Video games are a way to escape reality, to connect with friends near and far, and to relax and pass the time. Two-thirds of households play video games, with gamers spread across all ages and professions. Sports are likewise popular, with almost everyone admitting to at least a passing loyalty to one team or another. So it is pure common sense that video game franchises built around sports would be a multi-billion dollar industry. Nor are they anything new. Below are five of the most popular and industry-changing sports video game franchises, some that older than many gamers.
The Madden franchise is so huge that it is familiar to gamers and non-gamers alike. The success of this 25-year-old franchise reflects the popularity of the sport it is based on and the Hall of Famer it is named for. John Madden worked with Electronic Arts to create this game in the 1980s, and the first of the series was released in 1988 as John Madden Football. With a game a year released since, with the exception of 1989, it is no wonder that many young gamers do not remember a world without Madden. From the first game in 1988 to last year’s 25th anniversary edition, over 100 million copies of the franchise have been sold, generating billions in profit.
Electronic Arts is on the list again with this series of games that honor the world’s most popular sport. While American football is king in the United States, internationally soccer reigns supreme, and that is reflected in the popularity of the FIFA franchise. This 20-year-old series features many real teams, due to licensing deals cut by the franchise. FIFA 2014 was one of the best selling games of 2013 worldwide, with over 8 million units sold, the only sports game to make that list.
Another longstanding franchise, the Tony Hawk’s series of games focuses on skateboarding. There are seventeen games in the series, with another release planned for 2014. Though Neversoft started the franchise in conjunction with Tony Hawk, the skater, Robomodo has since taken over. Though times have been tough for the series in the last few years, the next game is in the works and will hopefully rejuvenate this 15-year-old series. Though not quite as big as Madden or FIFA , Tony Hawk has sold well over a billion dollars in games since it was first released.
Tiger Woods PGA
Like many of the other games on this list, a sports legend lends his name to this heavy-hitting franchise. EA Sports also mainly, though not exclusively, developed this franchise. With a game a year released since 1998, it is now up to 16 games and counting. According to ESPN, about $771 million worth of games has been sold throughout its history. A big change is coming though – Tiger Woods will no longer be the face of the game moving forward. Fans of the PGA game will have to stay tuned to see where this franchise will go without the star that helped to launch them.
Providing hours of fun, and even some opportunity to burn calories, the Wii Sports franchise is younger than the others on this list at only 8-years-old but has made a big impact since its release. Helping fuel its initial popularity was the fact that it came included with the purchase of a Wii initially, though that does’t account for all its popularity. It is now one of the best selling franchises of all time. Gamers can choose between bowling, boxing, golf, tennis or baseball and can then compete directly against friends.