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Cash Cow Franchise

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Pete: It's a cash cow! We milk it to make money!
Earl: Daggum, that's amazing! Whatcha gonna call her?
Pete: I'm deciding between Tony Hawk, Madden and Mario.

A kind of franchise that's been so popular for so long that they seem to be grandfathered into the industry.

You know the ones we're talking about: You've seen the TV advertisements, watched the shows, played the video games. Your parents knew about them when they were young unknowns, and they're still turning a profit today. And not just any everyday profit, either — they're raking in a windfall!

A Cash Cow Franchise may enjoy great success and popularity, but it also draws detractors and complaints about everything from The Merch to the marketing. Massive profitability may also be a double-edged sword, as it gives the owner of the franchise more incentive to milk it dry, or the cost of producing so much new material may necessitate big sales just to break even. It's not uncommon for budgets to climb sky high because if one product sells well, it will have an increased market value and succeeding products will be more costly (i.e. minimum pay for an actor can go up if said actor appeared in a successful movie).


Beginning in the early 2010s, Hollywood turned China into a goldmine cash cow since Chinese audiences have developed a taste for high-budget American blockbuster movies saturated with special effects, CGI creatures ranging from dinosaurs, to aliens, to robots. Transformers: Age of Extinction combined all three of those into one movie. Because of the newfound gateway to riches in the lucrative Chinese box office, Hollywood has been spending far more money per movie to afford state-of-the-art special effects to run for 2 to 3 hours.

Compare Long-Runners (franchises that last a long time), Franchise Zombies (which continue well past what the creator intended) and see also Merchandise-Driven.

Based on Wikipedia's list of highest-grossing media franchises, the most successful media franchise of all time is Pokémon, which has raked in an estimated US$100 billion in revenue.note  The company with the greatest number of CCFs overall is Disney.



    open/close all folders 

Disney has so many Cash Cows, it needs its own folder.
  • Mickey Mouse alone has raked in millions of dollars ever since his creation in 1928. Major characters like Donald Duck and Goofy have been best sellers for decades, while Disney's animated canon is one of the most unique (over 50 movies, almost all of which have nothing to do with each other) and consistently profitable franchises in Hollywood history. Apart from the animated cartoons Disney has also produced a stream of family friendly live-action films and TV series, including several theme parks devoted entirely to Disney's characters. Today the Disney brand extends to other major brands as well, including Pixar, The Muppets, Star Wars, 20th Century Studios, Marvel Comics, Indiana Jones, ESPN...
  • Though they've largely faded from their original format, Disney's mascot characters have secured successful comic series, with wide arrays of spin-offs and sometimes even graphic novels, in countries other than the US (Italy and Brazil in particular). Especially Donald Duck, who for several decades has been more popular than Mickey Mouse in Europe and Latin America.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Frozen in particular has become a cash cow of its own merit, less than a year after becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time. It now spans several media, including a toy line as successful as the Disney Princess line, two animated shorts, a feature-length sequel, and its own Broadway musical within six years of the original film being released.
    • Lilo & Stitch is a unique case in that its success is driven almost solely by the ridiculous popularity of the latter title character, who is self-described as "cute and fluffy". It managed to receive a ton of sequel and spin-off media in under two decades from the original film's release, including three sequel films, three different TV shows, and even an alternate universe manga. What's even more impressive is the fact that the original film itself succeeded during a weak period for Disney's feature animation studio.
    • The Lion King was the Frozen of its time: merchandise based on the characters could be found everywhere, the CD and VHS topped music and video charts with the film itself becoming the biggest-selling VHS tape in history and it was adapted into any media possible, from a daily TV series about the Ensemble Dark Horses of the film to one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. Even today, The Lion King is still successful: when the parents who originally loved the film when it was big growing up had children of their own to share the movie with, Disney re-released the film into theaters, made new merchandise and another TV show based on the franchise, more specifically its first sequel film. And just like all their other classic films, the film had a remake, which is the highest-grossing animation ever.note 
    • Moana is also this for Disney. Merchandise can still be found a year after the movie was made, it got an ice show and the CD topped the Billboard children's music charts before being dethroned by the soundtrack for the Broadway musical of Frozen in June of 2018. It helps that unlike most of their franchises, this one appeals to both genders.
    • Winnie-the-Pooh makes Disney an insane amount of money each year. A settlement at one point for 2% of profits between Disney and the A. A. Milne estate was said to be around $300 million. In fact, it's Disney's highest-grossing media franchise according to the Wikipedia article at an estimated $75.14 billion, making it the second-highest grossing media franchise of all time with just a little over $1.3 billion behind Hello Kitty.
  • Disney Live-Action Remakes: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King have grossed over $1 billion each at the worldwide box office, and The Jungle Book ended up pretty close. Maleficent was big enough of a hit (over $750 million) to warrant a sequel. Even with the other films being modest-to-OK grossers and some releases going straight-to-streaming on Disney+, the trend shows no sign of stopping and has become a flagship film franchise in its own right for Disney.
  • Pixar:
    • Lots of merchandise gets made of their filmsnote . It should be said that Cars is even more toyetic than their own series about toys. By 2015, the Cars franchise had made over 10 billion dollars in merchandising. This is heavily theorized as to why Cars has gotten two sequels, a spin-off and a sequel to the spin-off so quickly despite said franchise being Pixar's weakest at both the box office and with critics (with the first sequel being the first and so far only Pixar movie to get a Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes); to keep selling toys.
    • The Finding Nemo franchise is also a cash cow. Aside from the original film being the best-selling DVD of all time, tons of merchandise for it, along with two different theme park experiences, were made in between the release of the original film and its sequel, with said sequel crossing the billion-dollar mark worldwide and becoming the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time in the USA.
    • Inside Out has quickly become this for Pixar. According to one licensing website, Inside Out was the third highest-grossing licensed property based off an animated film amongst children in North America for the year of 2015, behind Frozen and Minions. The movie has boatloads of spin-off merchandise that is still being produced long after the movie's release, and the film is one of the highest-selling Blu-rays of all time. It was also successful enough to get an ice show, a meet and greet at Walt Disney World and an entire ride devoted to it at Disney California Adventure.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Ever since it started with Iron Man and (to a lesser extent) The Incredible Hulk in 2008, the universe has quickly shaped into this, with each of its films being big moneymakers. For emphasis, when The Avengers was released, not only did it break numerous box office records around the world, it saved Disneynote  from a sticky spot after John Carter bombed months earlier and boosted both the film and comic book industries in the process, and even boosted sales of Shawarma thanks to a joke Tony Stark makes near the end of the film. They've had two cartoons, two animes, a live-action TV spinoff, and tons of ancillary items. They generate so much cash that some reported Marvel Studios got some independence from the comics parent for saying Avengers: Age of Ultron, which nearly reached the original's box office, was "a failure".
    • Iron Man has been the most profitable of the non-Sony, non-Fox Marvel characters so far. His three movies were the highest-grossing solo films of the entire MCU (Iron Man 3 is also their most successful non-Avengers film to this day), and he has had so many mass-media appearances in the past few years that Wolverine Publicity might as well be renamed "Iron Man Publicity".
    • As of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Marvel Cinematic Universe includes 23 films and a total collective gross of $22,588,202,270. That's an average of approximately $982,095,751 per film. And just to prove how massive it's become, the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame has officially become the highest grossing film of all time with a total gross of $2,797,800,564. Just the four Avengers movies themselves count as the fourth-biggest franchise (after the MCU itself, Star Wars, and Harry Potter) with an average gross of just under $2 billion apiece.
  • Star Wars:
    • The original trilogy (1977-1983) started it, and a bunch of licensed books created a Star Wars Expanded Universe big enough to support all kinds of wacky fan theories. As of 2020, the films alone are worth well over ten billion dollars. The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm solely to get its hands on the Star Wars license, and the critical and commercial success of The Force Awakens (which grossed over 1.8 billion dollars in its first month of release, and over 2 billion dollars overall, making it the third highest grossing film of all time worldwide and the highest grossing film of all time in the United States, not adjusted for inflation) proved that the gamble paid off.
    • Spoofed extensively in Spaceballs with oodles of dubious merchandise advertised in the movie itself. Of note is the fact that the vast majority of capitalizing on the Star Wars brand was done after Spaceballs, ensuring the parody remained as relevant as ever. As a result, "Spaceballs: The (Item)" has become a prominent meme all by itself. Spaceballs even made a joke that they were making a sequel called "Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money" in which now Mel Brooks hinted that he may actually be considering making
  • 20th Century Studios:
    • Alien, even if a lot is Misaimed Marketing given how kid-unfriendly the whole deal is.
    • Glee was barely in its first season when it was earning FOX millions by selling music — it usually charts a handful of songs every week — and releasing the first half of the first season on DVD and preparing a live tour. It immediately got commissioned for two more season and had a shedload of merchandise: two different karaoke games have been announced, as well as various articles of Glee-themed clothing, jewelry, and school supplies.
    • The first four films of Ice Age series are this for 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios, each installment generating at least six times its budget, despite steadily declining critical reception (only the first film is certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes). And then the fifth film rolled out, which was savaged by both critics and audience, grossing only three times its budget. Still, $3 billion in total series gross ain't bad.
    • One of the other Trope Makers for this in the 1960s along with Bond was Planet of the Apes. The original movie earned four sequels, lots of merchandise and two television spin-offs. A remake/reboot in 2001 and a reboot in 2011 kept the apes alive through the 21st century.
    • After Avatar became the highest-grossing film at the time and the only film that came close to grossing $3 billion at the box office before Avengers: Endgame arrived, Disney has installed Pandora – The World of Avatar in their Animal Kingdom location in Florida (even before they bought 20th Century Fox) and factory-issued 2 to 4 more sequels.
  • 20th Television:
  • Disney Channel:
    • Hannah Montana, due to Miley Cyrus and her massive publicity scandals every few months, and the fact that almost every kid adored the series in it's heyday. The show itself makes money, then they have concert tours, dolls, music CD's, games, everything you'd expect from Disney merchandise. Same with Lizzie McGuire and That's So Raven.
    • High School Musical proved to be insanely popular with kids after coming out. The first movie's soundtrack was a huge seller, topping the Billboard 100s album charts for several weeks. And when the second film premired, it gained over 17 million viewers(the most views of anything on Disney Channel to date). Because of this, Disney went and gave the third film a bigger budget and released it in theaters. It seems the nostalgia is still pretty high with many people as the local school productions of the film continue to be a very popular choice for high school plays, and a new series inspired by the trilogy now streaming on Disney+, with a second season in the works.
    • Around the time Hannah Montana was insanely popular, Disney was milking a crap-ton of money from putting The Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus on absolutely everything. Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato were heading on the same direction before breaking into their solo careers. And then there was Bridgit Mendler, Bella Thorne, Zendaya, China Anne McClain, and Olivia Holt, and it won't end at all. Before that, there was Hilary Duff, and waaaay before that, Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk and Hayley Mills, with the latter three being popular when Walt was still alive. So it's only a continuation of what Walt did in The '50s and The '60s to market teenage stars to the baby boom.
    • In Latin America and certain sections of Europe, Violetta was raking it in for Disney. With an international concert tour, four albums, and a bunch of merchandising, news sources were even calling it the next Hannah Montana, at least in these regions.
    • Phineas and Ferb was this for them in the late 2000s/early 2010s, after word of mouth gained it a humongous fanbase. Its merchandise was a huge seller, their meet and greet location in Walt Disney World had some of the longest lines for any character there, and at one point the show even rivaled SpongeBob SquarePants in viewer ratings (This would be because SpongeBob only found both critical acclaim and high ratings in his first 3 seasons (1999 to 2003), Phineas and Ferb debuted long after SpongeBob's golden age). It got to the point that new projects starring the characters are still occuring to this day.
    • Elena of Avalor on its release quickly became one of the top girls' properties that Disney has. The show ties with The Loud House and PAW Patrol as the highest-rated kids' cartoon on TV (not counting Netflix and other streaming services), has merchandise sell well (especially the wand the titular character uses, which has multiple versions) and a very successful meet and greet at Disney World. The same logic can also be applied to its parent series, Sofia the First.
    • It seems that in a way, all of the shows on Disney Junior have become this over time. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse continues to be very successful for Disney despite ending back in 2016 to make room for Mickey and the Roadster Racers while Doc McStuffins, Vampirina and Muppet Babies have proven to be insanely popular with the target demographic and have both gained hugely profitable toylines.
    • The Descendants franchise is insanely popular with tween girls and has everything, from a toyline, to soundtrack albums, to bedsheets, to Halloween costumes, to a cartoon series, you name it.
  • ABC:
    • American Idol. It was the highest rated show of the year for several years.
    • Davy Crockett spawned a licensing craze in the mid-1950s that film historian Leonard Maltin described as being bigger than Star Wars.
  • The Disney Princesses pull in about 4 billion dollars each year.
  • ESPN is possibly Disney's biggest moneymaker ever. At one point in the mid-2010s it was estimated that the single division alone accounted for 43% of all of Disney's year-end revenue, compared to the studios and theme parks at 8% and 15% respectively.
  • Kingdom Hearts seems to be this as well, though on a smaller scale. All the games released on the PS2 are labeled as Greatest Hits, and the series doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon, especially with Kingdom Hearts III being a much awaited title that finally got released. Since Kingdom Hearts is Square and Disney, the of the game was inevitable.
  • Marvel Comics:
  • While they're clearly nowhere near as popular as they were in the 70's and 80's, The Muppets are still very profitable. They've had at least 4 TV shows, many well received movies, tie in video games, a series of popular YouTube videos, and tons of merch with Kermit the Frog and other characters slapped onto it.
    • The reboot of the Muppet Babies franchise has become this for Disney, launching a successful merchandise line and a popular TV show.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians is becoming this. Its Universe, plus the Kane Chronicles, draws large mobs. And unlike Harry Potter, it has two more books, a Norse side series and interest in a crisis crossover between the Greek/Roman, Egyptian and Norse worlds.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At one time, this only existed as a ride at Disney Theme Parks. As of 2018, five live-action movies have been released and a sixth is in the planning stage. Even before the fourth movie was released, the franchise garnered billions of dollars in global merchandising revenues.
  • Twisted Wonderland: The Action-Adventure game with Rhythm Game aspects developed by f4samurai and published by Aniplex and Disney has quickly become for both publishers due to its association with Disney, the Cast Full of Pretty Boys that are essentially expies of Disney villains, the game being illustrated by Yana Toboso of Black Butler fame and having an interesting story.

