A collection of distinct series which are often considered as a collective unit under a blanket title. They often, but not always, share a common continuity; even when they do not, they are more closely bound than Spinoffs.
While characters may come and go, formats may change from live action to animated and back again, and even production houses/creators may change over time, the thing that remains constant for a franchise is the universe in which it takes place.
In the US, series franchises are fairly rare, and usually result from a series spawning several successful Revivals, though in recent years, an increasing number of successful US series have spawned concurrent franchises, where more than one installment has aired simultaneously.
Franchises are more common in other countries, especially in the Anime and Toku genres of Japan. However, they are frequently implemented by way of Alternate Continuities that employ the same core cast in slightly (or greatly!) different settings, rather than alternate casts in the same continuity. This version is also very common in video games. A group of these combined via a Crossover series is a Modular Franchise.
Reality shows are also often counted as franchises, with each season being counted as a distinct series in its own right. (Thus Survivor is considered a Franchise, whose installments include Survivor: Borneo, Survivor: The Australian Outback, et cetera.)
Examples of concurrent UK franchises:
- Doctor Who during its 21st-century revival (the Davies era had the main show, the Darker and Edgier Torchwood, and the Lighter and Softer The Sarah Jane Adventures, all broadcast during the same period; the Moffat era spawned the Young Adult spin-off. Class). There has also been the huge Doctor Who Expanded Universe in other media, from the 1960s to date.
Examples of concurrent US franchises:
- CSI (3 series, seven PC games, console games, plus non-canon comics and novels.)
- Law & Order (5 series [6 if you count UK], two PC games.)
- Dick Wolf's Chicago franchise (4 series — Fire, PD, Med and Justice — connected to L&O via Law & Order: SVU.)
- Stargate (movie, 3 series, two series movies, plus non-canonical Animated Adaptation.)
- Arrowverse (4 live action series (5 if you count Constantine's retroactive inclusion), 3 animated web series, and some Expanded Universe comic books.)
- Grey's Anatomy (3 TV series, 1 web series, 1 video game, and 2 series of webisodes.)
Examples of consecutive US franchises:
- G.I. Joe (An uncommonly large number of action figures, 4 different animated series, live-action films, and comic books and video games.)
- Power Rangers by way of Super Sentai below. (Has had consecutive installments for 20 years, but exactly how many installments that IS has gotten complicated. Counting the installments roughly yearly is a good rule of thumb. In addition there are at least three movies, a lot of comics, and several video games.)
- Saved by the Bell (3 series, or 4, depending on how Good Morning Miss Bliss is counted.)
- Star Trek (5 series [some of which ran concurrently], 12 movies, an Animated Adaptation and a great many video games for pretty much every platform, plus a bazillion tie-in novels and comic books.)
- Digimon (6 series and 9 movies across five continuities, 6 manga series and at least 40 games)
- El-Hazard: The Magnificent World (three series in continuity, plus a fourth that's an alternate version)
- Gundam (Eleven series, plus OAV releases, movies, in-canon games and even a ride, some in the same continuity, some not)
- Kamen Rider (split between the Shotaro Ishinomori eranote and the Post-Ishinomori era note )
- Lyrical Nanoha (five anime, five manga, three movies, two video games, and one audio drama across five separate continuities)
- Macross (now on its fourth TV series, with three OAV series, three moviesnote , and a number of other OVAs.
- Mai-HiME: Mai-HiME, Mai-Otome, the Otome-verse spinoffs (Mai-Otome Zwei, Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~), and Mai-HiME Destiny.
- Pokémon: Six distinct series (original: 1997-2002; Advanced Generation: 2002-2006; Weekly Pokémon Broadcast's sidestory episodes (US: Pokémon Chronicles): 2002-2004; Diamond & Pearl: 2006-2010; Best Wishes: 2010-2013); XY (2013-2016); Sun & Moon (2017-present) and 20+ annual movies. The anime franchise is just about as big, if not bigger, than the actual video game franchise; see below.) In the English dub, the main series anime gets divided up even more, in a setup like typical television seasons.
- Super Sentai (35+ series since 1975)
- Tenchi Muyo! (one OAV series, two TV series, and three movies, one of which is in a different continuity than any of the series)
- Time Bokan (9 TV series, one of which became its own franchise below)
- Ultra Series (30+ series and a bunch of movies since 1966; some sharing one universe, others in their own continuities)
- Yatterman (2 TV series (1977-1979 and 2008-2009), a 2-episode OVA, a 2009 live-action movie, a 2009 anime movie, and a 2015 TV sequel)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! (a long-running card game, six anime series, and countless video games, as well as several manga series, one of which being where the series started from.)
