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GTA V is the most profitable entertainment product of all time

90 million sales and $6 billion in revenue means nothing comes close to Rockstar's biggest hit

The above is probably the least surprising headline you'll read on GamesIndustry.biz all year.

The success of Grand Theft Auto V is well documented, but a fresh report from MarketWatch offers more insight into the record-breaking impact of the hugely popular game.

The site reports that with 90 million sales worldwide, and $6 billion in revenue, GTA V is the "most financially successful media title of all time". While the report primarily makes comparisons with film, this almost certainly encompasses books, music and other entertainment products as well.

The $6 billion revenues, for example, is far past the $4 billion achieved by best-selling films such as Star Wars and Gone With The Wind (adjusted for inflation, and adding DVD sales to the $3 billion box office receipts).

Even the highest grossing film of all time - James Cameron's Avatar, which made $2.8 billion - fails to match even half the money taken by Grand Theft Auto.

It's not completely clear whether the $6 billion is based purely on sales, or if it includes the "recurrent consumer spending" that Take-Two is still enjoying from the online multiplayer.

Grand Theft Auto is the clear winner within the games space of course. The closest competitors include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops, which achieved 26.5 million and 24.2 million sales respectively - far short of GTA V's total unit count.

In fact, you would have to combine the sales of GTA III, Vice City, San Andreas and GTA IV to match GTA V's figures.

Of course, there are a few extenuating circumstances. The regularly updated and expanded online multiplayer goes far beyond that of GTA V's predecessors or even other AAA games (most of which stop releasing post-launch content within a year of release).

It's also worth remembering that the 90 million sales figures includes two generations of sales, thanks to the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions, with many consumers likely to have picked up a second copy when they upgraded to PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

Grand Theft Auto V was the sixth biggest selling game of 2018 in the US, the third biggest game in the UK and Europe, and still capable of topping the charts four years after release.

Cowen analyst Doug Creutz stressed that Grand Theft Auto V remains a "wild outlier", with few other console titles likely to ever achieve such success.

Even the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 or a far-flung Grand Theft Auto VI is unlikely to match these sales.

"That's not to say Rockstar won't have other big hits - it may - but another GTA V isn't likely," said Creutz. "Michael Jackson had a lot of hit albums but he only had one Thriller."

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Latest comments (6)

Long Live Rockstar Games, it studios, and their parent company Take-Two Interactive!

(Take-Two TTWO needs to be worth more than $10B).
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Jessica Hyland Artist, Turbulenz Limited2 months ago
I'd be fascinated to see how it compares to World of Warcraft, and I'm surprised that it isn't mentioned in this article or the original.
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Juan Bustelo Game Designer 2 months ago
If this is the most profitable game in history, Iīm surprised everyone else is trying to push loot boxes into their games, instead of doing exactly what Rockstar has done.

Like Jessica pointed out, what about WoW? It has been out for almost 15 years (yeah, let that sink in for a while). I guess itīs operating cost take a big chunk out of itīs earning
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Derek Fitzgerald Sr. Director, Quality Verification, EA Canada2 months ago
@Juan Bustelo: Its likely their methodology fragmented revenue from WoW substantially. I'd infer the expansions are likely considered separate "media titles" from how its written, and who knows how they accounted for baseline subscription revenue given this.

On a franchise lifetime basis, I suspect these rankings would look a lot different.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 months ago
For reference:
https://investor.activision.com/financial-information/quarterly-results

everything before 2009 is anyone's guess, but in terms of revenue, WoW beats GTA5 hands down, even by the most conservative estimations. Operational costs never seemed a problem, for a time "cost of MMO" were listed in the financial report and hovered around $1.3 per user per month (everything included). It was and remains an inconceivably big money printing machine.

I am not sure about copying the GTA5 style of multiplayer and microtransactions though. Maybe it is because people do not take GTA5 serious at all in terms of fairness and competitiveness, but no other game ever got away with GTA5 Online's levels of pay to win, toxicity and griefing. It will be interesting to see whether Red Dead 2 receives the same relaxed attitude or not.
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Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch2 months ago
@Juan Bustelo: Loot Boxes are much easier than creating a hit the size of Grand Theft Auto. It's not like just recreating their online microtransaction system would equate to better revenue, often you want the model to fit the game and how you want people to play it.
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