Video game giant Nintendo has four such franchises: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Super Smash Bros.. If a game has either Mario, Link, or Pikachu in it, it's almost a guaranteed million-seller (Smash, of course, has included all three characters in every game and often front-and-center in advertising alongside Kirby, which is only not a cash cow by Nintendo standards; its sales are on par with Mega Man and Street Fighter; Kirby and Zelda are otherwise extremely profitable, not only with their video games, but also with their own line of merchandise and animated spinoffs (such as the Kirby: Right Back at Ya! anime and The Legend of Zelda cartoon), and in Kirby's case, permanent Kirby Café locations in Japan). Along with its many hand-held systems selling by the truckload each year, this has led to a Catchphrase among the Nintendo fan community: "It prints money!"
  • In the case of Pokémon, it started out as a good RPG video game. Then they based a TV show off the game (as well as a few manga). Then a new version of the game based off the TV show came out (Yellow version). Then new game generations and TV series came out hand in hand. Add in the card game, many toys, many more manga, a few mobile games, including Pokémon GO (though Nintendo gains no revenue from that), and all kinds of conceivable merchandise. In fact, the brand has become so immensely successful, that as of 2021 it is the highest grossing media franchise of all time, with a total revenue of $88.5 billion.
  • Mario is composed of over 200 games and many of them have managed to become Killer Apps for the systems they were released for. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy in particular have sold 11 and 12 million copies respectively in their lifetimes, while Super Mario Odyssey went beyond the 20-million mark in four years (becoming the best-selling 3D platformer in gaming history as a result); the acclaimed platformer trilogy released for the Nintendo Entertainment System entered the Top 4 spots of best-selling games for that system (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Bros. 2, in that order; the only other game to have sold that much is Duck Hunt). There's also the case of Mario Kart, a spin-off to the Mario series: While at first, it did pretty well without reaching the success of the main series games, it eventually exploded in popularity with Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii; the former clocked at 23.59 million copies sold, and the latter sold 36 million copies (making it the best selling game of the seventh generation barring Wii Sports, as well as the best-selling racing game in history; this means that one in every three Wiis in the world has this game). The franchise as a whole stands as the best-selling video game franchise by a truly unreal margin.
  • Super Smash Bros. was always a money-printing fighting series, with Melee, Brawl and the Wii U version of 4 being the best-selling games outside of Mario and Wii Sports in their respective systems (GCN, Wii and Wii U); however, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate went further by becoming the best-selling Fighting Game in history, with 15.71 million units sold by the first week of November 2019, less than one year since its release (surpassing all versions of Street Fighter II combined).
  • The Game Boy and Nintendo DS lines of hardware fall under this trope too, with regular small upgrades (Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Advance SP) in addition to major upgrades whose games are incompatible with older versions (Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance). The small upgrades encourage consumers to purchase new hardware without outright requiring it to play newer games. See example picture at top of page for result. The DS in particular is the best selling handhold console of all time. In Japan alone it has sold more than 32 million units. Japan's population is a little under 130 million people. Approximately 1 in 4 Japanese people have at one point in life owned a DS or enough people have bought multiples to make up for it. While the Nintendo 3DS hasn't been anywhere near as succesful, it still became a major success after a price drop and the arrival of more popular games.
  • The Wii too. They managed to get 26 million units out of a bunch of minigames by offering a free controller with it. The Wii game series (which started with Wii Sports) became only the third video game franchise to surpass two hundred million copies, currently number five on the best-selling video game franchises list, behind Mario, Pokémon, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. In contrast, the Wii U is a fine example of cash cows needing more than their brand name alone to thrive, and while its sales improved slowly but constantly over time after the release of some high-profile first-party titles, Nintendo still ended up replacing it in March 2017 with the highly successful Nintendo Switch.
  • No one expected Animal Crossing to be a cash cow franchise for Nintendo, but yet it is. In its home country of Japan, merchandise are released by the truckloads (the same can't be said for Europe and North America but its still quite prominent there). New Leaf is a Killer App for Nintendo as well, outperforming Mario and Zelda by selling two million copies in just six weeks after release in Japan alone.
  • Splatoon was a Sleeper Hit when it was released on the Wii U, and is more or less credited as being a Killer App for the system. It was successful enough that Splatoon 2 was revealed in the first trailer for the Nintendo Switch, and received heavy promotion and attention from Nintendo in the months leading up to its release, as well as afterwards, and sold even better than the original game. Splatoon was even used to announce Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the form of a Commercial Switcheroo, which shows how much stock Nintendo has put into the series. The two games have sold over fifteen million units combined (with the second game alone contributing over ten million), which is no easy feat for a brand new IP. To make this point even further, Splatoon 3 was announced for the same system that the previous game was on.
  • Fire Emblem: In Japan the series has been this since Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, but Invisible Advertising resulted in the series being lesser known out of Japan until Fire Emblem Awakening debuted on the 3DS in 2012/3, with extensive advertising, thus putting the series on the road to being one of Nintendo's biggest IPs out of Japan too. 2017 was the year the dam really broke, with Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Fire Emblem Heroes and Fire Emblem Warriors all landing that year (SoV having the shortest mainline turnaround time to export in franchise history prior to Three Houses), with both packaged games selling very well and Heroes turning into a legitimate global phenomenon that could crack the top 5 grossing charts in America and contribute to Nintendo's bottom line so heavily that they discuss it at length in investor reports. And then, Fire Emblem: Three Houses became the bestselling individual title in the series (Fire Emblem Fates is the bestselling when taking both versions of the game into account) at 2.29 million copies sold in its first three months of release. While not as recognizable as Mario, Zelda, or Pokémon, the franchise has nonetheless become a moneymaker for Nintendo, at least over time.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Aikatsu! was this for a while and made more money than Pretty Cure, at 14.1 billion yen. However, sales started dropping after it was dethroned by PriPara. Once Season 3 rolled around, it didn't do as well, and Season 4 did even worse resulting in the anime being cancelled. Its reboot, Aikatsu Stars!, was a last ditch effort to the save the franchise, but it isn't helping the situation. Many kids in the target demographic did not approve of the changes to the game they once loved, which included a bigger screen and different cards that were inferior to the originals. Aikatsu Stars' movie also bombed when it was in theaters due to its low popularity. The lack of growth from Stars ultimately led into another reboot titled Aikatsu Friends!.
  • Attack on Titan has become this since the advent of the anime adaptation. The anime has sold very well in Japan, volumes of the manga surged in salesnote , there are three manga Spin Offs and one Light Novel Spin-Off, a live action film, and a ridiculous amount of merchandise and crosspromotions ranging from the more typical anime figures to things like perfumes to car commercials and a freaking Titan Burger!
  • Berserk, at least by the standards of the Seinen demographic, is pretty darn successful. Kentaro Miura drew the manga from 1989 to his death on May 6, 2021, by which time it was still unfinished at 40 volumes and had at least 50 million copies in circulation. Adaptations include Berserk (1997) by OLM Incorporated; two videogame adaptations by Yuke's, Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage (Dreamcast, 1999) and Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō (PS2, 2004); The Berserk: The Golden Age Arc theatrical anime film trilogy (2012-2013) by Studio 4°C, which produced this amusing fast food cross-promotion; Berserk (2016), a TV anime (2016-2017) by GEMBA and Millepensee which picks up after the movies; the videogame Berserk and the Band of the Hawk (Fall 2016) developed by Omega Force; a light novel, Berserk: The Flame Dragon Knight; and an Official Guide Book. Fans can spend hundreds of dollars on high quality figurines of Guts, Griffith, or Casca, and all of the animated versions are available in deluxe Blu-ray box sets. Japanese fans can also buy Berserk keychains, pillows, and even underwear!
  • Bleach has 82 million manga volumes in circulation. According to The Other Wiki, "The series has spawned a media franchise that includes an animated television series that was produced by Studio Pierrot from 2004 to 2012, two original video animations, four animated feature films, ten rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise."
  • The light novel series Brothers Conflict is a smash hit in Japan, spawning two otome games, an anime adaptation, drama CDs, and countless other kinds of merchandise.
  • The absolute phenomenon that is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, a manga with just 4 years of publication history got an anime that elevated the series to break all sorts of records previously thought to be impossible: 82 million manga volumes sold in a single year in 2020, 150 million volumes sold in just the 4 years the series was published, a movie adaptation that broke all records in Japanese cinema and so on; Aniplex holds the license close to its heart, to the point they personally oversee and publish all the first ventures in the expanded merchandising efforts, video game adaptations sticking out in particular since Bandai Namco had secured almost all licenses to publish anime based video games but here Aniplex do it by themselves.
  • Detective Conan has over 900 chapters, spawned 20 movies, almost 800 anime episodes, over 10 OVA specials, and much much more. It has a huge following in Japan, with a statue of the main character in the author's hometown.
  • Digimon, yet another Toei Animation example. Inevitable given it's an anime based on toys, but it was a significant cash cow both in Japan and overseas back in the early days. It did experience a significant slump in this status for few years after Digimon Tamers, with its merch sales generally lagging along with interest in the anime...until Digimon Fusion came along, breathing new life into the franchise and its money-printing abilities...only for the sequel series to ruin that, with ratings and sales so bad it's sent the franchise back into obscurity. However, the release of Digimon Adventure tri. appears to have won back the fans.
  • Doraemon. Having been around since 1969, the manga is one of the best-selling in the world, there have been three anime adaptations (1973; 1979-2004; 2005-present), and the films (which have been around since 1980) are among the highest grossing animated film franchises, as well as the highest of all anime film franchises. It's spawned so much merchandise, it can fill a house.
  • The Dragon Ball franchise has proven to be almost as unkillable as the Saiyans themselves. You've got the manga, multiple anime series, action figures, a trading card game, scads of video games, a Live Action... "adaptation"... there's just no stopping 'em.
    • Dragon Ball Z Kai, a condensed recut of the more-than-fifteen-years-old Dragon Ball Z, began in Spring 2009, and it regularly garners ratings on par with One Piece.
    • The proof is in how many times the series has been released on home video: VHS (both edited and uncut), uncut DVD singles (including boxsets), edited and uncut movie DVD singles, mini-DVD and Game Boy player (DBGT only) Ultimate Uncut singles, Season boxsets, Dragon Boxes, DBZ Movie double-features, movie boxsets, DBZ Kai, DBZ Blu-Ray, and there's sure to be more to come!
    • You can practically slap Dragon Ball Z on anything and it will sell well in Japan. Even more so in North America and South America.
  • Gundam, inspiring spinoffs, video games and toys since 1979. This especially applies the model kits. There are more grades, variants and designs that one can count.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya was especially notable for the sheer number of Radio Dramas, Image Songs, and merchandise for a show that for a long time had only fourteen episodes (though there's also the Light Novels). There were even Playboy Bunny Haruhi figures whose clothes changed color based on temperature. Though it was probably at least partially due to a dedication to a polished level of quality, the main reason for the second season not coming out until three years after the first was most likely because they wanted to milk the first for as much as they could. Unfortunately, this wouldn't last, as a number of factors (including the infamous "Endless Eight" arc, which was eight episodes of the same content with only a few minor deviations) would lead to the death of the franchise around the beginning of The New '10s.
  • K-On!, a previously mildly popular manga by Kakifly, simply exploded on the scene when KyoAni made it into an anime series. There's no escaping its presence throughout Japan, with stores even selling guitars using the show's imagery.
  • Is the Order a Rabbit?, also from Manga Time Kirara counts, having become profitable enough to spawn 3 seasons and 2 OVAS.
  • The Love Live! franchise had a very humble start in 2010 (the franchise's first single, "Bokura no LIVE, Kimi to no LIFE", sold only 434 copies upon its initial release, most of which were purchased by the voice actresses' families to show support) but has since expanded into various other media such as anime series, books, manga, mobile games, music albums, and even concerts. It wasn't until Love Live! School Idol Festival was released in Japan that the series really took off; the first Blu-Ray volume of the second season of Love Live! School Idol Project sold over 90,000 copies in its first week, the highest of any anime at the time.
  • Mazinger Z: Much like Gundam, since its inception in 1972, it has spawned one dozen of different manga versions, sequels, spinoffs, Crossovers, video games and toys, and it does not stop even forty years after its creation.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi, with all the spinoffs, video games, toys and other merchandise being created to advertise the manga. Ironically enough, there has never been a successful full adaptation of the series into an anime.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is still creating new merchandise and sparking hot debates over a decade after the end of the original series. And about a million different spin-offs and "reinterpretations" of the original, each with a completely different ending. As if the viewers weren't confused enough..... Plus there's the figures, figurines, statues, and any other tiny form just about anything from the series. They've made 666 unique Asuka figurines, over 700 Reis, and probably many more of each by the time you read this.
  • Naruto:
    • There's just something about ninjas that managed to get this manga to sell over 200 million copies and become the third best selling manga of all time. With 700 chapters, an anime with 720 episodes in total counting Part 1 and Shippuden, 11 movies, several OVAs, dozens of video games, a couple of spin-off manga, a play, several novels, and an ongoing Spin-Offspring manga with over 55 chapters and anime with nearly 200 episodes to date, Naruto has proven its popularity as a cash cow.
    • The cash cow is pretty evident in the anime adaptation. When the manga ended on November 10, 2014, there was still a whopping 115 episodes airing afterwards, mostly consisting of fillers, adaptation of extended media like novels, and tie-ins (by this point, there were only 47 chapters left to be adapted). The year 2015 only saw 8 episodes that were adapted from the manga. Although the Naruto anime is rather infamous for its numerous fillers, there was really no reason for Studio Pierrot to continue making fillers after the manga ended other than wanting to keep the property alive for as long as they could.
  • One Piece is literally the best selling manga in history. Its newer volumes continue to top one another as the highest selling book in Japan, and beat Dragon Ball to the title of best selling manga series of all time with 320 million copies in print. The franchise is particularly EVERYWHERE in Japan. You know you're a Cash Cow when there's One Piece toilet paper, One Piece deodorant,....even One Piece razors and glasses cross promotions.
  • Pokémon, initially thought to be a one-hit wonder, exploded into decades of video games, trading cards, dozens of manga, and an anime series lasting over 900 episodes. That's almost double the life of The Simpsons, undergoing the transition from cel animation to digital animation and outlasting so many of its own art directors, with Ash receiving several physical redesigns! To put it into closer perspective, if one were to watch the show from start to finish, It would take almost two weeks nonstop.
  • PriPara dethroned Aikatsu! as the most successful idol arcade game for kids in Japan as soon as it was launched, and has been raking in tons of money since then, with the record, 13 billion yen, set during the Kami Idol series. It also has ten stores dedicated to it in Japan, three movies and even two live shows. The only thing that stopped the series from a full takeover was the company's own 4-years per series policy, and even then it ended its run completely successful.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica, since its debut in Winter 2011, has quickly become one of these for both Studio Shaft and nitro+, spawning a manga adaptation, three manga spinoffs, a novel, loads and loads of merchandise (both official and non-official), a PlayStation Portable and Vita videogame adaptation, a magazine, two online video games, and a two-part Compilation Movie. A sequel movie was released in 2013. All the Blu-Ray volumes in the series have sold more than 415,000 copies altogether in Japan. And even more sequels are considered by the writer. It later sold a very impressive 40 billion yen worth of merchandise.
  • Toei Animation usually has at least one of these in the Magical Girl genre running at any one time:
  • Saint Seiya, especially with their never ending supply of high priced action figures, going as far as to even adapt filler characters. The fact that a new series of OVA called "The Lost Canvas" has started as well doesn't help either. Actually, the main protagonist of that series, which is a prequel set several centuries before the main series, has already been conceived as one of these action figures, foreshadowing a long way to go before they run out of ideas for characters. Even if they do, they come up with variant figures like "damaged" armors or just casual clothes.
  • Like Yo-Kai Watch below, Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion, introduced in 2015, became a top-selling toyline after its anime began airing in 2018. It's even beaten Super Sentai and Kamen Rider in merchandise sales!
  • It doesn't quite push huge piles of money these days, but Voltron (or the Lion version, at any rate) still sells a lot of DVDs and and retro retailers like Hot Topic still do a reasonably brisk business selling merch. Back in the mid-80s, of course, Voltron was an unstoppable juggernaut and only really started to lose steam when faced with a somewhat more coordinated effort from Transformers: Generation 1 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) (and when "Vehicle Voltron" confused some viewers).
  • Yo-Kai Watch is absolutely huge with children in Japan. The original game did well, however when the anime came out it became something of a phenomenon. The cute cat mascot, Jibanyan, was everywhere in the early-to-mid 2010s and the ending dances were popular as well. It received a Spin-Offspring sequel Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside, before the original anime was revived.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!, while not quite as long-running as some of the other examples, has generated considerable attention, especially with its tie-in collectible card game which is in the Guinness Book of World Records (circa 2009) for best selling TCG worldwide. Apparently, card games really are Serious Business. It also spawned spinoffs, including Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, and Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, as well as several movies.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: It's one of the most popular animated television series in China, thus causing it to make quite a bit of money off of its merchandise.
  • Dooly the Little Dinosaur who debuted in the 1980s is considered the most successful cartoon character in South Korea, and his popularity was milked by selling merchandise featuring pictures of him or his friends, and Dooley was also used to teach math, reading and writing to children in Korea.
  • Pororo the Little Penguin, also from South Korea, has helped sell lots of merchandise especially as stuffed toys.
  • Balala the Fairies has spawned many spin-offs and merchandise in China.