Examples of Video Game franchises:
- Ace Attorney (Six games in the main series, two in the Investigations series, a historical spinoff, a crossover with Professor Layton, appearances in two Massive Multiplayer Crossover video games, a film, an anime, three musicals, two stage plays, two manga series, a doujinshi series, and a pachinko machine)
- Bomberman (20+ games and still running since the mid-1980s)
- Breath of Fire (five main games in the series: the first three of which are officially in the same universe, the fifth in an Alternate Universe, and the fourth being a position best described as controversial; two manga adaptations and a manga spinoff of I which were officially directed by Capcom; Novelization of III and IV; a manga adaptation of IV which was officially directed by Capcom; numerous licensed 4-koma and anthology comics of IV (and one licensed 4-koma of III); four separate Gaiden Game treatments of IV for Japanese smartphones; artbooks (including separate artbooks for each series and a compilation artbook) containing a great deal of All There in the Manual material never mentioned in the games; AND there's the additional complication of remakes of I and II to shortly be licensed to Square Enix)
- Bubble Bobble (two to three "officially" in its original series which branched off, although there are three second-installments and two third-installments, not counting subsequent games, one spinoff and its own four-installment arcade series, sub-series, and subsequent games.)
- Castlevania (15+ games since 1987)
- Command & Conquer (10+ games split between three distinct series/timelines, plus a novelization)
- Danganronpa (Three main games, several spinoff games, One anime series and one OVA, and prequel, flash-sideways, and Alternate Universe novels galore)
- Dead Space (Three main games, three spin-off games, two animated movies, two books, and three comics)
- Dragon Quest (11 in the main series plus a Mon spinoff series and a few others, plus anime series)
- Dynasty Warriors
- The Elder Scrolls (Five main series games with a sixth announced, four Gaiden Game spin-offs with different styles compared to the main series with a fifth announced, two novels, and tens of thousands of pages of in-universe books and documents)
- Fable (Five games and four spin-off books)
- Final Fantasy (15 in the main series plus a few spinoffs (and three true sequels), plus two movies and two TV series)
- Fire Emblem (15 games across different Nintendo platforms, plus several manga adaptations, an OVA adaptation, a card game, and a spinoff crossover with Shin Megami Tensei)
- Harvest Moon (15+ games since 1997 on various systems, though mainly on Nintendo platforms)
- The King of Fighters (which itself started as a Massive Multiplayer Crossover for SNK's other fighting games before becoming its own game series, plus a series of animated shorts, OVAs, and manga. Currently on its fourteenth game, as well as three in the Maximum Impact Alternate Continuity)
- The Legend of Zelda (19+ games, featuring at least ten Links and eleven Zeldas, and that's not going into spinoffs and noncanonical games)
- Mega Man (10 in the main series, 9 in the Mega Man X series, 7 in the Mega Man Battle Network series (counting different editions as part of the same game), 5 in the Game Boy series, 4 in the Mega Man Zero series, 2 in the Mega Man ZX series, 3 in the Mega Man Starforce series, 3 in the Mega Man Legends series, an American TV series, and three anime series, plus comic book series)
- Metroid (10+ games, including two video game remakes)
- Mortal Kombat (9 in the main series [counting the DC Universecrossover], 3 spinoff adventure games, two movies and a third in the works, two TV series, a web series, several comic books and a Collectible Card Game)
- Myst (6+ games, depending on how you count, and 3 novels)
- Pac-Man (A game for each member of the family, plus Supers, Manias, Lands, and Worlds galore. And, of course, a breakfast cereal and a Saturday morning cartoon. This, of course, is before you count the several re-releases of the classic stuff...)
- Phantasy Star (Phantasy Star I-IV, four episodes of Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star Universe and its expansion pack, the Nintendo DS Phantasy Star Zero and Phantasy Star Online 2)
- Pokémon (Seven generations of games, plus spinoffs for each in genres like puzzles and pet sims. Then there are several manga, the anime (which, as previously listed, is almost a franchise in itself), and the Trading Card Game. Probably the most successful translation of a video game to other media, which has led to Adaptation Displacement among some people.)
- Pretty Rhythm (Three generations of games, 5 anime series, 5 manga adaptations, and an Anime First spinoff franchise)
- Resident Evil (At least nine games, plus four movies)
- Sakura Wars (many video games, a 25-episode anime series, a movie, several OVAs and light novels, a manga, and multiple stage shows)
- Shin Megami Tensei (40+ games; four in the main series (eight if you count the unnumbered installments), four Devil Summoner games, five/six separate Persona games (counting Persona 4: Arena), and a truckload's worth of other spin-offs, not to mention the various anime/manga/novels/Drama-CDs/etc.)
- Electronic Arts/Maxis' Sim Series franchise (five official SimCity games, three The Sims games, and many, many spinoffs from the former (including The Sims itself) and expansion packs for the latter)
- Sonic the Hedgehog (the number of games that feature characters from the series was well over a hundred around 2001. Three American cartoon series, the Sonic X anime, an OVA in The '90s, a couple of manga, and at least two official long-running comic books [one of them ongoing])
- Street Fighter (5 "officially" in the main series, though every one after Street Fighter II has at least three variations, plus numerous spinoffs, crossovers, movies, TV series and manga.)
