We’re far past the point of pretending that video games aren’t one of the most lucrative businesses in the entertainment industry. Indeed, games like Grand Theft Auto V have eclipsed the sales of many movies and books combined, becoming the highest grossing entertainment product of all time. As time goes on, video games become a larger part of our day to day life, with many who’d never consider themselves gamers playing games on their phone as often as they can. These are the most profitable gaming companies of all time.
Net Worth: $3.69 Billion
With small beginnings in rural France, Yves Guillemot and his four brothers founded Ubisoft in March 1986. Yves still makes an appearance at each E3 conference that Ubisoft holds, and they seem to take pride in the family founded aspect of the company. Although still not breaking the ranks of the kingpins of the western gaming industry such as EA, Microsoft, and Sony, Ubisoft has climbed a long and hard ladder to reach where it is today. Making strategic acquisitions of talented development studios has resulted in Ubisoft cultivating and releasing some of the best known gaming franchises on the market today, such as the Assassin’s Creed series, Watch Dogs, every single Tom Clancy game, including Rainbow Six and The Division as well as buying the South Park IP from the now defunct THQ, which has proved to be a critical darling in the gaming world. Ubisoft has repeatedly carved out their section in the market with strong franchises with iterative sequels that return on investment every single time.
Net Worth: $20.11 Billion
Nintendo is one of the most important gaming monikers, not just in today’s market, but in the entire history of the gaming industry. What once began as a card manufacturer in the late 1800s has evolved and adapted to the market today to give us some of the most beloved franchises of all time. After the video game crash of 1982, many believed the short lived art of video games to be dead in the water, but the release of the original Super Mario Bros. on the the original NES single handedly revitalized the entire market. Who knows, if it weren’t for Nintendo, the gaming industry might not be alive today. Over the years they have crafted several well realized worlds such as The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and Donkey Kong, as well as the seminal Mario Brothers. They pair their core franchises with innovative consoles such as the Gamecube and the Wii. This tactic has proved to be a high risk, high reward strategy. Although the Wii was the highest selling console of its time, it has since been surpassed and it’s successor, the Wii U has failed to reach its targets by drastic degrees. However, faith is still strong in the company and many believe the long rumored NX will save the company from the brink.
Net Worth: $5.69 Billion
King is the living embodiment of how a one hit wonder can maintain a company for many, many years. King didn’t make mobile games until 2011, and they didn’t encounter much success at that. However, they managed to release Candy Crush Saga at just the right time. A market desire for social integration with mobile games, the simple mechanic of a match three game type, and an addictive leveling system with non-intrusive micro transactions has resulted in a game that is still played by millions on a daily basis. It’s truly terrifying to see how much King has earned off just a single game, but they are living proof that the video game industry is a lucrative one indeed.
Net Worth: $22.90 Billion
EA is one of the oldest independent publishers in the industry that still is relevant to any modern gamer. Founded in 1982, this publisher can take much responsibility for the popularization of the yearly iterative model of games with the annual release cycle of their various sports games such as NBA, FIFA, and NFL, all catering to a certain hardcore audience who’ll buy it every year without fail with minimal additions or modifications to the core mechanics. With such a strong foundation, EA was able to acquisition growing game developers such as DICE in Sweden who makes the Battlefield franchise, now one of the most popular FPS franchises ever made. EA have also partnered with Disney to be the sole distributor of any and all Star Wars games. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Star Wars is one of the entertainment industry’s most lucrative intellectual properties, and every Star Wars game that EA has released so far has been a hit.
Net Worth: $526.82 Billion
Admittedly, my mind wouldn’t first go to Apple when considering the most profitable gaming companies out there. The story of Apple’s founding with Steve Jobs and Wozniak has now transcended business folklore into the mainstream consciousness. Although the founding and growth of the company is shrouded in as much controversy as one could possibly hope for, they have emerged in the 2000s as one of the biggest competitors to the electronics market, and their market share only seems to be growing with the increased adoption rate of iPhones, iPads, and Macs. The introduction of the iPhone led to the popularization of the App Store. Here, Apple commissions a royalty from every single sale on the App Store. To put this in perspective, this means that every single micro transaction in apps like Clash of Kings or Candy Crush Saga has a small section that is siphoned off to Apple. It was genius, and Apple are reaping the rewards.
Net Worth: $29.23 Billion
Out of all the companies I’ve highlighted so far, the partnership between Activision and Blizzard is one of the most interesting. The partnership plays host to the Call of Duty series, Destiny, World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch. Therefore, if you know your video games, it doesn’t take an expert to conclude that these guys are making some serious bank. You need only look at sales numbers of the recently released Overwatch to know that these guys aren’t going bankrupt any time soon, and with a new Call of Duty coming out every year I imagine we won’t be missing this company for a long time yet.
Net Worth: $3.22 Billion
Many would underestimate the power of 2K as a company. Indeed, over the years many have doubted its long term viability due to the departure of Ken Levine from the lauded Irrational Games who made the critically acclaimed Bioshock series. However, what many people forget is that Rockstar Games is under 2K. That’s right, the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption, Bully, and Max Payne 3. You need only take a light browse through YouTube today to see that Grand Theft Auto V is still incredibly relevant to a modern audience. Add the fact that it is the best selling un-bundled game of all time and the fact that the micro transactions that are a part of the online component of GTA V are still selling by the boatloads almost three years from its original release date and the statistics will tell you everything you need to know about the financial viability of 2K. Gearbox Software, developer of the remarkably successful Borderlands franchise, is also under 2K. I think it’s a safe bet that the records they’ve set already are ready and waiting to be broken.
Net Worth: $402.06 Billion
I don’t need to explain who Microsoft is to anyone using a computer. Perhaps one of the most successful companies in the past 30 years, Microsoft is doing their damnedest to dominate your living room, and that includes your video game console. Upon the release of the Xbox in the early 2000s, the Playstation and the Gamecube suddenly had unanticipated competition. Although initially dismissed by many, the invention of Xbox Live and the domination of the core gamer market from 2008-2013 has made Microsoft a force to be reckoned with.
Net Worth: $37.45 Billion
But Sony is their main competitor. Their product, the Playstation, initially a direct competitor to to the N64 from Nintendo, has persevered through the prosperous PS2 period and the tumultuous PS3 period to enter a new golden age with the ridiculously lucrative PS4. With a wide branch of first party games under its belt, Sony has now committed to a consumer friendly approach to all aspects of their video game branch. With Sony TVs falling off the map in recent years, a renewed and fresh emphasis on the PS4 has launched it into commercial heaven.
Net Worth: $197.4 Billion
I didn’t know who they were either, that is, until you look into what game they support. None other than League of Legends, the most successful MOBA to arrive on the gaming market. Although many predict that the MOBA bubble has well and truly popped, League of Legends has persevered, consistently staying at the top of the most streamed games on twitch. With micro transactions galore and a ravenous fanbase eager for more content, League of Legends is, in my opinion, the biggest sleeper hit ever to hit the gaming market.