    Comic Books 
  • Iconic superheroes such as Superman, Spider-Man, the Hulk and Batman enjoy insurmountable global commercial success spanning generations from various toys, video games, films, TV series... all this despite the fact that a vast majority of their consumers have never for one day held a comic book.
  • Marvel and DC seem to have based their entire business models on this trope, especially in the case of Batman. Two separate movie franchises with a total of 7 movies in the span of 20 years, plus numerous animated series and animated movies, and all the corresponding merchandise and toys. Most of them were met with success. If you don't count the Justice League movies 18 out of 23 of the DC animated films have either Superman or Batman in the title. Not that that actually means the movies are about Superman or Batman.
  • Tintin is still the most successful European comic in the world, many years after Hergé's death brought an end to the series. It wasn't originally a well-known property in the United States until the film adaptation brought it to people's attentions.
  • Asterix: Also an internationally popular European comic, but mostly in Europe, Latin America and the francophone world. It has been adapted into numerous animated movies, live-action movies, and video games, and even has its own theme park!
  • And completing a trinity of Franco-Belgian Comics (which Asterix co-creator Goscinny even worked on), Lucky Luke.
  • Suske en Wiske is still the most popular comic books series in Belgium and the Netherlands. It has spawned an entire merchandising empire that's very popular in Dutch-speaking regions.
  • Brazilian comic Monica's Gang even earned his creator comparisons to Walt Disney, for being a prolific creator of popular characters who are marketed to death (70% of his company's earnings come from merchandising). One of the characters, a green elephant, was created for a paper's classified ads campaign, but ended up adopted by tomato sauce "Elefante".
  • The Smurfs: Even before the famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon series the Smurfs were already very popular in Western Europe. There was even a successful Franco-Belgian animated film adaptation in 1976. When Hanna-Barbera turned it into a weekly TV series The Smurfs' popularity skyrocketed to the entire planet. The franchise gained two live-actions movies, a second feature film, and a second TV series scheduled for a 2021 release.
  • Red Ears, a succesful Franco-Belgian erotic comic book series, has sold many copies since its creation in 1989 and inspired a magazine, a calendar, animated cartoons, ...
  • The Addams Family started as a one-shot cartoon for The New Yorker, it now spreads to practically all media and in all is somewhat successful including; an incredibly popular TV show in The '60s, two critically and commercially successful movies in The '90s, a very successful Broadway musical, two popular animated series and a modest success with the series remake The New Addams Family. Its only bomb was a Made-for-TV Movie hated by fans and critics alike.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield is probably the king of this trope in its medium. He is one of the most well-known and advertised fictional characters worldwide to the point that his merchandising can often be more recognized than his comic strip. Garfield is found in numerous amusement parks, had cat food products with his face stamped on them, found himself slapped on campaigns directed towards children about Internet safety and the benefits of sleeping, has his own website comprised of online games and a store, and his car window plush toys with suction cups were a bestseller in 1987. Garfield's creator Jim Davis himself claims in "20 Years and Still Kicking!" that nowadays he spends more time managing Garfield merchandise than writing new ideas for the comic strip.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is a subversion: Bill Watterson refused almost any merchandising. However, the books sell very well, thank you. There is also a lot of bootleg merchandise, such as tee shirts and car window decals.
  • Before either of the above, there was Peanuts, which after its creator's death still has a big place in pop culture — newspapers still rerun the original strips, the best-known animated specials still play on network TV yearly while others get DVD releases and re-releases, and miscellaneous merchandise abounds.
  • Suske en Wiske is a huge cash cow in Belgium, Netherlands and the Dutch Antilles. The comic strip has been translated into many other languages: French, German, Swedish, Japanese,... but is mainly popular in the Benelux. Apart from the still running comic strip itself there is a huge merchandising behind it, including numerous reissues, special albums, spinoffs, toys,... that are mostly bought by collectors. The entire output of author Willy Vandersteen and his studio, even after his death, still brings in the big bucks.
  • The Yellow Kid, the character of the comic strip Hogan's Alley from late 19th century, is an Ur-Example of this. It was popular enough to have a merchandising line of "billboards, buttons, cigarette packs, cigars, cracker tins, ladies' fans, matchbooks, postcards, chewing gum cards, toys, whiskey and many other products". Ironically, the strip was parodying commercialism.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Nu, Pogodi! is a giant hit, and was once THE Soviet/Russian animated series.
  • Masha and The Bear has always been famous in the former USSR, but was once obscure elsewhere. When Netflix aired it on August 2015, though, that's when the show's popularity skyrocketed everywhere, with Cartoonito, Boomerang in Latin America and most European countries that don't have Cartoonito, and even Cartoon Network in Latin America airing it, and soon it dethroned Nu Pogodi! as the most successful animated series in the former USSR and has merchandise by the boatload in the whole world.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At some point before the end of the Cold War, James Bond became officially unkillable. His Creator Ian Fleming wrote twelve novels and two short story collections. Since then there have been 24 "official" movies (and 2 unofficial ones), 27 more books by different authors, numerous comic strips, two comic books, two pinball machines, many video games, one tabletop RPG, hundreds of toys, an ongoing series of "Young Bond" books, an animated series about "James Bond Jr.."...
  • The Pink Panther series yielded nine films over 30 years in its original run and the 2006 Steve Martin-led reboot yielded one sequel. Adding in the theatrical animated shorts based off the original films' title sequences (two different series: one for the Panther, one for Inspector Clouseau), the three made-for-TV series and four specials the Panther had after that, the Panther's ongoing appearances as a corporate mascot (Owens-Corning and Sweet 'N Low), and miscellaneous merchandise, that's a lot of green for something pink.
  • King Kong is one of the oldest examples, dating back to 1933. Toho Studios in Japan resurrected him for 1938's "King Kong Appears in Edo", then in 1962 he fights Godzilla and in 1967's "King Kong Escapes" he fights Mechani-Kong. The United States has also released more Kong movies in 1976, 1986, 2005 and 2017. Peter Jackson's 2005 remake especially got the most merchandising in spite of underperforming at the box office.
  • Godzilla. The longest running film franchise in history, as of 2016, there's 29 of the original Japanese films, two American movies (the latter of whom is getting a sequel), two different cartoon series, a Live-Action TV Show, several comic book adaptations, novels, over 40 video games, countless action figures, and even a line of plushies.
  • Universal Pictures comes the closest to making dinosaurs a cash cow franchise in the United States (Japan already achieved this with Godzilla) with 1993's Jurassic Park which was the highest grossing film worldwide at the time. The animatronics, special effects and Stan Winston's work are often credited as factors for the film's success, which also had an onslaught of merchandise. Universal factory-issued two more sequels, but since the sequels gradually made less and less money the Jurassic Park film series was put on hold (while new video games and comic books kept coming) in 2001 before Universal revived it in 2015 as Jurassic World which ultimately outgrossed the first film.
  • Dracula: Even though several film directors have exploited this character he still managed to become the fictional character who has the most films made around him.
  • Saw has released 8 films as of 2017. And then there's the video games...
    • Most slasher franchises fall into this. In the original series of each, there's 10 Friday the 13th movies, 7 A Nightmare on Elm Street movies (There's a good reason why New Line Cinema was nicknamed "The House that Freddy Built"), a crossover movie for them, 8 Halloween movies, 4 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, and reboots of all 4 of them, producing further installments. You want series that are tough to kill? Jason has literally been to Hell and back, and they still make money off of him.
    • While in horror, Hellraiser, with 9 novels, action figures, and a comic. And creator Clive Barker is interested in a reboot!
  • The Paranormal Activity franchise counts as this trope for several very unique reasons. Its found footage style and ingenious use of Nothing Is Scarier means that it doesn't cost much money to make (specifically because of the lack of big-budget special effects), and it doesn't take very long to film. The film also makes Product Placement seem very natural, as the families depicted are ordinary, often moderately wealthy families. And lets not forget that the original film began as an indie horror film shot for approximately fifteen-grand, and eventually wound up grossing nearly two hundred million dollars. This is the first film. Put together, the total gross for the series is over 890 million dollars, making it one of the highest-grossing horror franchises of all time.
  • The Transformers franchise has a long history of successful cartoons, toys, comics, and assorted merchandise, but the live action film series created by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg is a juggernaut in and of itself, grossing $4.3 billion worldwide with just five movies, despite consistently atrocious reviews. From 2007 to 2017, Transformers has enjoyed almost a decade of commercial success that allowed it to spawn an animated series for Cartoon Network and the Hub each, earn a fast-selling 4D motion stimulator ride at Universal theme parks, and of course sell more toys and video games including a LEGO-inspired line of build-it-yourself brick-based Transformers called KRE-O. Bumblebee did manage to earn critical acclaim (there hasn't been any Transformers film with good reviews before then!) though only made enough money to secure itself a sequel as while Lorenzo di Bonaventura asked fans to forget about a sequel that can resolve the cliffhanger to 2017's box office calamity Transformers: The Last Knight and it was reported that Paramount is rebooting the series instead of continuing it.
  • The Conjuring Universe is shaping up to be this. Beginning with 2013's The Conjuring, which grossed over 310 million dollars, the series has continued to churn out a financially (+250 million dollars worldwide gross) successful film every year. While it might seem modest in comparison to others in this list, remember that this is horror, a genre seen as not very marketable to the mainstream audience. As of 2018, the series' total worldwide gross exceeded 1.5 billion dollars. That is extremely impressive for a film series that has all of its entries rated R.
  • Dogma presents a fictional example:
    Bartleby: Mooby the Golden Calf. Created by Nancy Goidruff, a former kindergarten teacher, in 1989 to fill gap in the Saturday morning schedule on local network K-REL. Bought by the Complex Corporation in 1991, and broadcast nationally as the The Mooby Fun-Time Hour, it picked up a large following of children, ages three to eight, and spawns sixteen records, two theatrical films, eight prime-time specials, a library of priced-to-own video cassettes, and bicoastal theme parks dubbed 'MoobyWorld'. Did I miss anything?
    Mr. Whitland: You forgot Mooby Magazine.
  • Parasite (2019) in South Korea is wildly popular especially for being the first ever South Korean film to win Academy Awards (let alone Best Picture) that tourists flocked to the locations where the film took place, demand for the food products promoted by the movie such as Sky Pizza, Chapaghetti and Neogurri went up and Adam McKay now wants to make an Americanized television spin-off of the movie. Unfortunately, the tourism did not last long because of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to South Korea putting up stringent regulations to follow protocol after the 2015 MERS outbreak.
  • The Fast and the Furious became the biggest and highest-grossing film franchise for Universal Pictures following the release of 2 blockbuster films that grossed over $1 billion each (Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious). The franchise has even earned a ride at Universal Studios theme parks. Universal has since decided to release Fast and Furious movies every year throughout the 2020s decade seeing that $5 billion was made from only the first 8 movies.
  • Although creator James Cameron only made the first 2 movies, the Terminator film series has become a franchise that has grossed about $3 billion in revenue not just from movies but also action figures, video games, a TV show and a show at Universal Studios theme parks. Though with the underperformance of the sixth movie, its future is unclear.

