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Flagship Franchise

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Some creators and studios work on a large number of unrelated projects throughout their history, while others instead focus on a particular series/franchise, possibly with a few side projects here and there. A flagship franchise is what happens when a creator consistently pools all of their creative efforts into releasing multiple major installments of a single series over many years, becoming intrinsically associated with it in the process. That is not to say that flagship franchises cannot change, if the creator finishes the original story arc and moves on to a new project that is just as big but completely unrelated to the first one.

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Compare/contrast Magnum Opus, which is about a particular work (or series) that is considered a creator's greatest by the audience and critics, while not necessarily being the creator's central focus; and Adored by the Network, where the network or publisher makes the creative team work on a particular franchise at the expense of other projects.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Astro Boy is without a doubt the most famous of Osamu Tezuka's creative output.
  • The first thing when it comes to mind about Sanrio is Hello Kitty, which has been in production since 1976.
  • Doraemon is easily this for Fujiko Fujio.
  • Shonen Jump:
  • Although they made a lot of successful franchises during all of these decades, talking about Studio Gainax is talking about Neon Genesis Evangelion, being so far the flagship of the studio.
  • Sunrise's flagship was Gundam from the 80s to the 2000s, although in the 2010s Love Live! has surpassed it in popularity.
  • Production I.G are quite well known throughout the anime industry by having some form of involvement in providing 3D CGI visual effects for numerous anime. It was their direct involvement in the production of Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex that put their anime production on the map.
  • Netflix has two particular anime that most think of when they hear the term "Netflix Original Anime".
    • DEVILMAN crybaby, the debut anime miniseries that was the platform first true Netflix Original anime, and took full advantage of it with thematic elements that could never be done outside of it. Being their Breakthrough Hit that established them as an anime producer and winning universal acclaim, this will likely be a signature.
    • Aggressive Retsuko (made by Sanrio) is the other. Based on a TBS series that never aired outside of Japan, Aggretsuko became a worldwide hit when Netflix picked up and produced the series for everyone, winning acclaim for its animation and well-written humor.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics' flagship franchise is that the comic the company is named after: Archie Comics.
  • Mostly seen in Dark Horse Comics in The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium in which naming this company was the same that saying Hellboy.
  • DC Comics has the "Trinity" (Superman, Batman and Wonder Womannote ) as its flagship franchise:
    • The three of them are not always prioritized to the same extent either individually or as a team as in Justice League, but these three characters have over-the-top priorities over all the other characters of the company in all aspects, including other big names like Green Lantern, The Flash, even if in different periods, both of them (The Flash in the early Silver Age, Green Lantern during Geofff Johns' time) were competitive and earned better than the other three. In case of adaptations, the three of them have so far have fielded the only commercially successful film adaptations.
    • This also affects properties who were not original to DC (unlike the above five mentioned above) but were acquisitions from other companies. Fawcett Comics' Shazam formerly known as Captain Marvel, once outsold Superman and was the biggest superhero in America. But a court-case and law-suit and indifference from its parent company, led to Shazam shutting down, being bought by DC and gradually being diminished. Plastic Man by Jack Cole when published by Quality Comics was well liked and popular, and critically acclaimed. But then once bought by DC, Plastic Man has been similarly Demoted to Extra, periodically revived for nostalgic reasons and generally underused because top priority always goes to the original DC properties.
    • Charlton Comics and its Steve Ditko creations are exceptions, thanks largely to Watchmen which was developed after their acquisition. The association with Watchmen made these characters prestigious and more prominent in later works, with characters such as The Question becoming more prominent than it was in the original era, and becoming an important character.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe and Donald Duck comics in general are this for Disney with them having more spinoffs, animated and video game adaptations than even Mickey Mouse (the company mascot). Mickey Mouse is more iconic but owing to his status as company mascot, his characterization flagged over the years, while Donald Duck having never lost his edge and being the Breakout Character actually brings in money for Disney among their classic characters.
  • The Marvel Universe until The Oughties had three major banner titles — Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men which got most adaptations in cartoons, crossovers, and titles compared to other books. The X-Men in particular were the best-selling series with more X-Books, spin-offs, and variations than others, with Wolverine becoming a character rivaling Spider-Man in popularity. The situation changed when Marvel sold its movie rights to stave off bankruptcy and saw the profitability of the X-Men Film Series and the Spider-Man Trilogy leading them to shift emphasis on characters whose rights they hadn't sold yet with a view to forming their own movie studios and reap profits for themselves. This led to Iron Man the 2008 film that led to the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in the period leading to that film, Iron Man gradually got pushed to the limelight and center of the Marvel Universe, and other brands such as The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy displaced the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. With the movie rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four reverting back to Marvel after Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox, it remains to be seen if they will regain their flagship status later on.
