Forget your Titanics, your Avengers, your Harry Ploppers, and your Justin Biebers, it’s Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 5 that holds the title of the most profitable entertainment product the world has ever seen. It’s hard to think of a single other game which has bobbed around at the top of sales charts for so long, across various platforms, and the success of the ever-expanding GTA Online means the money just keeps rolling in.
With GTA 5’s robust online component, it’s the perfect embodiment of the concept of games as a service, isn’t it? GTA 5 has been out since 2013, and people are still playing it, people are still buying it, almost five years after release. According to the latest available figures, Rockstar’s biggest seller has shifted an incredible 90 million units, bringing in around $6 billion (over R70 billion… a figure which effectively broke my calculator).
By comparison, Hollywood blockbusters like Avatar and Star Wars managed around $3 billion (taking inflation into account), nowhere near the money that Trevor, Michael, and Franklin managed to rake in for Rockstar. There are game franchises which have sold more in total, but when it comes to a single title, GTA 5 rules from a high throne.
“I think it’s a wild outlier,” Cowen market analyst Doug Creutz told MarketWatch recently. “I think maybe with the exception something Nintendo has made – Mario Brothers – but aside from that there’s never been a console game that’s sold so many units.”
It’s stories like this that remind us how far the video games industry has come – from a niche market for fringe kids, to the biggest money spinner in the entertainment world. Rockstar, and, by extension, Take 2, will be hoping that the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 will follow a similar path of success, but right now it’s hard to imagine any game taking the title from GTA 5, other than GTA 6.