    Food and Drink 
  • Ever since the 19th century, Coca-Cola has become easily the largest soft drink company on the planet. Finding a restaurant, convenience store, theme park or grocery store that doesn't serve Coca-Cola products will be harder than finding a UFO in the sky.
  • Panda Express which began in 1983 is an American fast food chain that is popular for blending American and Chinese cuisine together in the sense that the meats are covered in sweetened sauces and the fact that you can easily get your food to-go in large boxes for between $7 to $10 now has over 2000 locations worldwide, generates $3 billion in annual revenue and its founder Andrew Cherng has a net worth of over $3 billion. Despite this tremendous success, Cherng has consistently refused to let the company become public on the stock market.
  • McDonald's has been active for over 70 years at this point and they continue to be the world's largest restaurant chain by revenue, netting an average of $25.413 billion as of 2015. They've also landed themselves countless toy deals from companies such as Nintendo and Disney.
  • Yum! Brands is the company that brought us Pizza Hut, Wing Street, Taco Bell and KFC. These chains are all huge individually, but put together they dwarf Mcdonalds in the number of locations department.
  • Submarine sandwich chain Subway has approximately 45,000 locations in more than 100 countries. To put that into perspective, Mcdonalds has 36,920 locations, while all of Yum! Brands' chains add up to 42,732.
  • The world's largest coffee chain is Starbucks, which has an estimated revenue of over 5 billion dollars as of 2015. Some of their products can also be found in various stores.
  • M&M's are such a successful candy brand of coated chocolate candies that they spawned dozens of CGI commercials featuring spokescandies differing by color and personality as Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Crispy/Orange and Ms. Brown. They also manage to land a commercial for every Super Bowl since 2015.

