The video game industry is booming. In 2017 the video games market was worth 78 billion dollars, and it’s projected to hit 90 billion in 2020. 80% of that revenue is in software. And since 2016 there have been over 2.5 billion people buying and playing video games. The video game renaissance has brought about enormous success for many corporations and private individuals. This success can be measured in different ways, but just to see how much money can be made (or to set your sights on a particular company to work for), here is an unordered list of the top video game companies of all time.
Sony Computer Entertainment
SCE has been around for a while. It is a subsidiary of tech giant Sony built around the highly successful PlayStation console. It was founded in Tokyo on November 16, 1993, to handle Sony’s video game development for the PlayStation systems. As of writing, it is the most fiscally successful video game company in the world. With a reported 20.8 billion dollars in revenue for the 2018 fiscal year; higher than any other segment of the Sony Corporation. They are responsible for products like the Sony PlayStation (1-4), the God of War games, and the Uncharted series.
It would be deeply irresponsible to not mention Nintendo on this list. One of the primary reasons being that Nintendo is by far the oldest company on this list. Nintendo was formed 130 years ago in 1889 as Nintendo Karuta Co. to create hand-illustrated hanafuda, which are Japanese playing cards with pictures rather than numbers and suits.
Then, between 1963 and 1968, Nintendo branched out to other ventures. They created a taxi company, a “love hotel” chain, an instant rice company, and an adorable remote control vacuum cleaner, among other things. The only products that didn’t flop were its toys, so Nintendo became a toy company.
Among the toys they made were light guns, and when the very first home console—the Magnavox Odyssey—was released in 1972, Nintendo first dipped into the video game market by creating a light gun for use with the console. After this they began to make their own games; with arcade cabinets like Donkey Kong. This signals the start of Shigeru Miyamoto’s long career in 1981. Then came the Famicom (known in the US as the Nintendo Entertainment System) in 1985. After this came the Nintendo 64, the Gameboy, and all of the highly beloved game consoles, games, and characters that Nintendo is known for.
Nintendo may not have the highest sales revenue, but it’s longevity, legacy, and popularity is astounding. Mario alone is one of the most highly recognisable characters of all time. Not to say that the company doesn’t make money: it does. Nintendo made $5.59 billion in revenue during 2018.
The story of Mojang is really the story of Markus “Notch” Persson. There are plenty of other companies that have made more money than Mojang, but not many started so small, became so ubiquitously known, or owe their success to a single game. The story starts with Persson, and a personal project he called Minecraft.
Minecraft, at least the early version of it, was released in 2009. The game was so popular even in an early state that Persson incorporated Mojang AB around the development of the game. During the following years Minecraft became one of the most successful and well-known titles to ever release; reaching over ten million registered accounts in just two years. It was so successful they were able to afford rewriting the game into C++ (from its original format, Java) so the game could be ported to mobile and console systems.
In 2014 Persson sold Mojang to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Every employee who stayed at the company for the six months after the sale was awarded a bonus close to $300,000 after taxes. After the sale Persson left the company with a net worth of $1.6 billion. Minecraft has sold 176 million copies at time of writing—making it the second best-selling video game of all time just behind Tetris.
Electronic Arts, often abbreviated EA, is also worth mentioning for its age. It’s one of the oldest software companies that remains a successful business. It was originally founded in 1982, and is best known for their yearly games for NFL, NBA, and FIFA sports representation. EA now also owns Swedish games company DICE who create the Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront series of first-person shooters. EA is also the sole distributor of Star Wars games following a deal with Disney. EA’s total net worth is $22.90 Billion, and in 2018 they had a record-breaking $5.1 billion in revenue. This number is close to Nintendo’s revenue, even though EA only makes software.
A twin-headed monster in the gaming industry, Activision and Blizzard each are responsible for extremely popular games. Activision is well known for the Tony Hawk franchise and the ubiquitous Call of Duty first-person shooter franchise. Blizzard is the old king of massively multiplayer online games, being the creator of World of Warcraft, one of the most popular MMOs to ever be released.
The two companies merged in 2007 to become Activision Blizzard, and went on to create even more highly popular games like Overwatch and Destiny. Activision Blizzard joined the Fortune 500 and became the third gaming company in history to make the list, after Atari and Electronic Arts. In 2018 Activision Blizzard reported generating $7.5 billion in revenue.
In 1999 BMG games was taken over by Take Two interactive, and Rockstar games was born. The development company is most well known for its Grand Theft Auto series. In 2014, Rockstar shipped more than 250 million copies of their games. That number was replicated in 2016 when the 250 million copies of the Grand Theft Auto series alone shipped. Taking the cake, though, is the latest entry, Grand Theft Auto V. It has sold more than any other game in the series, in the company’s history, and ranks it among the best selling games of all time with over 110 million copies.
Rockstar is also responsible for the popular and highly praised Red Dead series. While all of their games have a similar style and feel, they are all pretty unique from the main market of games. When asked why they don’t create first-person shooters like the majority of their competition, Rockstar’s Creative VP Dan Houser replied “…It’s in our DNA to avoid doing what other companies are doing.”
Take-Two Interactive Software, a container company for Rockstar, reported their annual revenue for 2019 was $2.66 billion. This is an amazing 48% increase from 2018.
Potomac Computer Systems was founded by Tim Sweeney in 1991 while he was a student at the University of Maryland. Potomac turned into Epic MegaGames, an attempt to make this one person studio seem larger. However, living up to its namesake, Epic MegaGames had 50 employees by 1997, and a year later they developed the first-person shooter Unreal, along with the first iteration of the Unreal engine. Here they dropped the ‘Mega’ to become Epic games. Following this was the highly popular shooter Unreal Tournament, and then the even more popular Gears of War series.
In 2012 the company moved to the new “games as a service” business model that has now become popular and announced a new game called Fortnite. It wasn’t until 2017 that Fortnite was ready for the public, and the company released a battle royale mode for the game for free prior to the release of the main game to help drum up anticipation for its launch. Things happened very quickly after that.
Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode quickly gained an audience, deeply overshadowing the main games release. It gained over 125 million players by May 2018, gaining an estimated $1 billion in revenue by July 2018 through microtransactions. The company, Epic Games, valued at $825 million before the release of Fortnite, was estimated to be worth $4.5 billion by July 2018. Epic managed to break new ground by convincing Sony to allow crossplay with Windows and Xbox, and then eventually all platforms. By March of 2019, the game had garnered 250 million players, and Epic games is worth an estimated $15 billion.
Many of these game companies have small origins leading to massive success. The only thing standing between you and joining them and their ranks is getting started.