You probably have no clue which games are the highest grossing video games of all time, as the most commonly-used method of calculating success in the gaming world remains the number of copies sold. This is slightly surprising, as it’s a somewhat archaic method in the age of expansions, virtual items, and other forms of DLC. The truest measure of a game’s success should actually be the gross revenue that it generates. After all, if a game sells 1 million copies at $70 each plus pulls in another $20 million in DLC sales, and another game sells 2 million copies at $20 each and has no DLC, the game that sold less copies actually made more than double the money.
So in this article, we’re going to check out the top grossing video games of all time, cutting through the sales figures to get right to the heart of the matter: how much money each game made. We’re going to use straight revenue figures, as opposed to figures adjusted for inflation (which are less reliable), which results in a slightly reshuffled list, though 11 of the top 12 games make the list using either method. The only exception is League of Legends, which holds down the #12 spot in revenue, though Donkey Kong ranks higher using adjusted revenue.
The gaming industry has ballooned into a $100 billion industry, and people are spending more time playing games than ever. The daily time spent gaming among U.S citizens stood at 23.2 minutes in 2013, up from 17.8 minutes just five years earlier. That figure is expected to rise to 28.3 by 2018 according to data compiled by Statista. If those figures seem low, remember that they include ALL citizens, not just gamers. That is eating into Americans’ TV-watching time, which fell by 19 minutes per day between 2014 and 2016 according to Neilsen. There was an even steeper fall among Americans 34 and under, as they increasingly turn to Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) and other streaming services, YouTube, and gaming for their entertainment needs.
It’s no wonder that the gaming industry has some notable bulls in the hedge fund industry, one of which is Philippe Laffont, the head of $8 billion tech-focused hedge fund Coatue Management. Coatue has large positions in Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) and Electronic Arts Inc (NASDAQ:EA), both of which were pitched by Laffont at the 2015 Robin Hood Investors Conference. EA has gained 27% over the last year, while Activision Blizzard has risen by 9%. Coatue is also invested in other gaming-related stocks like NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC).
Now then, on to the list of the highest grossing video games of all time, beginning on the next page, with figures courtesy of Video Game Sales Wiki. Most figures have been updated through the end of 2015. And if you’re at all interested in the sale of virtual items, be sure to check out the 11 Most Expensive Virtual Items in Video Games after reading this list, which reveals some absolutely shocking prices that were paid for virtual items (in the millions of dollars in one case).