  • Image Comics in the '90s had Spawn, who was the biggest and baddest superhero of the era despite never being part of the Big Two. In the '00s, it shifted to The Walking Dead, which was the turning point in Image's diversification. In the '10s, it became Saga, as one of the most universally acclaimed and celebrated comics of the generation, and Image has since made it the mascot of the company.
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    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • The Erin Hunter team's first (and most successful) series is Warrior Cats. Some of them worked on Seeker Bears on the side for a while, and they brought on completely new authors for Survivor Dogs and Bravelands, but Warriors gets the main focus — to the point that "warriorcats.com" is the official website for all the aforementioned series — and has the most content released annually.
  • Harry Potter has always been the flagship franchise for Scholastic Books ever since it was released.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the early 1960s, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and veteran TV producer Paul Henning developed a sitcom loosely based on his wife's experiences growing up in the Ozarks. The Beverly Hillbillies went on to become the #1 Nielsen-ratings show on American TV; it kept Mr. Cumming busy producing and writing nine seasons (he also wrote the theme song) and simultaneously producing the sister shows Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.
  • In the late 1960s, Norman Lear bought the rights to adapt a BBC1 comedy, Till Death Do Us Part, for American television. ABC aired the pilot but rejected the series; undaunted, Mr. Lear turned around and sold the series to CBS. All in the Family went on to become the #1 Nielsen-ratings show on American TV; it kept Mr. Lear busy producing nine seasons, four direct spin-offs, two spin-offs from spin-offs, and Archie Bunker's Place, a renamed continuation of the original series.
  • In the early 1970s, Garry Marshall sold an unsuccessful pilot to Love, American Style, where it ran under the segment title "Love and the Television Set". Two years later, American Graffiti had made The '50s cool and Ron Howard, one of the young stars of said pilot, a star. Thus ABC picked up Happy Days for the 1974 season, which went on to become the #1 Nielsen-ratings show (replacing All in the Family) on American TV; it kept Mr. Marshall busy producing eleven seasons, seven spin-offs, and two failed spin-off pilots.
  • HBO has two:
    • The Sopranos is often seen as the show that launched the new Golden Age of adult television in The Oughties and The New '10s, inspiring The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad (by rival networks), becoming an era defining milestone series, famous for its morally compromised protagonists, violence, and occasionally surreal style that came to define this period. However, in The New '10s, it lost its title to...
    • Game of Thrones which its creators originally pitched as "Middle-Earth meets Sopranos" ultimately became bigger than Sopranos, and became the first real TV franchise, with merchandise, promotion, and a ghetto-breaking demographic-pushing show that set multiple ratings records, and HBO in its highlight reels never fails to use images from the show (the Iron Throne, or dragons) in its brand presentations.
    • Westworld has also been a huge hit and is set to take over the title once Thrones ends in 2019. That being said, it doesn’t look likely to overtake Thrones the way that show did with Sopranos.
  • Netflix:
    • Their original flagship was their very first original, House of Cards (US), which became the very first web television series to win an Emmy and for many years was the show to watch on the platform, though it's since fallen out of this status due to Kevin Spacey's fall from grace in 2017.
    • Standing next to the above was Orange Is the New Black, which actually became their most viewed original for a time, and will likely be fondly remembered after it completes.
    • Since 2016, this title likely goes to Stranger Things. A Sci-Fi horror and Genre Throwback to the '80s, the series has been seen as the big reason to keep your Netflix subscription.
  • AMC is largely defined by three shows in the public eye: Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and, to a lesser extent, Mad Men. None of their other shows, including the spinoffs to the former two shows, come close.
  • WWE Raw has long been the signature program of USA Network.
  • HGTV currently has the Property Brothers as its main show. Before that Fixer Upper was the most viewed.
  • Food Network has Guy Fieti with 3 shows and Bobby Flay with 2. Food Network Star and Chopped may also be a well known series as well. Most of the food on these shows are Italian made dishes they are the flagship meals on the network.
  • Dexter is still the first show people think of when Showtime is brought up.
  • Disney Channel has Hannah Montana as its flagship show. Once that ended however, Good Luck Charlie and Girl Meets World took over the mantle. For Disney XD, Lab Rats is considered their flagship live-action program.
  • For Nickelodeon, the sketch comedy All That was the show that helped put them on the map with live-action programming. Drake & Josh took over in 2004, followed by iCarly in 2007, and most recently The Thundermans in 2013. For game shows, it’s a three-way tie between Double Dare, Nickelodeon GUTS, and Legends of the Hidden Temple.

