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?

This week saw the 28th anniversary of the release of one of the most successful video games of all time. On June 6, 1984, the first version of Tetris was unveiled and quickly took the world by storm. While Tetris has appeared on every major gaming platform from the Commodore 64 to the iPhone, it arguably gained its greatest notoriety as the cartridge game bundled with the original Nintendo Game Boy.

On the strength of that bundling, Tetris became the best-selling video game in Game Boy history, with roughly 35 million units sold. Of course, the bulk of these sales came from the bundling itself. This begs the question, was Tetris popular, or was the Game Boy good enough to make any bundled game an all-time hit?

Similarly, the best-selling console game of all time at 79 million units sold is Wii Sports, which was bundled with the Nintendo Wii. So, is Wii Sports an all-time great video game, or just the happy recipient of the Wii's unparalleled popularity? (Conversely, would the Wii have sold as well if Wii Sports wasn't there to demonstrate the console's motion-play capabilities from day one?)

The line gets blurrier with mobile games for smartphones and tablets. Angry Birds is the current record-holder in this arena, with roughly 1 billion games downloaded. The catch with Angry Birds is that the game is free, supported by in-game ads and paid upgrades. Would slingshot pig-smashing be as popular if everyone had to pay for the privilege? Probably not.

Perhaps there should be a separate category for unbundled games that cost money, so we can get a real sense of which video game players are most willing to shell out cash to play.

WHAT IS THE ALL-TIME BEST-SELLING VIDEO GAME THAT GAMERS ACTUALLY PAID TO PLAY?

Get the answer.

About

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...

16 comments
GRH2112
GRH2112

Actually, I DID buy the stand up Asteroids game console! ...and it's still a great game!

APitchford
APitchford

Released in 1993, Myst held the record of best-selling PC game until The Sims surpassed it in 2002. That's a long-held record in the computer world! Myst single-handedly saved the CD-ROM format from the dust-bin of history because of its success. It also spawned 5 direct sequels, and 1 related game, Uru, which started out as an MMPORG, failed, became a stand-alone DVD game (URU: Complete Chronicles), and is now once again online as Myst Online: Uru Live. Cyan, the producer of the Myst games, has been (very) slowly making the online game open source, so that future updates and expansions are now in the hands of fans.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Or my old favorite Gorf! Ohhh, the quarters I dropped on those... And what about Pong? The granddaddy of them all? (Yes, I realize I'm dating myself here, hehe!) ;)

jmartin.hlg
jmartin.hlg

Although Angry Birds is provided in a free version, the paid version(s) still sit pretty high in the iOS app store listings.

Hazydave
Hazydave

Tetris, sure, but you're talking about dozens of different versions across multiple platforms. And maybe that's the key -- you buy Tetris today on you phone because you recall it from your C64 or Nintendo. Similarly, how do you count "The Sims"? Is that the original versions, all versions, just what (incidently, The Sims 3 is quite alive, still)? Does this include all those many, many add-ons, or just the core application?

Slayer_
Slayer_

It just doesn't sound right, the Sims has been dead a long time now. I would have expecting a game that has been around for awhile. (And still in production)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

for two decades just so I can play Tetris Attack... And I have it on my phone, too, of course!

yodi.collins
yodi.collins

Of course Pac-Man comes in first place; however, I (still) own a GameCube and a copy of Tetris Worlds that gets ample play-time in my home.

RipVan
RipVan

One is near me in Sharonville, Ohio. I am afraid to go in for fear I will want to buy (but can't afford) everything in the store. Those games are great, but most of all, I would LOVE to have pinball. Maybe 8 Ball or one whose name escapes me, possibly "Space Cadet" or something like that. I will definitely know it when (if) I see it!!

RipVan
RipVan

I didn't really have the patience for it, but exploring the areas and being blown away by the graphics at that time really brings back the memories of a simpler time!!! (I just love sounding like my grandpa.) Another great exploring game that didn't sell so well, but still has people developing their own mods was "Thief." I like the first person shooters okay, but exploring things at your leisure (and secondarily looking for programming mistakes in the textures) was a lot of fun.

RipVan
RipVan

My memory isn't that good! Is that the right game....???

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

...which was one of the first games to span age and gender demographics. It was a sensation, one that not even its own sequel recaptured. (Also, console and mobile gaming has radically outstripped PC gaming for younger and female gamers in the last decade.) The conditions may simply never come again for Sims-like phenomenon on the PC.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Great game. It took me a long time to beat vs mode and that extra hard. Bowser cheats pretty hard core. No other game have I ever even bothered to replay after playing easy.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

or Pinball Wizard. Best. Games. Ever.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

But the name of the game, let's see, seems like it was "Berzerk" or "Berzerker"..."get the intruder", and if they got you, "Got the intruder!" Memories...used to keep rolls of quarters handy!! :)