- Suikoden (5 games in the main series, plus 3 spinoffs)
- Perhaps the king of them all, Super Mario Bros. (19 in the main series, counting the first Yoshi's Island and the first Wario Land, plus many, many spinoffs, a movie, several television series, a comic book series and a breakfast cereal.)
- Super Robot Wars
- The Tales Series
- To Heart and To Heart 2 (3 visual novels, a To Heart 2 Dungeon Crawler RPG spin-off that's itself being spun-off into its own non-To Heart series, 3 TV series, a To Heart manga and god knows how many To Heart 2 OVAs are there)
- Tomb Raider (8 games, 1 remake and 2 films, one of them financially successful)
- The Touhou Project (15 official games, seven spinoffs (counting Expansion Pack Hisoutensoku), numerous side manga and stories on top of artbooks and Universe Compendium's. And almost all of it done by a single man. Plus two characters who were added in by way of the creator's musical CD works.
- The Ultima series, with nine core games, two first-person side story games and an MMORPG, as well as several novels and comics and other stuff.
- Warcraft (three generations of real time strategy games, plus expansions, then World of Warcraft, an MMO, plus its expansions, a film and numerous spin off materials of varying quality and canonicicity).
- When They Cry (four main games under two separate titles [Higurashi: When They Cry, Higurashi Kai, Umineko: When They Cry, Umineko Chiru], two fandiscs, two spin-off fighting games and several console ports, as well as animated and manga adaptations for both series)
- Wing Commander (twelve games including the Privateer spinoffs [but not add-ons], eleven novels including novelizations of other works, cartoon, and movie)
Examples of literature franchises:
- Most of Frank Herbert's books and short stories (especially his non-Dune works) share many common historical aspects, despite being set across vast expanses of spacetime.
- Larry Niven's Known Space, which includes the Ringworld series of novels, the Man-Kzin Wars series, and even a Star Trek: The Animated Series episode.
Examples from Western Animation:
- Avatar — two animated series set in the same universe.
- DC Animated Universe (DCAU for short) — a group of animated series based on DC comics characters, all in the same continuity.
Examples of cross-media franchises:
- .hack is just plain ridiculous about this:
- The first wave, Project .hack, originally consisted of the .hack//SIGN anime, the Infection, Mutation, Outbreak and Quarantine games (which were each bundled with an episode of the OVA series .hack//Liminality), and the .hack//Legend of the Twilight manga. Other canon included the .hack//AI Buster light novels. Then there were two manga adaptations of the games, XXXX and Another Birth (from BlackRose's point of view), neither of which are canon.
- The second wave consisted mainly of the second anime, .hack//Roots, and the Dot Hack GU (Rebirth, Reminisce and Redemption). There was also a CGI movie adaptation, a manga adaptaion and a light novel adaptation of the games, all of which were done differently.
- The third, and probably final, wave consists of the anime .hack//Quantum and .hack//LINK, which could refer to a manga or a PSP game that (as far as I can tell) follow the same story. There's also a movie in the works.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Five seasons on radio and one on television, five books (six if you count And Another Thing...), two short stories, a computer game, three theatrical performances (including one musical), two singles, a feature film, three comic books, two records, and two bath towels — all in their own continuities mutated off the first two radio series and last three books — the result is that, for all that mess, it covers somewhere around six installments of one story.
- Fate Series: 6+ mainline games, 6+ novels, multiple manga, over 20 anime adaptations (including serial movies and OVAs), multiple spinoffs (three of which became sub-franchises of their own), and counting.
- Lupin III was much more successful than initially expected, to the point that some of the titles have been retroactively renamed to differentiate between them. It began as a Manga, but is much better known as an anime, even in Japan. The Lupin-verse is held in place through a combination of Broad Strokes, Negative Continuity, and Mythology Gag.
- My Friend Irma was once a very famous American franchise centered around a Dumb Blonde character named Irma Peterson (played by Marie Wilson.) Aside from the original radio series (which ran 1947 to 1953) it was also a television series (1952 to 1954), two feature films (My Friend Irma in 1949 and My Friend Irma Goes West in 1950) and a comic strip published by Marvel Comics writted and drawn by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo (1950 to 1955).
- Transformers (The main continuity family includes three American cartoons and five anime series, each of which has at least one accompanying comic and a manga. There's also another several mangas and a couple of other comics which without corresponding cartoons. Breaking off into alternate universes there's the Japanese-made Robots in Disguise, consisting of a cartoon and manga, and the Unicron Trilogy, which comprises three anime series, each of which has a corresponding comic. More recently, there's been an American live-action movie series, three new cartoons and a video game series, and guess what? Each of those have a comic as well. Oh, and if we tried to list all the tie-in books, toys, clothing, etc? We'd break the internet. And we still can't get enough.)