As of 2012, the video game industry has entered its eighth generation of console gaming, headed by Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo branded consoles. Those three companies have been at the forefront of each of the last few generations of consoles, as we’ve seen many companies fall off the console development bandwagon over the past few decades.
But all three of those brands owe a lot not only to the games that make up their products but to the individual franchise that hardcore and casual gamers alike associate with them, regardless of generation. To make things simpler, this list is made up of the most successful and recognizable companies as a whole (and not by generations) and the franchises that are most responsible for selling them.
Sonic the Hedgehog – SEGA
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the weirdest crazes to ever happen in video games and seems like it will never die. Despite bad cartoons, bad games and even the company that created it throwing in the console development towel and switching to third party software development, the blue hedgehog is still running fast and eating chili dogs to this day.
Initially released in 1991 for the Sega Genesis, the Sonic franchise found success – both critically and sales wise – soon after it’s release and was hailed for its face paced gameplay and unique platforming. The sequel continued to expand upon the mechanics from the first and even added a new character (Tail’s), but unfortunately as Sega began to struggles, so too did the Sonic franchise, with more disappointing installments then good ones.
It’s a testament to Sonic’s character that he is still able to remind people of the name of Sega, even after all these years of the company’s struggles. The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has been awarded seven records by Guinness World Records in Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008, including “Best Selling Game on Sega Systems”, “Longest Running Comic Based on a Video Game.”
Pong – ATARI
While Pong may not have been the first video game ever, it’s certainly the first notable one, and could easily be coined as the first console seller ever. During a time where even television was considered only an avid enthusiasts pursuit, the first sports arcade game ever still manage to sell atari consoles.
A two-dimensional simulation of table tennis, Pong is often credited with infecting the world with video game fever back in the 70’s. Upon the success of the game in a local bar, after discovering a technical error was being caused by an overflow of quarters in the coin mechanism (“And Then There Was Pong”. Ultimate History of Video Games), Atari commissioned a home version of the game to be produced and later released in 1975.
While far simpler than the rest on this list, Pong is one of the founding fathers of video games and managed to accomplish its sales during a time when gaming wasn’t even an established industry, let alone popular. Despite multiple remakes and duplications of Pong in the past couple decades, the game will always be associated with the Atari and the history they made together.
Pokemon – GAMEBOY/DS
Gameboy and DS might be Nintendo properties, but their continued success for coming up on three decades elicited a standalone slot on this list. While there have been plenty of other popular games linked to the product, none have been as fervently as Pokemon.
Around seven years after the Game Boys, official launch – with initial release as Pocket Monsters in Japan and then two years later as Pokemon in the US – Game Freaks Rpg’s Pokemon Red and Yellow released. Despite simple changing regions, Pokemon and the product’s name, the series has still managed to top mobile platform sales with every release.
Fans have clamored for a console, high-definition version of Pokemon for years and have slowly been getting their wish. With Sun and Moon providing the most realistic 3D experience yet, the Nintendo Switch announcement could be a blessing and a curse, as the mobility of the Switch might warrant an end to Pokemon on the DS or even the handheld in general.
Halo – XBOX
Known as Microsoft’s Killer App, the Halo Franchise redefined the first person shooter genre upon its release for the original Xbox in 2001. Lead by the seven-foot silent behemoth Master Chief, Halo: Combat Evolved begins the story of mankind’s fight for survival against aliens.
Alongside the innovative shooting mechanics, the Halo series has been a staple of Microsoft’s multiplayer network for the past decade. Even before online, Halo allowed players to play multiplayer offline – both split screen and localized – with LAN allowing gamers to play with an unheard of 16 players.
Even after the transitional phase from Bungie to 343 studios following the end of the franchise’s first trilogy, Halo has still managed to remain atop the Xbox brand of games in both sales and acclaim. While some may think the series has fallen off recently, there is no questioning that Xbox as a company owes a lot of its success to the Halo franchise.
Uncharted – PLAYSTATION
Playstation fans answer to years of the Halo franchise’s Xbox exclusivity, Nathan Drake and company are the epitomai of a video game franchise that sells consoles. During the height of fanboyism – or at least during my height, as I was in high school – the Uncharted series was PlayStation fans console exclusive trump card.
An experience unlike any other, the 2007 release redefined what it was to tell a story in a video game, alongside unpredictable and immersive platforming/action sequences that felt straight out of Indiana Jones. As a Microsoft exclusive household, I personally went so far as to go on youtube – before it was as big as it is now – and search for Uncharted playthroughs just so I could watch the cutscenes.
Naughty Dog continues the provide loyal sony fans unique experiences with each new release, with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End being no exception, as critics and fans alike rave it as a perfect end to Drake’s Story. Even though the franchise has only been around for two console generations, the Uncharted series has become synonymous with the Sony brand and should be credited for a lot of its success.
Mario – NINTENDO
Among casual and hardcore gamers alike and even people with no interest in gaming what so ever, there is no more iconic and recognizable figure than that big nose plumber, Mario. Mario’s first appearance in gaming was actually not even in his own game, but as the unnamed “Jumpman”, a carpenter with a pet ape gone berserk – only in the following game Donkey Kong Junior is Mario actually given his name.
Shigeru Miyamoto’s creation went from jumpman to a side scrolling, platforming plumber off to rescue a princess in Mario Bros., an arcade game. From that point on Mario became the face of almost every generation of Nintendo products, be it Super Mario Bros(NES), Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) or Super Smash Bros. (Gamecube), I could go on for days.
The fact that Nintendo has so many other continual properties with the same mascots (Link, Samus, Kirby, Pikachu, Star Fox) speaks volumes about how important Mario is to the Nintendo brand. Mario doesn’t seem to want to stop at consoles either, as Super Mario Run hopes to revitalize the Mobile market with its release later this year.
World of Warcraft – PC
(Yes, yes I know calling the PC a dirty word like console is blasphemy, but just humor me PCMasterRace)
World of Warcraft is less of a game and more of a lifestyle, as fans have individually put in hundreds upon thousands of hours of play since it’s release in 2004. Whether it’s vanilla WOW or the following expansions, Blizzard’s Massively multiplayer online role-playing game is responsible for creating an addictive way of life – and is probably the biggest enabler of junk food addition and vitamin d deficiency – sustainable by few, in both departments of the mind, body and soul and the hardware requirements.
While it might not look like much to some nowadays, the required specs for running WOW at optimal levels for raids upon release, that could last a minimum of 3-4 hours, simply could not be done on consoles. The multiplayer aspect also caught avid gamer’s eye, as the online console boom was just hitting its stride, but could by no means compare to a number of other players in the PC MMORPG.
This alone put World of Warcraft in a mythos of its own among gamers and inspired many to join the PC master race. There’s always the question as to whether World of Warcraft will ever die, but I truly believe it and the PC are both immortal, and that I might die first.
If you don’t agree and have list or opinions of your own, feel free to leave a comment below and start a discussion!