    Toys 
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    Video Games 
  • Despite developing and publishing a bunch of other games, Origin Systems had mainly worked on the Ultima series (1981-1999note ) throughout its entire existence, with Wing Commander (1990-97) eventually becoming an equal focus in The '90s.
  • Pac-Man (1981-present) has always been Namco’s mascot, but his series is far less prominent as a flagship franchise than it used to be. At this point, Tekken (1994-present) and the Tales Series (1995-present) are considered the flagships for the company.
  • Sir-Tech, similarly, was mainly interested in creating the Wizardry series (1981-2001), with Jagged Alliance (1994-2000) gradually joining their top-priority list in the mid-90s.
  • It goes without saying that Nintendo's flagship franchise is Super Mario Bros. (1985note -ongoing) , which constantly gets at least one new game (including spin-offs) every year. The company has three other iconic franchises vying for the title: The Legend of Zelda (1986-ongoing), Pokémon (1996-ongoing), and Super Smash Bros. (1998-ongoing).
  • New World Computing was all about making the Might and Magic series (1986-2002), including the Heroes of Might and Magic Spin-Off series (1995-2002).
  • Square Enix was created when two rival companies merged together to strengthen their game on their well-known franchises on the gaming market; Squaresoft has Final Fantasy (1987-ongoing), and Enix has Dragon Quest (1986-ongoing). Following the merger, the former is now the undisputed flagship franchise, with the latter not even in second place (which would be Kingdom Hearts [2002-ongoing]).
  • An interesting case with Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear (1987-2015). Despite his repeated insistence after every title after Metal Gear Solid 2 that he was absolutely, positively, 100% done with the series, Kojima kept coming back time and again to make more Metal Gear. Debate rages on whether or not he was doing so willingly, as even the man himself has flip-flopped on the subject. Either way, he finally reached "done forever" status when Konami fired him. For Konami, it’s between Metal Gear and Castlevania (1986-ongoing).
  • Capcom: Ever since the success of Street Fighter II and Mega Man 2, the Street Fighter (1987-ongoing) and Mega Man (1987-ongoing) series have been their "main" franchises for quite some time. Although Mega Man stagnated around 2010 and only got proper continuation in 2018, they're still going with Street Fighter.
  • Atlus' flagship franchise was once the Shin Megami Tensei series (1987-ongoing) as a whole. The resounding success of the More Popular Spin Off Persona 3 and Persona 4 made Persona (1996-ongoing) their new flagship franchise over the other games in the series.
  • Electronic Arts’ flagship series is undoubtedly the Madden NFL series (1988-ongoing).
  • Out of the many simulation games that Maxis have ever made, SimCity (1989-2013), and later The Sims (2000-ongoing) came out on top.
  • Intelligent Systems's main flagship series as of late is the Fire Emblem series (1990-ongoing).
  • Firaxis Games and the Civilization series, which has provided us with Just One More Turn since 1991.
  • Sega's biggest moneymaker is the Sonic the Hedgehog series (1991-ongoing), created as a direct answer to the popularity of Nintendo's Mario series. Even after Sega dropped out of the console development business in 2001, they've still continued to make new Sonic games on a regular basis.
  • HAL Laboratory is primarily known for the Kirby series (1992-ongoing) of games. To a lesser extent, the creator of Kirby, Masahiro Sakurai, has mostly worked on the Super Smash Bros. series (1999-ongoing) since the first installment, as he had only developed three non-Smash games amongst them, although HAL only worked on the first two games. However, Smash is undoubtedly the flagship franchise of Sakurai at this point.
  • Mortal Kombat (1992-present) was Midway Games’ flagship up until its folding in 2010. It has since become this for Netherrealm Studios on its own right.
  • For all intents and purposes, Bethesda is The Elder Scrolls series (1994-ongoing). They even turned their other flagship franchise, Fallout (which they bought from Interplay Entertainment in 2004), into something TES-like, in stark contrast to its isometric, turn-based origins.
  • SNK made this with The King of Fighters series (1994-ongoing) as its main franchise before and, especially, after the bankruptcy of 2001. In fact, with the full return of SNK (not with the "Playmore" surname), KOF has become the main focus of the company, with Samurai Shodown (1993-ongoing) as the (possible, but close) second franchise to focus on.