  • Despite the original V. C. Andrews having died in 1986, romance novels written under her name have continued to be published on roughly a yearly basis since then.
  • Harry Potter. Even with J. K. Rowling having finished the books and moved on to another series, it's not going anywhere for quite a while. To put in perspective just how HUGE a franchise this is:
    • The New York Times has a separate bestseller's list for children's books just because the Harry Potter books kept taking up slots for months on ends.
    • J. K. Rowling is the first (and so far only) author to become a billionaire due solely to writing. Though she persistently insists that her personal wealth is drastically overestimated by the press.
    • In the space of a decade the eight Harry Potter movies became the most successful movie series of all time (until the Marvel Cinematic Universe surpassed them). When inflation is taken into account, they're still third - with only Star Wars and James Bond ahead of them.
    • Not only Rowling decided to make a theater-only sequel of sorts, but Warner wouldn't let the films die so easily: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a comedic Defictionalization of an in-universe text book, would become a film and franchise of its own.
  • Although not well known to the English-reading audience, the Perry Rhodan series has been published in Germany since 1961 (and translated into multiple languages) and has passed 2500 novellas and novels with associated comics, reference materials, music-inspired-by and other things. With the exception of one movie in 1967, it hasn't been on the big screen or television, which might explain its limited exposure in North America.
  • For most of its history, The Lord of the Rings was simply an intensely popular work of fantasy literature and the inspiration behind a great number of other successful franchises of geekdom. It was certainly popular enough to make the posthumous publication of The Silmarillion, and to a lesser degree the 12-volume History of Middle-earth, and continuing posthumous publications of material, an intensely anticipated event. Then, when the Peter Jackson films went into production, it was turned into a cash cow of Star Wars proportions. With the three-part The Hobbit being released in 2012, 2013, and 2014, alongside the continued success of the LOTR MMORPG, this cash-cow will certainly be around for the next few years.
  • In a slightly different niche, there's Conan the Barbarian. Robert E. Howard wrote just shy of two dozen Conan stories in his lifetime. After his death, L. Sprague de Camp and others wrote dozens more, and since then there's been two successful comics series (one with Marvel Comics, one with Dark Horse Comics), two animated series, two Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, the pseudo-prequel Kull the Conqueror, the MMO Age of Conan, and a handful of other games featuring everyone's favorite Cimmerian. On the negative side, Age of Conan didn't do too well and the following movie (an attempt at a reboot) flopped hard at the box office and was savaged by critics.
  • Twilight quickly became this in 2008, spawning films, clothes, toys, manga, candy, and even glittered dildos. Bad reception definitely didn't stop the films from racking up over $3.3 billion. Fed even more with the hate that it has from the Twilight haters that buy or see the merchandise to trash it.
  • The Discworld universe has been described as a "Cottage Industry" but that doesn't mean that there isn't a shit load of weird merchandising. Like the Ankh-Morpork Stamp Collection.
  • Tom Clancy has no real input into the Tom Clancy's line of novels and video games nowadays, outside of licensing. Even his death hasn't slowed the franchise down.
  • What James Bond, Warrior Cats and Harry Potter are to the West, the Alice, Girl from the Future series by Kir Bulychev is to Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Communist countries. This Science Fiction series about the adventures of the girl from the future spans over forty books. There have been seven films, the most famous being the 1984 Guest from the Future, which made people more interested in Alisa. There have been three computer games as well.
  • Warrior Cats. If the 20+ main novels weren't enough, there are at least 4 field guides and more mangas than you can count! The books keep coming because they make Harper Collins rich. And because the fans always want more.
  • Agatha Christie is certainly one of these in general as Poirot and Miss Marple are as popular as each other. Spanning over eighty books, they've both had several television and film adaptions for each of those books (with ridiculous amounts of different actors) (which started in the 1920s and is still being made in the 2010s), there's been a spin-off anime and manga adaption of the two characters working together (2004), there's a series of western graphic novels in 2007-2008, nine video games, various novels have been turned into plays (and the other way around) and then there's her long running play The Mousetrap.
  • The Sherlock Holmes stories, when collected in one volume, are quite the Doorstopper. And when you consider all the TV shows and movies based on them, plus the ones inspired by them. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Sherlock Holmes as the most portrayed fictional character in movie history.
  • Rainbow Magic, a British children's book series about fairies, has been going since 2003, with multiple book releases every year. It's sold successfully for a long time, presently has over 200 unique books, and is only as of 2016-17 showing signs of slowing down.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy is becoming this as well, with all the merchandise the movies are inspiring. Case in point, Lionsgate's stock doubled in price the weeks after the first movie's release. When the film series finally ended in 2015, it has garnered over 2.9 billion dollars in worldwide gross.
  • Animorphs. While it wasn't as huge as the other series, that didn't stop Scholastic from milking all the money they could out of K. A. Applegate's anti-war Deconstruction of the Recruit Teenagers with Attitude trope. It spawned games, toys, a few videogames and a TV series, albeit a bomb one. Sadly, the re-release didn't make it popular again.
  • Goosebumps was another hit series from The '90s, and it's still pumping out new books and TV shows.
  • Roald Dahl died in 1990, but his stories for children are still wildly popular. Beyond myriad print and audiobook editions, many of them have enjoyed film adaptations, and in The New '10s two have become hit West End stage musicals: Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Actually, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory counts as a cash cow on its own, given the many times it's been adapted.
  • The Noddy books sell really well in the United Kingdom even after the passing of Enid Blyton, and have been adapted into three animated TV shows, two television shows using puppets and a kids' sitcom and has spawned a large amount of spin-off merchandise.Taken up to eleven in France, where the franchise gained two exclusive stage shows (Oui-Oui et le cadeau Suprise and Oui-Oui Et Le Grand Carnaval), tons of exclusive merchandise, and the original books still sell like crazy.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club was absolutely huge throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with over a hundred main books, numerous spinoffs, a short-lived television show, and its own movie. However, its popularity began waning in the late 2000s likely due to its dated premise (few American parents would let twelve year olds babysit their kids anymore), and the re-releases didn't do very well. It does have a popular enough set of a few Comic Book Adaptations from the 2000s, though.
  • Pippi Longstocking became a franchise juggernaut when Astrid Lindgren created her in the 1940s. Not only does the character have a strong following among children, but the franchise includes several books, live-action and animated films and TV series, as well as a theme park in Sweden. Even Lindgren's death in 2002 hasn't slowed the franchise down. Pippi Longstocking is by far the largest entertainment franchise originating from Sweden.
  • Sweet Valley High was very popular by book standards. The series lasted 20 years and had 181 main books. It also has nine spinoffs, with some being released over a decade after the original series ended. Sweet Valley High has been adapted into a show, has a movie in production, and has had a lot of merchandise (including board games).
  • Redwall certainly counts. Although Brian Jacques has died and the books are seemingly on hold, the franchise is still going strong and still has a fanbase, having spawned 22 novels and 2 picture books, 7 related books including a graphic novel adaptation of the first book and a cookbook featuring recipes from the series, an opera adaptation, countless audio book adaptations with musical performances of songs featured in the books, video games, a cartoon series by Nelvana, and more merchandise. It's probably the fifth most-popular British book series (behind Discworld, Warrior Cats, James Bond, and Harry Potter).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Barney & Friends was this for a while after it became successful. Barney's Greatest Hits stayed in the top 10 of the children's CD list on Billboard for half a decade until VeggieTunes knocked it off of the list, JC Penney's had Barney shops inside their stores, and Playskool had a big collection of Barney toys that kept growing every year until the rights were sold to Play Along (now Jakks Pacific).
  • The Dutch children's series Bassie & Adriaan spawned a lot of merchandise and was sold to several countries.
  • ABC parodied this with a series of commercials for then-upcoming sitcom Home Economics in which the cast is meeting with producers who have made a poster that's clearly a recreation of the ones for Modern Family and also has the show's title as "Home Econom-ish". The execs swear that the cast's concerns will be assuaged when they see the commercials...which make it look like an episode of The Bachelor.
  • Big Brother, certainly in the UK (until 2007 or 2008 at least). They've stopped counting how many years its run. To those that dislike it it is difficult to remember a time it was not on and so ever present. It returned in 2011 and it got the same amount of attention it got in its original run.
  • JoJo Siwa became a craze among young girls after appearing on Dance Moms and spawned a line of products branded with her likeness. The most most popular item from that lineup is the JoJo bow, which is a bow similar to the ones she wears. She also is the host of the top-rated show Lip Sync Battle Shorties, has released several songs and starred in several TV movies.
  • The BBC has Doctor Who over in its home country, the UK, as well. Let's see... an original Long Runner series (including a TV Movie) with an equally massive Doctor Who Expanded Universe and two non-canon movies. And since the 2005 revival with the new series, the Expanded Universe expanded even more (with material for both the classic and new series), bringing along two successful spin-off series of their own (Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures). And the merchandising, of course.
  • Game of Thrones is a merchandising juggernaut and possibly the biggest cash cow among HBO's shows, drawing in very high viewership and becoming noted for its distinctive, visually striking characters and settings. It has copious amounts of toys (for adult collectors), apparel, accessories, cosplay/replicas and other collectibles available for purchase. The show's case is notable in that it's one of the few franchises to achieve this status while exclusively catering to mature audiences, aside from video games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Most cash-cow franchises rely at least partially on toy and merchandise sales, and usually skew PG-13 or lower so that children can get invested in the franchise and its merchandise; however, GoT is fantastical enough to spur copious toy and merchandise sales in its own right, as adult collectors (particularly millennials) became more of a mainstream demographic over time.
  • Breaking Bad emerged to such powerful critical reviews and skyrocketing ratings that AMC turned it into a cash-cow franchise and started offering Breaking Bad-themed video games, dozens of short 1 to 2 minute YouTube cartoons, clothing and comic books as well as green-lighting the prequel series Better Call Saul and a sequel movie on Netflix.
  • The "Got Talent" franchise started by America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent holds the record for being the most widespread TV franchise created. It has spawned localizations in over 50 different countries.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • The franchise has been running continually since it was revived in 2000, but within the Riders there's a very specific cash cow franchise — Kamen Rider Den-O. All Heisei era Kamen Rider series from Kamen Rider Agito to Kamen Rider Kiva have at least one movienote . All Heisei era Kamen Rider series from Kamen Rider Decade onwards have at least three movies. The breakout success of the Taros has led to NINE Den-O movies.
    • Part of the reason for Decade being a crossover is that Toei executives noticed by the end of the first decade of the 2000's that Kuuga and Kamen Rider Agito were so faded away in the Japanese public's consciousness that merchandise of those two shows wouldn't even budge. While Decade didn't reach Den-O levels by itself, its real-life impact of launching long-forgotten Riders back into mainstream pop culture did bring upon the way to squeeze every last penny of all Kamen Rider shows since 1971 even after Decade's ending. It's even lampshaded in the show as the true purpose of Decade's journey.
    • Decade ending doesn't mean they won't dredge it up from time to time. Decade's portion of Movie War 2010 had some very thinly veiled dialogue that rather blatantly means "we're going to keep crossing over with things as long as the network can wring money off us".
  • Law & Order. The original series ended after twenty years in 2010, and the show spawned two long-running spinoffs (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent), as well as a few Short-Runners and foreign remakes. Criminal Intent became the highest-rated show on basic cable after its move to USA, and the French and Russian adaptations of the series are some of the most successful shows in their respective markets.
    • Two other major examples of shows that got spin-offs and look set to continue indefinitely are CSI and NCIS (NCIS being its own spin-off from JAG).
  • Mythbusters is one to Discovery Communications, and they know it to the point that when someone at The Science Channel proposed a revival just days after the franchise had been ended, the suits approved of the plan very quickly.
  • Ever since it was Vindicated by Reruns via Netflix, The Office (US) became a major cash cow franchise, spawning all manners apparel, board games, blankets, notebooks (It Makes Sense in Context), license plate covers, box planters, and even air fresheners (some of which are beet-scented).
    • The massive boost given to Friends on Netflix also spawned a similar treatment, and its merchandise is just as prevalent (and somewhat confusing), including donut makers, oven mitts, doormats saying "Welcome Friends" in the title font, slow cookers, dog toys, eyeshadow palettes, and perhaps most strikingly, an expensive fashion line from Ralph Lauren and a home décor line from Pottery Barn (both of which are seen on the show, but most fans are unlikely to pay $1099 for the apothecary table shown prominently in an episode).
  • Power Rangers moves a lot of merchandise, usually becoming the top-selling action figure line in America each year. And it's still a single arm of Super Sentai, which has been running continually in Japan since 1975! It's been said that the people behind both series actually believe that television ratings are secondary to merchandise sales. It's also rumored that the reason for the exploding number of mecha and extra rangers in later years is because Sentai is trying to recoup the losses of an underperforming Rangers under the Dork Age of Disney.
  • Flemish children's series Samson En Gert. To the point that the merchandise actually overshadows the original TV show.
  • Sesame Street, the longest-running children's show in North America, has spawned countless pieces of merchandise. There's a Sesame Street version of nearly everything that can be targeted to a preschooler (and on occasion, the parents of said preschoolers). And ever since Elmo became the show's main Spotlight-Stealing Squad, he's been put on everything imaginable.
  • Nobody probably thought that the Kurt Russell and James Spader cult-sci-fi flick Stargate was gonna balloon into (so far) three live-action series, an animated series, two (so-far) direct-to-DVD movies. This doesn't include spin-off novels based on both the series AND the original movie and a host of games. While not as big as some other franchises it appeared to have some momentum to join them, but after the cancellation of Atlantis and Universe it came to a sudden end in 2011.
  • Star Trek; the original series and six movies based off of it, an animated continuation, plus four spin-off series that ran continuously from 1987 to 2005 (and a fifth that debuted in 2017), including four movies based off of TNG and the 2009 prequel (J. J. Abrams himself said this was NOT a reboot - which it was, kind of) of the TOS franchise, its two sequels, a buttload of Expanded Universe games, novels, and comics, and a metric kilobuttload of Fan Fiction and wacky fan theories numerous enough to, well, barely leave in enough room on the Internet for that other franchise and well... you know, including fan-produced live action series with production values that rival the show itself.
  • Studio 100 (The company that created Samson En Gert) has another very popular show in Belgium called Kabouter Plop (Plop the Gnome) which is very popular in Belgium. The series has made a lot of songs over the years and tons of merchandise which can be found everywhere in Belgium. Especially in the Studio 100 Theme Parks such as Plopsaland De Panne and Plopsa Indoor Hasselt. Cookies have also been a popular treat by children where it's called "Plop Koeken Biscuts".
  • No one expected CW's TV series Supernatural to be 15 seasons long, certainly not series creator Eric Kripke who wrote the story to end after season 5. The franchise sells a ton of merchandise, it makes The CW so much money it's helped bankroll other series for the network, and it is a huge money maker for Creation Entertainment's for-profit fan conventions.
  • The U.S. version of Survivor — thirteen years and twenty-six seasons, beating even the show it's based on (Sweden's Expedition: Robinson).
  • Top Gear (UK) has expanded way beyond a UK TV motoring series. As well as spawning a number of localized spin-offs and/or being syndicated abroad, The BBC publishes a popular print magazine and a website busily promoting The Merch.
  • The Ultraman franchise, with 30+ series, over 15 movies, and a bunch of manga and video games since 1966, isn't stopping anytime soon. This mainly applies in its home nation of Japan (and most of Southeast Asia) as it remains relatively obscure in the West, however Tsuburaya and Mill Creek Entertainment is soon to change that with Blu-Ray and DVD releases of older and newer Ultraman titles in the US.
  • The Walking Dead has quickly become AMC's flagship franchise. Once known for marquee fare like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, the episodic series about a group of survivors living in a post-apocalyptic world infested with zombies quickly rose to the top of the network's ratings, and branched out into multiple shows, branded merchandise and more. It has inspired multiple video games (including The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, multiple mobile titles, gambling machines and The Walking Dead Arcade), lines of action figures, multiple spinoff shows (including Tales of the Walking Dead), a proposed film trilogy starring lead actor Andrew Lincoln, books, the tie-in interview series Talking Dead, webisodes and much more. While fans will generally agree that the highest ratings period for the series (from Seasons 1-7 of the main series) has passed, it's clear that the show is still the network darling and will continue for some time yet. Notably, when AMC announced that the eleventh season of the main series would be its last, they also simultaneously announced a Spin-Off with actors Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) and Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier), unrelated to the aforementioned spinoff shows, at the same time.
  • The X Factor. Where do we start? It launched the careers of so many singers and bands, It's the highest-rated television show in Britain (at times attracting half of all people watching television at the time), spawning international spin-offs, turning Cheryl Cole into a bestselling pop star/media darling, an annual successful concert tour, books, "best of" DVDs, a magazine, even merchandise such as perfume plastered with the X Factor logo has been distributed. And they had this one group from a few years back...what was their name again? One Direction.

