.
Roco Kingdom started out as an MMORPG with more than a passing similarity to Pokémon. It became popular enough to spawn multiple films, webtoons, TV shows, and toys, among other derivative works.
Dungeon Fighter Online is an extremely bizarre anomaly among cash-cow game franchises as while it is in the top 10 most profitable video game franchises of all time (beating out even Street Fighter and Final Fantasy!) and continues to rake in billions of dollars year after year, very few people in the West have ever heard of it, much less played it at all. Most of its success can be attributed to effectively being a cultural phenomenon in China.
Koei Tecmo. For the Koei side the most successful series is the Warriors franchise (e.g. Dynasty, Samurai...) (1997-ongoing) For the Tecmo side the most successful is the Ryu Hayabusa universe of Ninja Gaiden (1989-present) and Dead or Alive (1996-present).
Valve Software has long been synonymous with their series Half-Life (1998-ongoing), Portal (2007-11), and Team Fortress 2 (2007), and to date, those remain their most iconic and successful properties. However, their status as proper flagships is somewhat debatable, due to each of them entering a hiatus at some point during the New 10's. During that time, CS:GO and Dota 2 became Valve's most played and actively developed/promoted franchises, although the release of Half-Life: Alyx in 2020 could signal of a resurgence for at least the Half-Life series.
CD Projekt RED's cash cow franchise is The Witcher video game series (2007-16). It put them on the map globally and spinoffs and side-games from the series, such as Gwent continue to be profitable.
Gearbox Software found the most success with the Borderlands (2009-ongoing) series of games. The company has tried its hand at publishing and developing other games since the first game's release, but Borderlands is the company's bread-and-butter
FromSoftware is the house of Dark Souls (2011note 2009 if you count its predecessor, Demon's Souls-ongoing) which has three highly successful and influential games to its credit, four if you count Demon's Souls.note Some fans may also lump Bloodborne (2015) in with them, bringing the number up to five.
For M2, the money makers are the M2 ShotTriggers series of Shoot 'Em Up ports (2016-ongoing), which feature far higher production values than even their other ports, featuring gadgets that show real-time internal game data, Arrange Modes, the Super Easy mode, and other features to help bring these games to newer audiences. It's worth noting that the M2STG line is far from being some of their best-selling products, as their Sega Genesis and SEGA AGES ports are more well-known in the greater gaming community.