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Which Gaming Franchises Come Out on Top?

We look at some of the biggest names in gaming.

Minecraft Switch Edition
© Nintendo / Mojang

The current state of gaming is enormous, with hundreds of successful franchises vying for top-billing.

Just like in other entertainment industries, only one franchise in each genre can come out on top.

So, what are some of the biggest names in gaming, and what gives these standouts the ability to outperform their competitors?


MMORPGs have been somewhat of a late entry in the world of gaming, owing as they do to strong internet connections. Their reliance on continued support and an active community also makes them a difficult prospect, where significant investment must go into creating and driving long term plans.

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Undoubtedly the most popular example in this realm is ‘World of Warcraft’, launched back in 2004. Existing off the back of the ‘Warcraft RTS’ series, ‘WoW’ arrived at a time where the mainstream MMO market offered immense untapped interest. Wow took what was once clunky, and turned it into a far more streamlined and cohesive experience. The work put in by Blizzard netted ‘WoW’ a 93 Metacritic score, and more than seven million subscribers in just two years.

Chasing in the footsteps of ‘WoW’ is ‘The Elder Scrolls Online’. Launching in 2014, ‘TES Online’ came from a much bigger name. Although it wasn’t as well-received as ‘WoW’, receiving a Metacritic score of 71, it still boasts more than three million active subscriptions.

Sandbox Games

Though a loose term, sandbox games that let players explore and create at their own will have nonetheless become an undeniably influential part of the mass market. The biggest illustration of this, and the best-selling game of all time, is ‘Minecraft’. Releasing over a wide range of platforms, ‘Minecraft’ boasts 200 million sales since its release in 2011.

Starting simple, ‘Minecraft’s capacity for creativity led it to a 93 Metacritic score, and an ever-widening player-base. At the time of writing, this included over three million active players, a number which many games couldn’t even dream of hitting at their peak.

The next most popular sandbox game is ‘Terraria’, which also launched in 2011. Often described as a 2D ‘Minecraft’, ‘Terraria’ sold 30 million copies, with an 83 Metacritic score. Like ‘Minecraft’, ‘Terraria’ was an original IP but suffered no ill-effects because of it.

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Wonder Versus Momentum

Looking at these examples, the question becomes what exactly lead these to the front of the pack. As we see it, there are two major contributors, the inheritance of existing momentum, and the capitalisation of an unexplored market.

Momentum is an enormous part of the video gaming market, driving sequels in both software and hardware. This is illustrated by a recent study where gamers decided that if they were to bring any console to a desert island, their choice would be the PS4. As the most popular console of the last generation, and the most popular console series ever, this momentum carried it forward. Similarly, this could have contributed to ‘TES Online’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘WoW’.

Exploring a new market was also a benefit of ‘WoW’ but is better illustrated by ‘Minecraft’ and ‘Terraria’. Both of these games brought to the mainstream a largely untapped style of gaming, and in doing so effectively opened up a new style of interactive entertainment to millions of players worldwide.

Together, these two factors paint an environment where success is more about doing something new than anything else, though capitalising on an existing name can also play an important part. Momentum can hook, but only captivating gameplay can reel players in. It’s a difficult balance and one where few can walk the tightrope without the occasional fall. At the very least these developments do seem to suggest originality as a primary target, and in an industry packed with imitations, this could be a very positive sign.

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