  • Enrico Caruso: Italian opera singer who was world famous in the 1900s-1920s. He was the first musical artist whose records sold millions internationally.
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Bing Crosby
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Elvis Presley: Mass marketed ever since the 1950s with album records, films, TV specials, Las Vegas shows,... Even more astonishing is that he never toured outside the U.S.A. (except for Canada once), because manager Colonel Parker, who was an illegal immigrant, feared that he wouldn't be able to return to the U.S. Despite never going on international tour Elvis still managed to attract an enormous international audience that still hasn't died down. He even sold more records after his death than in his entire life. As Michael O'Donoghue purportedly remarked when told of Elvis' death in 1977, "Good career move."
  • The Beatles: Have never been out of publicity ever since the 1960s and are one of the few internationally popular musical acts that are both popular with the general public as the more alternative listeners. For instance, each re-release of their music in a new recording format is always big news. Apple Corps. released 13 Beatles albums and one Beatles video game (on three platforms) on the same day, and appears to be getting away with it. And then there's LOVE.
  • Paul McCartney as performing artist and (former) Beatle is this by association. That he still can sing doesn't hurt (not that death has stopped John Lennon from putting out new albums). That his own management markets him as aggressively as they dare results in highly lucrative tours.
  • hide, due in part due to his skill and talent and iconic style... but more sadly after his death due to his brother and estate owner Hiroshi Matsumoto reaching Corrupt Corporate Executive levels of greed, filing Frivolous Lawsuit s which were only stopped when he managed to sue someone with even more money and legal firepower, churning out tons of Greatest Hits type compilations and crappily made merch. He even licensed hide's magnum opus and image song Pink Spider to a pop artist for a cover, which led to a boycott of him and the official estate by some fans.
  • The Rolling Stones — who never actually went away. They have the second highest-grossing tour ever and three entries in the top 20 (the only band to match that number is also the one with the top spot, U2).
  • The Who. They broke up in 1982, but seemingly never stopped performing comeback shows once a 1989 tour proved a huge hit.
  • Bob Marley: Internationally one of the most successful musical artists of all time, especially in Third World countries. He became even more legendary after his death.
  • Michael Jackson was mass-marketed from his childhood onwards: TV specials, clothing, an animated cartoon series (Jackson5ive in The '70s), music videos, merchandising, the best-selling album of all time, Pepsi commercials, etc. Despite bad publicity and declining record sales from The '90s onward he still remained in the picture as tabloid fodder. After his death his sales skyrocketed to previously unheard-of levels for catalog releases and his reputation was mostly restored (with not one, but two Cirque du Soleil shows built around his work pulling down millions in ticket sales). His posthumous earnings potential is limited by the fact that his estate focuses on his solo work, which only yielded six albums and an EP (The Onion joked, shortly after he died, that there are only so many times people will buy Thriller). Much of his unreleased work already saw the light of day on reissues and/or a box set in his lifetime, and 2010's posthumously-assembled Michael wasn't the blockbuster it was expected to be.
  • Madonna: To the point of overkill.
  • Tupac Shakur's death in 1996 hasn't stopped his record label from releasing every single studio outtake, rough mix, or demo track that he ever recorded, to the point that his posthumous record catalog is larger than what he released while he was alive (this has, naturally, spawned many convoluted theories that Shakur is still alive and recording in secret).
  • Frank Zappa. The crazy bastard recorded 53 some-odd albums in a 30-year career. There is gonna be a metric shitload of outtakes and demos for the studios to release, plus compilations and best-of albums. A 60-album reissue sequence launched in 2012!
  • The 1996 death of Sublime's Brad Nowell similarly did not stop his record label from releasing a fantastic array of posthumous works, with the numerous compilation and live albums produced after his death than far exceeding the number of studio albums produced prior. And a reunion tour in 2010.
  • A large repertoire of classical music has been performed centuries after the deaths of composers and original performers. While the music is often well worth preserving, tourist concerts at Vienna may be considered milking the cash cow. And candy named after Mozart.
  • The list of bands who have done comeback shows or records despite important band members dead, retired or just not being what they used to be includes the following:
    • The Doors - two records without Morrison, a "tribute album" with a bevy of guest vocalists, nowadays touring as Riders On The Storm after John Densmore and the Morrison estate sued to prevent them from performing under the Doors brand.
    • Led Zeppelin (whose comeback show was actually very good)
    • Queen, who at least took great pains to advertise their shows as "Queen + Paul Rodgers" to make it clear that Rodgers is not a replacement for the dear departed Freddie Mercury. Reportedly Freddie Mercury said that if anyone could/should replace him as frontman, he would want it to be Paul Rodgers. Paul Rogers has since been replaced with Adam Lambert.
    • Eagles — Don Henley said that they would re-unite "when Hell freezes over". Hell froze over in 1994 and has had periodic re-freezings since then.
    • Roger Waters declared Pink Floyd "a creatively spent force" after he left in 1985, but the band kept right on topping the charts and filling arenas. Waters himself earned oodles of cash with tours based on The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.
  • KISS works in both fronts: not only releases many compilations, live albums, etc, but also has an empire of licensed merchandising, that ranges from the ever popular action figures to condoms, going through...Kiss Kaskets! (Pantera's Dimebag Darrell was buried in one). There's also the movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (though the band would).
  • This also applies to Jimi Hendrix, who left behind a stunning amount of officially completed and released studio tracks, posthumously completed tracks (often meddled with and unauthorized), live recordings (and filmed performances), demos, home recordings, outtakes, bootlegs, alternate takes, TV, film and radio performances and unreleased recordings from the early 1960's to his death in 1970, alongside perennial rereleases and repackagings of his official back catalogue, enough to keep the archives busy for 40 years. A new release of rare and unreleased recordings, Valleys of Neptune debuted in the top five in March 2010 nearly forty years after his death, shattering Elvis's record.
  • The memory and legend of Woodstock are strong enough that it will always be fairly useful as a cash cow, for the bands who played at that fateful concert and the nostalgic merchandisers; though anything as ambitious as organizing a new Woodstock has never gone as well as the spirit of Woodstock would have wanted it.
  • Given the number of redundant compilations that The Smiths' record label has put out, it's fair to say that this is what they've become. This is especially ironic, since they parodied this kind of treatment in the song "Paint a Vulgar Picture."
  • Justin Bieber seems to be heading in this direction.
  • David Bowie is a quiet example. He was a Reclusive Artist from 2008 to his death in 2016, and stopped touring after 2004, but his music is so popular that in The '90s he made millions with what came to be known as "Bowie Bonds". Expanded reissues of his albums date back to the turn of The '90s and the "Sound+Vision" runthrough of his 1969-80 catalog; since 2002, a special and/or remastered edition of one of his albums is an annual event (2008 was an exception, but the official release of the much-loved bootleg Live Santa Monica '72 arrived instead). Multiple new books about/involving Bowie, be they biographies, photo retrospectives, or analyses of his initial impact and/or continuing influence, arrive yearly. The multimedia retrospective David Bowie Is — featuring scores of artifacts, costumes, etc. from his personal archive — launched in 2013 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, smashed the museum's attendance records, and toured internationally after that. He died just two days after releasing his last album, and this didn't so much renew public interest in his work as reconfirm that it will be beloved and bought for decades to come.
  • Before Taylor Swift left her original record label, Big Machine, after her contract expired in November 2018, she was bringing in roughly 80% of their annual revenue all by herself.
  • Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash. His name is on every kind of music equipment a guitarist would need. So far he has 8 Gibson/Epiphone Signature Les Paul guitars (Two of which are the exact same product, only with different names on the headstock. No spec-differences at all), 3 Marshall Signature Amplifiers, 2 Dunlop/MXR Signature Wah-Pedals, a signature Slide and a Seymour-Duncan Slash Signature Pick-Up set, etc. In fact, the only thing he doesn't have signature-versions of are a custom string-set (although he's probably trying to get that arranged), guitar-picks and cables. Given his appeal and skill, it's no surprise his return to GNR resulted in one of the five highest-grossing tours ever.
  • The bunny characters Snuggle and Snuggelina created by German cellphone and music company Jamster have sung a lot of songs released over the years, and the characters are so popular that they got a few audiobooks released in Germany and even appeared in various live shows in Germany. Unlike Jamster's other character Crazy Frog, which the majority of the public didn't like, Snuggle and Snuggelina have gotten a lot of positive reception from the public. While the duo are unknown in other countries, you can find a lot of merchandise featuring the two if you visit any store or shop in Germany.
  • Pinkfong, a Korean educational brand, had a major cash cow on its hands when their version of the classic song "Baby Shark" became a viral hit and achieved a billion views on YouTube. The song's popularity earned it a merchandise line of toys, clothing, cereal, and even an animated Nickelodeon show.

  • Boeing and Airbus practically run a Duopoly of Large Airliners, since airlines would often rather take 2nd or 3rd-hand Boeing or Airbus planes rather than a brand new Comac or indigenous design, simply because those planes are still better despite the wear and tear. Bombardier and Embraernote  run much the same thing for small regional jet airliners.
  • 5% of Harley-Davidson's net revenue is licensing their brand name to other products. Just for selling their name.
  • In a similar vain, Playboy Enterprises has lost money almost every quarter on the magazine and internet divisions since the 1990s. However, the thousands of licensed products have kept the business profitable since the early 2000s.
  • The vast unpopularity of Donald Trump and his presidential campaign and following presidency that debuted to the worst approval ratings for a US president ever recorded in history led to many comedians finding a goldmine in lampooning his policies and behavior as seen in post-2015 seasons of South Park where Mr. Garrison is revised as a stand-in for Trump, NBC's Saturday Night Live, The President Show (a sketch comedy entirely dedicated to mocking Trump) and Our Cartoon President. Jimmy Kimmel also dedicates a lot of his screen time on his ABC talk show lampooning Trump.

  • Microsoft Windows absolutely dwarfs both other systems in market share. As long as powerful, customizable computers are needed at all Microsoft will still rake massive numbers. And this continues the story on how Bill Gates became the world's richest man. A non-exclusivity contract to provide the DOS to IBM stated everyone who decided to copy the IBM PC had to pay Microsoft to get the operating system of IBM's machines — and it was basically every tech company! DOS' ubiquity helped the Windows get its foothold.
  • Apple's business model seems to be built around trying new things and hoping enough things stick to keep them in business. While the company's history is littered with disasters (Lisa, Apple III, Pippin, etc.) they've kept going thanks to some big hits: The Apple II lasted an amazing thirteen years, the iPod returned the company to prominence in the early 2000s, the iPhone has kept the company relevant as the personal media player market has waned, and the iPad caused the tablets to finally popularize. Their MacBooks have also risen in popularity since the mid-2000s.
  • Adobe, to the point "Photoshop" became a verb and the software in their Creative Suite are the industry standard in areas aside from 3D and computer-aided design (both headed by Autodesk).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons provided inspiration for the majority of RPGs and a surprising amount of other fantasy works, and has several separate universes that continue to grow.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Aside from becoming the kings of tabletop wargaming and sustaining a major corporation, these franchises have produced multiple video games, and enough novels to justify the creation of an entire publishing company (Black Library). Bonus points? The miniatures games have no advertising - they gain new customers solely through word of mouth. This has however had a knock on effect - GW paid little to no attention to its other games as a result of this trope, to the point where the Specialist Games range, designed at the older GW players, were taken down.
  • Iron Kingdoms for Privateer Press subverts this trope. In addition to being a D&D setting and having at least two or three games (the aforementioned Warmachine, Hordes and now Grind), Privateer have not neglected their other games, such as Monsterpocalypse (which is also a Cash Cow, what with a movie deal with DreamWorks).
  • Steve Jackson Games has their D&D parody card game Munchkin. With twenty-four core editions, booster packs, a board game, and ancillary merchandising, it's been SJG's biggest seller for almost two decades now, even reaching beyond the usual Friendly Local Game Store to more conventional retailers like Target.
  • In the heady days of The '90s, the Old World of Darkness was this, with endless supplement sales driven by a nova-hot LARP scene, and being one of the major factors in bringing lots of women (formerly seen as a Periphery Demographic) into the roleplaying hobby, and the fact that D&D was a collapsing Franchise Zombie at that point helped bring White Wolf to the top of the industry. However, as The '90s ended, the Urban Fantasy market became oversaturated with their descendants, and the New World of Darkness came out to mixed response, the old cash cow started getting a little long in the tooth. It's still big business but not nearly what it once was, and chaos caused by corporate restructuring and the generally negative pre-response to their plans for a new version of the World of Darkness has shaken the brand further.
  • Monopoly, sold in 101 countries, featuring many variants (including licensed versions), electronic versions, and even McDonald's promotions.
  • Magic: The Gathering. Just one of a bazillion games whose tropes draw (or at least originally drew) on Dungeons & Dragons, but deserves mention as a major fixture in the gaming world in its own right. Owned by Wizards of the Coast, and successful enough to eventually let the company buy Dungeons & Dragons. It became so lucrative that Hasbro snatched up the company, and Magic has consistently been the company's top-selling game since Hasbro bought them out.

