So many hyphens in the headline
Call of Duty — there’s a chance you’ve heard of it — is a pretty big deal. That’s an understated way of putting it. Activision’s war shooter franchise has been a steady hit ever since 2007, with each and every new game racking up a bonkers number of sales. As anyone could’ve guessed, they’ve really added up.
During a recent investors call, Activision has confirmed that Call of Duty has moved past 300 million franchise lifetime sales. There’s no breakdown by individual title or brand, but Activision has launched a new mainline Call of Duty every year since 2005. That’s 14 games in 14 years, most of them gigantic blockbusters.
All that sustained success has put Call of Duty among elite company. According to this list, it trails only Mario, Super Mario, and Pokemon in terms of best-selling franchises of all-time. Basically, aside from some Nintendo properties, Call of Duty is the most popular video game series ever. Grand Theft Auto is the closest competitor, at 280 million sales as of Rockstar’s most recent report.
There’s one other claimant to the throne of best-selling franchise, but it comes with a giant probably-disqualifying asterisk. Sega insists that Sonic is at 800 million lifetime sales. However, as this ResetEra thread helpfully breaks down, that number is egregiously inflated. It includes nearly half a billion free-to-play downloads, and hundreds of millions from the likes of pachinko and other gambling/amusement machines. That is, uhh, not in the spirit of this list.
So, Call of Duty sits right behind only Mario and Pokemon. It’s absolutely a view from the top. And one more thing all three of these franchises have in common is that they don’t seem like they’ll lose steam anytime soon. Expect them to keep a tight hold on their spots in the rankings.