  • You cannot fully describe Blizzard Entertainment without mentioning WarCraft (1994-ongoing). Much of the 2000s was spent around this game starting with the third game in 2002, the Frozen Throne expansion pack in 2003, and the MMORPG in 2004 onwards. Around that point, the MMORPG itself overtook the series at the flagship. The only other rival to the throne is Overwatch (2016), which is hard to qualify as it is only a single game at this point.
  • Westwood Studios will forever be synonymous with the Command & Conquer series (1995-2002), and rightly so, seeing as their creation was one of the keystones of PC gaming for over a decade. However, they did produce a wide range of games, from the Real-Time Strategy genesis in Dune II to the Diablo-clone Nox to The Lion King tie-in action platformer.
  • Game Freak is synonymous with the Pokémon franchise (1996-ongoing).
  • The translator Natsume's flagship franchise was Harvest Moon (roughly 1997-2012) until Marvelous decided to use a different company to translate the series as Story of Seasons. As most of Natsume's profits came from the series, they opted to create their own in-house In Name Only Harvest Moon titles starting with Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (2014-ongoing).
  • Koei Tecmo. For the former it’s the Warriors franchise (e.g. Dynasty, Samurai...) (1997-ongoing) For the latter it’s the Ryu Hayabusa universe of Ninja Gaiden (1989-ongoing) and Dead or Alive (1996-present)
  • The Grand Theft Auto series (1997-ongoing) has been Rockstar Games' flagship franchise since they acquired it from BMG Interactive in 1999, with only the Red Dead series (2004-ongoing) coming somewhat close to it thanks to critical success of Red Dead Redemption. For the 2K Games subdivision, that title likely goes to the NBA 2K series (1999-ongoing).
  • Polyphony Digital is primarily known for the Gran Turismo series (1997-ongoing). Literally, their only other games are Motor Toon Grand Prix and its sequel, Omega Boost, and Tourist Trophy (which is essentially Gran Turismo with motorcycles).
  • BioWare's original flagship franchise was the legendary Baldur's Gate series (1998-2001). After trying out several new things, the studio settled for two new flagship franchises, Mass Effect (2007-ongoing) and Dragon Age (2009-ongoing).
  • Epic Games has had its share of flagship games in each decade, with Unreal Tournament since 1998, Gears of War since 2006, and Fortnite since 2017.
  • Volition's flagship franchises had been Red Faction (2001-11) and Saints Row (2006-15), although both appear to be part of a Shared Universe and both seem to be on hiatus at the moment.
  • Halo (2001-present) is the flagship for both Microsoft Studios and Bungie.
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment, otherwise known for being the subsidiary responsible for the PlayStation, have fielded a series of console exclusives from a series of developing teams which they own outright that define their brand. This includes the Team Ico Series (2001-2016), Insomniac Games' Ratchet & Clank series (2002-ongoing), Santa Monica Studio's God of War Series (2005-ongoing), and Naughty Dog's Uncharted series (2007-ongoing).
  • Larian Studios is primarily known for making the Divinity series (2002-ongoing) of Western RPGs. They worked on a couple unrelated projects early on and released a few edutainment games, but their sole focus remains on the Divinity games.
  • Call of Duty (2003-present) has been Activision’s flagship since around 2009.
  • Based on the number of releases alone, the Fate Series (2004-ongoing) has clearly been the primary focus of Type-Moon's production since its first installment, despite taking place in a much larger Nasuverse.
  • Ubisoft's flagship franchise in the current era is Assassin's Creed (2007-ongoing) an IP and brand they entirely own (where earlier they had to license Prince of Persia). Far Cry (2004-ongoing), an acquisition from Crytek is another brand central to them. Former flagship franchises include Rayman (1995-present) and the Tom Clancy games (1998-present). Just Dance (2009-present) is also up there although it has largely faded from that position over time.
  • CD Projekt RED's flagship franchise was The Witcher video game series (2007-16), at least until they've completed the planned main trilogy and switched their attention to Cyberpunk 2077. They still release occasional smaller games set in the universe, however.
  • Currently, Valve Software is synonymous with either the Portal games (2007-11) or Team Fortress 2 (2007).
  • Angry Birds (2009-present). It’s the lifeblood of Rovio.
  • For Idea Factory, the Neptunia series (2010-ongoing) is the face of its company, and has the most sequels and spinoffs of any of its franchises, be they Eastern RPG or Visual Novel.
  • Mojang begins and ends with Minecraft (2011). Several spin-off games and non-gaming paraphernalia later, it’s a juggernaut, but Mojang only made one Minecraft game.
  • Arkane Studios is famous for Dishonored (2012-2017note ) whose success brought them, a team known for subsidiary work for other developers, notice. Their second IP, Prey (2017) didn't meet as much success as their core title.

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