  • As of 2016 there are 18 different Cirque du Soleil troupes performing somewhere in the world, changing acts and performers over time. Several have run for over a decade, and one (Mystere) for over two.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera has been running in London since 1986 and on Broadway since 1988. Foreign sit-down productions run rampant, as does merchandising. The sequel Love Never Dies intended to do the same, but instead serves as an extension of the original franchise.
  • William Shakespeare's work has been going strong for four hundred years now. It's all long since become part of the public domain, but because of that it's a cash cow for both theatres and publishers who don't need to pay royalties to perform it.
  • Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap has been running in the West End since 1952, logging tens of thousands of performances.
  • Musicals in the Netherlands are advertising with "<SHOW> WILL STOP SOON! GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!" and continue for years.
  • The Nutcracker is the Cash Cow Franchise of ballet companies everywhere every Christmas. For theaters specializing in straight plays or musicals, adaptations of A Christmas Carol serve a similar purpose.
  • Captain Sabertooth is probably Norway's biggest cash cow franchise; it started out in 1990 as a theatrical play for the outdoors stage in Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park, but was such a wild success that it spawned a huge amount of spin-off products, sequels, CDs, books, TV series and movies. Ever since 1990, there has been at least one Captain Sabertooth production running or being made at any given time.
  • Takarazuka Revue has two: The Rose of Versailles and Elisabeth. As of 2020, the former has been staged 20 times (as two musicals, one following Marie Antoinette and Fersen, the other following Oscar and André), and the latter 10 times. A look at the TakaWiki page of any actress active from 1974 onwards inevitably reveals that she has been in either BeruBaranote  or Elisabeth, or sometimes both.

  • Hello Kitty pulls in over $1 billion a year.
  • Snuggies. They've got Snuggies for pets, for Pete's sake! They only raked in more money with the economic disaster.
  • Pillow Pets... there are dozens and dozens of them, they come in different sizes, and now you can find licensed pillow-pet characters (such as Yoshi). They even make ones that can shine glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling. You can even find them in GROCERY STORES. And it's hard to run into someone (especially a kid) who does NOT know their commercials' theme song...
  • Jewelpet is tailored for this, what with having over 40 little creatures that are the basis for plushies and other collectible toys, plus all the anime and other derivative works. That said, this one's success is locked to Japan, as America won't buy it due to its similarities to Webkinz and while Europe got it, it failed to catch on.
  • Shopkins were the fourth biggest-selling licensed property of 2015, and there's Shopkins versions of everything imaginable for young girls to buy.
  • Baby Alive dolls were always pretty successful, but then came the 2006 re-launch of the franchise, which made it very popular among young girls, thanks in part to the target demographic's parents growing up with it and, in later years, online video reviews of the dolls becoming popular. This particular version has been going on for twelve years as of this writing, and also had a short-lived spin-off game online, Crib Life.
  • Barbie is probably the queen of this trope as far as toys go. The brand has been also licensed to non-doll products as well, and has been going on for almost sixty years.
  • My Little Pony began as large My Pretty Pony toys but that didn't sell so well, so in 1983 the line was reintroduced as the much smaller My Little Pony. Thus, one of the biggest cash-cow toy lines was born. New toys have been in production almost nonstop since 1983, numerous animated adaptations have been produced (including two theatrical films), several comics have been released, and even stage shows have existed. That's not even including the truckloads of merchandise. The toyline is an international hit and the only major exception to its success was the late 1990s "G2" toys (which bombed everywhere besides a few European countries, had no animated adaptation, and was quickly discontinued in most regions).
  • Even after all these years, LEGO remains one of the biggest names in toys. They've been bought by billions of families, there are countless video games and movies based on the brand and hobbyists have proven time and time again that just about anything can be Built with LEGO, including robots.
  • L.O.L. Surprise! has become the biggest-selling doll line ever since it came out. Outside of the line of dolls, it has merchandise that expands on the surprise concept by bundling a mystery item with the item in question. For example, a coloring book based on the dolls comes with a mystery eraser.
  • The Hot Wheels toy franchise began in 1968 and has been massively popular since. It's gotten a lot of toys made for it since its inception and has also spawned several Animated Adaptations; it's right up there with Barbie as one of the Flagship Franchises of Mattel.
  • The Tamagotchi series of virtual pet toys became a huge fad overnight upon their introduction in 1996. In America, the fad's died down, but in Japan, the Tamagotchi toy series has spawned an entire franchise, with plenty of merchandise made for it such as Licensed Games, plush toys of the characters, and even its own dedicated department store. When Tamagotchi got an anime TV show in 2009, it became so popular that it ran for 271 episodes.
  • Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama, Tamagotchi's Spiritual Successor, is also this, with it selling more merchandise than fellow Bandai property Go! Princess Pretty Cure in its first year of toy sales.

    Video Games 
  • The whole medium itself is a multi-billion dollar industry, but if you want a list of details on video game franchise sales, look no further than The Other Wiki's list of best-selling video game franchises that have sold or shipped at least five million copies.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • 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's paranoid cancellation of every product that might compete with UO in favor of yet more expansions.
  • Square Enix's franchises:
    • Final Fantasy, which in terms of money generation is definitely Fantastic, but not at all Final. Reportedly, the name was chosen because the developer expected to go out of business because of lack of money. Since the end of The '80s, they were wrong: Final Fantasy VII has a movie, two anime OVAs, two prequels, and a third-person shooter/RPG sequel and its tie-in midquel featuring its most popular Optional Party Member, Vincent Valentine (phew), and all of that's not to count the novels.
    • 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.
  • Hothead Games Big Win Sports has a TON of popular sports sims.
  • Phantasy Star, Sega's answer to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, has never been as popular as its counterparts, but Online and its various permutations, spinoffs, and spiritual successors have maintained its cult status from the 8-bit era up to today.
  • 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 of Korea helps.
  • From Sony Interactive Entertainment's biggest cash cow is Gran Turismo, which is has sold around 80 million units overall. Behind it are Naughty Dog's Uncharted, SIE Santa Monica Studio's God of War, and Insomniac Games' Spider-Man series in terms of sales.
  • The King of Fighters series first came out in 1994 as a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of several of SNK's other series. All of the "root" series have long since ended, but The King of Fighters is still going 20+ years later.
  • Capcom:
    • 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).
    • Resident Evil has become the #1 best selling Capcom franchise surpassing both Mega Man and Street Fighter so it definitely deserves to be here. The series also has a successful ongoing live-action movie franchise, which shows that the series has reached COMPLETE. GLOBAL. SATURATION.
    • 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 and PAL territories 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).
  • Ever since its release, Granblue Fantasy is known to be one of the most profitable titles of Cygames in Japan, to the point that:
    • The game annually remains on the Top 10 Most Profitable Mobile Games In Japan for consecutive years. At one point, it managed be the Highest Grossing App for the first time in years during the release of Summer Jeanne.
    • The Granblue in-game codes bundled with the Blu-Ray and DVDs are capable of boosting the sales of other Cygames anime such as Uma Musume and Rage of Bahamut.
    • While the Granblue Fantasy anime became the 3rd Best-Selling Anime of 2017 the moment its first season was aired, it still remains in the Charts for the 2018 Blu-Ray and DVD Sales for Japan. This is despite the fact that there had been no Granblue anime works released on 2018, it's just that the in-game bonuses kept on selling.
    • 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 , inducing such a sharp decline of interest in the entire Rhythm 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.
  • 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 Bank 4 in 2015.
  • Konami's BEMANI series. Many, many mixes of each series were published.
  • 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 .
  • If you wanna talk Leaf/Aquaplus, bring up To Heart and To Heart 2. Heck, a mere Gaiden Game squelshed the competition in its genre. And that's not counting the merchandise and various anime adaptations. (Three To Heart 2 OVA series, all based off a single game? Sure...)
  • Madden NFL. Each iteration usually falls among the top ten best-selling games each year, if not reaching number one. A Fanboys comic 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): Two original classics, five popular MGS console titles and three portable titles , 5 Updated Rereleases (Integral, Substance, Subsistence, the HD/Legacy Collection, and V's The 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.
  • Nippon Ichi has discovered the joys of Updated Re-release with the Disgaea series. Take an old game, add some stuff, put it on a new console, and BAM!
  • 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  and is the second highest selling franchise in video game history, period.
  • Namco's Tales series. Beginning with Tales of Phantasia in 1995, it's now (as of Dec 2009) up to seventeen main titles ("motherships"), seventeen side stories ("escorts"), two animes, two OVAs, and one movie. How popular is it? Xbox 360s sold out in Japan before Tales of Vesperia was released. And now, Tales of Xillia become the fastest selling title in the series and the second fastest selling PS3 game in Japan after Final Fantasy XIII and is credited for increasing PS3 sales. Too bad that more then half of the series is unavailable to anyone unfortunate to live outside of Japan.
  • Pac-Man and The Idolmaster count as cash cows as well.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • And BioWare's other current RPG series, Dragon Age, has spanned three games, more from Dark Horse Comics, a few novels, another anime movie, and several spin-off games. Dragon Age: Inquisition was announced to be BioWare's most successful launch ever.
  • 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 Spiritual 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 cash cow franchises and put out a huge DLC for their released game. Kudos to DICE for not having Attention Deficit Creator Disorder syndrome despite all this.
  • Dead Space is yet another cash cow for EA. With three console games, a rail-shooting game for the Wii, an Interquel of a IOS Game, a puzzle game, two Direct To DVD animated movies, two comics, and one novel, space horror has become an easy moneymaker for the company.
  • Bomberman: Over 70 games, plus two anime series (Bomberman B-Daman Bakugaiden and Bomberman Jetters), the first of which were tied to an entire line of marble-shooting toys that later became its own franchise.
  • 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 Sequel Puyo 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 is only a few years old, but its 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 the three sequels (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 four more games, 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. A novel trilogy 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.
  • Midway Games intensively milked the Mortal Kombat franchise in the 1990s, spreading it beyond video games to comic books, live-action movies, cartoon and live-action TV series and a part-CG OVA. Even after the series' popularity faded, it's telling that practically the only part of Midway to live on after the company went bankrupt in 2009 was the Chicago studio responsible for developing Mortal Kombat 9.
  • 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.
  • Bethesda has two going for it:
  • Ninja Kiwi's highly successful Bloons series 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 generally lambasted reception of the full release of the 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 Wars as 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.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • A rare webcomic example: Homestuck.
    • Sales figures are unknown due to not being published, but music albums and merch sell very quickly, and members of the Music Team and Art Team have had successful solo stints launched from the name recognition pulled in. The amount of money is unknown, but it does pull in enough to support a half dozen or more people who're needed to run What Pumpkin (the store) and Andrew Hussie himself. Adspace too has reached very high levels; one memorable banner ad cost over 400 dollars on an off day, though on average it ranges from $30-$70.
    • The Homestuck music albums are probably the best selling albums on Bandcamp, period, though it's hard to determine this because Bandcamp does not release statistics to conclusively prove this. However, as of this writing, two Homestuck albums remain in the top 20 top sellers of late... five months after release.
    • The ridiculous cash-generating potential of this series was revealed when they ran a Kickstarter campaign for a Homestuck video game. They raised two and a half million dollars, over three times the goal, in one month.
  • Penny Arcade supports Gabe and Tycho's families and themselves, in addition to a handful of other people. It has also spawned a few card games, book collections of the strips, an episodic RPG, T-shirts, and lots more merchandise that can be found on the official store. One comic states that they are not allowed to do anything overly risky because if one of them dies or lose the ability to write/draw, 14 people would lose their job.
  • MegaTokyo still generates enough money to support the creator and his family despite rampant Schedule Slip and a dramatic shrinking of its fanbase. One can only imagine how much cash it was printing at the height of its popularity.
  • Immelmann makes a nice living on Concession merchandise and commissions in which the webcomic’s characters interact with customers' Fursonas, appear in porn, or both.

