After Hours

Geek Trivia: What is the all-time best-selling video game that gamers paid to play?

Not counting giveaways, freemiums, or games bundled with consoles, what video game has sold the most copies in history?

The best-selling video game of all time as measured by unbundled, independent sales is — ironically — Tetris. More than 100 million Tetris games have been downloaded at cost to mobile phones and tablets alone. That number goes up when you consider that Tetris was sold for play on almost every console and PC platform ever released, though the exact Tetris sales numbers get fuzzy when you try to add them all up.

So, while many of us got our start with Tetris when it came bundled with our first Game Boy, the Russian puzzle game sensation has proved popular enough that people are willing to pay for it on pretty much every game system that comes along. Suffice it to say, no game has sold more than Tetris.

For you PC gamers, none of whom care about console games and their bundle-muddied statistics, The Sims ranks as the best-selling PC game of all time at a mere 16 million units sold. Yes, PC gaming is more fragmented than console gaming, but console titles simply sell more than PC games, and mobile games more than that.

And for you old-timers demanding to know where arcade games stack up, well, it's not a one-to-one comparison, as almost nobody bought an actual stand-up arcade unit and took it home. (More's the pity.) In any case, the most profitable arcade of all time is, no surprise, Pac-Man, which is estimated to have generated $7.6 billion in arcade revenue (adjusted for inflation) since its release in 1980. Not bad for only 400,000 actual arcade units in play.

That's not just an eye-poppingly popular pack of pixels; it's a ponderously profitable parcel of Geek Trivia.


Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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