The Best Selling Games Of All Time…In Relation To Their Console

A few days ago, Activision made the following statement in its financial results sheet for the first quarter of 2011:

“During the first quarter, Call of Duty: Black Ops became the best-selling game of all time in dollars across the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the PC in the U.S. and Europe and was also the #1 game in the U.S. and Europe for the quarter.”

I am always a bit cautious when dealing with statements like this, because to claim that something is the ‘best selling thing of all time’ always sparks a debate. The important thing to note here is the use of the phrase ‘IN DOLLARS’. That would make Black Ops the highest grossing game of all time (replacing the previous Call Of Duty game, Modern Warfare 2, whose sequel is set to be announced soon), which is different from units shifted. If we look at the issue from that perspective, we would find that Wii titles such as Wii Play and Wii Sports Resorts, as well as downloadable titles such as the phenomenally successful Angry Birds, crush the opposition.

There was one response to the article in question however that made me consider another way as to how to determine the best selling game of all time: by working out how many people owned a game in relation to a specific console. The way to work this out is simple: take the sales of the game in question, divide it by the total number of consoles sold that the game could play on, and then multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage. By using some up to date figures and doing some maths, I have been able to work out the top ten selling games of all time via this method. The results are as follows:

  1. Super Mario 64 – Nintendo 64 (35.3% of people who owned this console had this game)
  2. Halo 2 – Microsoft Xbox (33.3%)
  3. Super Smash Brothers Melee – Nintendo Gamecube (32.6%)
  4. Mario Kart Double Dash – Nintendo Gamecube (32.2%)
  5. Wii Sports Resort – Nintendo Wii (32.1%)
  6. Wii Play – Nintendo Wii (31.8%)
  7. Mario Kart Wii – Nintendo Wii (31.3%)
  8. Super Mario Brothers 3 – Nintendo Entertainment System (29.1%)
  9. Wii Fit – Nintendo Wii (26.2%)
  10. Sonic Adventure – Sega Dreamcast (23.6%)

Breaking down these results highlights some very interesting trends.

  • Titles exclusive to a console are often the highest sellers
  • First party games are dominant on the list; out of the ten, seven of them were developed by Nintendo, and HAL Laboratory and Team Sonic are internal divisions at Nintendo and Sega respectively. This ties in with the first point, as first party games are usually exclusive.
  • The power of Nintendo in getting game sales. To have eight titles in this list shows if nothing else that they know what will sell, highlighted especially by the two versions of Mario Kart, two Mario platformers and three games utilising the Wii controls
  • The surprising lack of first person shooters. Given their rise in popularity over time, you might have expected more. Call Of Duty does not make this list on the basis that it is a multiplatform game, which splits its sales and therefore reduces the percentage per console (although MW2 would have made a respectable 13% on the Xbox 360). Halo 2 is the surprise of the list in this respect by being so high up, it backs up my idea that the original Xbox essentially was Halo.
  • The complete absence of Sony from the list is another surprise. Ironically, their success with the PS1 and PS2 (which were easily the highest selling consoles of their generation) means that any one game title had to sell by the shedload to make it to the list. The best selling game on a Sony platform, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, only ever made it 11.6% of PS2 consoles.
  • And finally, that Super Mario 64 can take home another accolade. It is often seen as the greatest game of them all; perhaps its success here only just reinforces that opinion

I certainly found this an engaging subject to investigate, and I must say that I am intrigued by some of the results. What do you all make of this?

And just as a bonus, here is my complete set of results to show that I didn’t just make these facts and figures up.

Click to see the bigger image

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