    Web Original 
  • Facebook has turned social networking into big business. Before Facebook, it was all about MySpace.
  • Google. They have not only the world's most popular search engine and video sharing website, but also an email service, a social media service (which has shut down since due to unpopularity), a data storage service, and a mobile operating system that rivals iOS in popularity.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd. His videos tend to get thousands, if not millions of views and there is more AVGN merchandise than you can launch an Atomic F-Bomb at.
  • The Nostalgia Critic. And he knows it. And his honest preview (where he self-deprecated most things about himself) made fun of Channel Awesome for flogging him harder as a cash cow than Disney do with Frozen and The Lion King.
  • Rooster Teeth eventually quit their jobs to get supported by Red vs. Blue, selling T-shirts, posters and DVDs, along with allowing viewers to help by becoming Sponsors (now known as Rooster Teeth FIRST). And after they had branched out with things such as Achievement Hunter, came RT's biggest cash cow, RWBY. Being an Animesque Magical Girl show, it appealed to previously untapped demographics and markets - it was the first anime localized for Japan, instead of the other way around - and with the advantage of being fully owned by RT (Red vs. Blue is done with Halo assets), they made all sorts of merchandise, including a videogame and a board game that gathered nearly $800,000 on Kickstarter.
  • Ryan ToysReview. What started out as a simple humble home-video YouTube channel became one of the top channels in the world, racking up billions of views and making millions each year. Not only that, thanks to, he and his Spin-Off chanels boast a loaded-out franchise already, complete with a toy line, two video games, and even a Nick Jr. show. No wonder Ryan's seen as the eye of envy in many young children.

    Western Animation 
  • Woody Woodpecker was once a hugely popular franchise, allowing his theatrical cartoons to last all the way up to the early 70's (when theatrical cartoons had all but completely died out) and make oodles of cash off of loads of toys and assorted merchandise, and having a hit TV show which aired for decades also helped. But eventually, with the failure of The New Woody Woodpecker Show, as well as Universal's disinterest in promoting the character outside of mascot costumes and the DVD collections, his status has degenerated into a state of near-obscurity (except in countries where he's still popular).
  • Popeye was also a juggernaut of a franchise once upon a time, but his popularity has declined since then (aside from the fantastic DVD collections).
  • South Park is this for Comedy Central. There are currently 307 episodes split between 23 seasons and counting.
  • Nickelodeon and its parent company ViacomCBS have SpongeBob SquarePants — An article showed that Atlantis SquarePantis scored the show's highest ratings ever in both the original, pre-movie run and the current, post-movie run, further cementing the fact that the Sponge will not die. Real-life sea sponges can live up to 700 years old; SpongeBob may be the same. SpongeBob is Viacom's most profitable show, and has been since it was Un-Cancelled. As in, it has generated 13 billion dollars in merchandising sales. Dang. There was this SpongeBob pendant that sold for 75 grand at the last Sundance festival. The first movie made over $32 million on its opening weekend, on its way to over $85 million in the United States and over $140 million worldwide, while the second movie made $321.1 million worldwide! Now THAT'S the power of the yellow sponge for ya. It's got two amusement ride and there's even a live show in the United Kingdom and even a Broadway show!
  • Before there was the sponge, there was Rugrats, one of the original three (along with Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show), which earned three movies and three spin-offs (All Grown Up!, Tales From the Crib, Angelica and Susie's Preschool Daze). Due to an increased demand for classic Nickelodeon programming and memorabilia, a reboot series was announced in 2018.
  • The Fairly OddParents was this back in the day. Not only was it the second longest running Nicktoon after SpongeBob, it also spawned quite a few toys, books, movies, and video games. Even now that it's finally ended, it continues to rerun frequently on Nicktoons, and is also getting a live action reimagining on Paramount+.
  • The Loud House is shaping up to be this, being one of the few Nickelodeon shows in history to rival SpongeBob in ratings. It currently has 4 seasons finished, with a 5th one broadcasting, and a renewal of a 6th season, along with a plethora of books and mobile phone apps and even a podcast featuring the Loud family. They'd also announce a movie and a video game, as well as a spin-off featuring The Casagrandes.
  • Dora the Explorer was once the cash cow for Nick Jr.. The Spanish teaching Latina and her friends can be found on anything from dinnerware to pajamas. The show's Spiritual Successor, Dora and Friends: Into the City, also has endless amounts of merchandise.
  • Before Dora, it was Blue's Clues. It even proved popular enough to garner a spin-off in 2004 and a reboot series in 2019.
  • It's dropped off in popularity since the '90s, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still a profitable franchise, and proof of that is a cartoon reboot, a toy line, a Lego line, and four live-action movies! And then the 2012 cartoon has made the turtles immensely popular with a whole new generation of fans, and is also well received among people who grew up with previous iterations of the franchise.
  • Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang have definitely been a cash cow franchise from the early 1940s to the present day, largely due to TV exposure. Taz and Tweety are still being slapped on a lot of merchandise, Taz being an amazingly profitable Ensemble Dark Horse who only appeared in five shorts. Looney Tunes are well on their way to joining the ranks of Betty Boop (see below) in still selling merchandise while most consumers now have never watched the cartoon they're from.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine is this for HiT Entertainment. There is so much worldwide merchandise, it'd take all day to list it here. Each year, $1 billion US dollars worth of Thomas merchandise is sold.
  • Scooby-Doo continues to reappear every generation. For a long time, it held the world record for the TV show with the most amount of episodes. Its merchandise is insane. There's practically a Scooby-themed product for just about any inanimate object you can imagine. There are also theme park rides, and even whole shops dedicated to Scooby merchandise at said theme parks. Each episode of the original Where Are You? series has been released to video and DVD easily over a dozen times. At least one direct-to-video movie has come out each year since 1998, two theatrical successful live action films were produced, and two live-action TV films were also made (the first one garnering Cartoon Network its best ratings ever). Not bad for a little Hanna-Barbera show from the late 60s.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender had a feature film produced years after it ended, and there's a Netflix live-action series on the way. Aang isn't airbending away anytime soon. Avatar could beat SpongeBob in ratings AND the 2008 Kid's Choice Awards. It has since spawned Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, which takes place seventy years after the events of the original series. Its initial 12-episode season did good enough in testing that Nickelodeon ordered 14 more episodes. Then when the first 12 episodes actually aired, it did good enough that 26 more episodes were ordered, making 52 episodes total. In early 2021, Nickelodeon announced the development of Avatar Studios, an production studio that will focus solely on Avatar media.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: has had three seasons finished, a fourth season currently airing, three new seasons in production, two finished specials, two web series, and a two theratical films currently under production. It's also spanwed several comic books a manga, and has become a ratings hit on various Disney Channels around the world, and it has several live stage shows. There’s also a chunk load of merchandise for the series too, from toys to clothing.
  • Winx Club is this for Italy's Rainbow animation studio (co-owned by Iginio Straffi and Viacom). The show has been a ratings hit on Viacom's international Nickelodeon channels (in 2011, it singlehandedly increased Nickelodeon UK's ratings by 58%). From 2011 to 2013, Nick spent $100 million on Winx Club advertising alone. The show has spawned three CGI movies, two spin-offs, and a monthly comic well as a Live-Action Adaptation, Fate: The Winx Saga, aimed at young adults.
  • Betty Boop still appears on a lot of merchandise, despite the fact that a large percentage of the people buying the merchandise have probably never watched a Betty Boop cartoon in their lives. Perhaps it's a Cash Cow Franchise Zombie?
  • Felix the Cat was one of the earliest shows to be a cash cow by modern standards, making most of its money in the 1920s. It's still limping along on merchandise as of this writing, even though the last attempt to revive the show ended in 2004.
  • Seth Green practically admitted in an interview that Robot Chicken is this for him, citing this fact as the main basis behind the self-cancellation of his other show, Titan Maximum, despite its fantastic performance ratings-wise.
  • Ben 10 has three sequels (Alien Force, Ultimate Alien, and Omniverse) and a 2016 reboot, four made-for-TV movies, LOTS of toys, EVEN MORE merchandising tat (Yes, tat. Poorly designed and useless trinkets that no one in the right mind will touch.), and there's even a stage show and a game show being based off it in India. You know it's CN's cash cow when it airs on certain international CN feeds seemingly ten times a day. The 2016 series was even more toyetic, with some aliens being redesigned to be more toy-friendly and executives even once ordering extra episodes for the express of showcasing Kevin's alien forms and little else.
  • Cartoon Network has sparked a cult following the addition of Adventure Time. You can find T-shirts of all sorts (including show catchphrases and a variation of the face expression MemeticMutation), wallets in the shape of Finn's head, and so forth.
  • Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball have also been giant successes.
  • Before Ben 10 and Adventure Time came along, CN had Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed Eddn Eddy, and Courage the Cowardly Dog.
  • Peppa Pig dethroned Thomas the Tank Engine as the most successful preschool show in the United Kingdom and has merchandise by the boatload in its home country, as well as a movie and three different live shows.
    • One of Entertainment One's other preschool shows, PJ Masks, is also this, getting everything from backpacks and costumes and even a live show. Until Muppet Babies premiered, it was Disney Junior's highest-rated show, beating out their own in-house productions in ratings.
  • PAW Patrol: Spin Master's very first TV show has spawned tons of spin-off merchandise. If there's a product for toddlers out there, chances are that there will be a PAW Patrol version of said product. The toy line upon which the show is based and the basis for what made the show popular rivals Thomas the Tank Engine in size. There's also a series of touring shows, a theme park attraction at Nickelodeon Universe and even an upcoming movie.
  • Teen Titans Go! has become this for Cartoon Network in the years following its debut, in spite of its heavily mixed reception. It gets higher ratings than anything on Nickelodeon or Disney Channelnote , has a small toyline that is popular with kids of all ages and genders, has fast food tie ins at nearly every United States fast food chain imaginable, and eventually got its own theatrical movie!
  • My Little Pony:
    • While My Little Pony was always one of Hasbro's main toy-selling franchises, its popularity was on the wane until My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic rejuvenated the brand by spawning a huge and vocal Periphery Demographic for several different reasons. This allowed them to start marketing for adults as well as their targets, young girls. Thanks to the bronies, business for this franchise has never been better. We Love Fine and Hot Topic are selling apparel and accessories by the truckload, Hasbro is selling their toys just as much, and so on. It's also to the point to where Hasbro will ask the DHX team to introduce a new pony entirely for the purpose of selling toys (for example, Princess Cadance, for a pink alicorn toy) and the team will go ahead with it.
    • Hasbro even released a spinoff film (My Little Pony: Equestria Girls) that featured the ponies as humans in a high-school setting. Originally, the bronies hated the very concept (not that this is the first time this has happened), but Hasbro stayed the course with the movie and it turned out to be both a financial and critical success, even with limited showings. It would quickly grow into an incredibly successful spin-off franchise, with several movies, television specials, and online shorts. And, of course, loads and loads of toys. Not to get left out, the main show got its own theatrical movie as well.
  • VeggieTales was this during its peak popularity in the late 90's and 2000's. There was tons of merchandise for the series including toys, home decor and clothes which was primarily sold at Christian bookstores back in the day, and CD's from the show constantly appeared in the top 5 of Billboard's kids' albums list, lasting all the way up until 2005. It also got two theatrical releases. Not bad for a show that started out as a Direct to Video series!
  • Animaniacs was this for Warner Brothers back in the 1990's. If there was a product that could be sold to elementary school kids, chances are that there would be an Animaniacs version of it. Animaniacs characters had a prominence at Six Flags in the 90's and overshadowed the Looney Tunes ones, and there was also merchandise for the Periphery Demographic, mainly T-shirts of the characters. The popularity of the show continues today, with new merchandise being made to appeal to the original child demographic from the 90's, a show where cast members sing some of the show's most popular songs touring the country, and even the announcement of a Continuity Reboot!
  • Beavis And Butthead became an instant cultural icon in the 90s, spawning 7 seasons, comic books, video games, a music video with Cher, a movie and even appearances in some of MTV's music award videos. Their popularity was enough to get them one more season in 2011 as well as an announced reboot, plus one of the show's side characters would get her own spin-off.

Alternative Title(s): It Prints Money


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