While other forms of media are not strangers to tie-ins and merchandise outside of their primary format, video games have only really embraced this in the past five years or so.
One needs only look at recent video game news headlines to see the trend in full force.
Whether it is Sony’s decision to form a studio dedicated to PlayStation properties or the box office success of Detective Pikachu, video game universes are finally being recognized for their potential as multimedia franchises.
In this article, we’re going to talk about 10 of the top multimedia video game universes out there right now. To qualify, the IP has to make significant money and/or have a significant presence outside of their primary video game series.
That could mean movies, books, apparel, and much, much more.
Here are our top ten video game multimedia universes:
Of course, leaving Pokemon off of this list would be a really bad move. It is perhaps the definition of a video game multimedia universe. Movies, television shows, books, cards, toys, smartphone apps – you name it, Pokemon has a stake there.
It is really not that surprising either when you consider the iconic characters and disarming charm of the series as a whole. Marketed towards children that have since become adults, Pokemon has become an inter-generational phenomenon unlike anything else out there.
And it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. If the success of Detective Pikachu is any barometer of success, we expect you’ll be enjoying a ton of Pokemon stuff for years to come.
9. Resident Evil
Another franchise that embraced the multimedia universe approach early on, Resident Evil carries the good times of its games into its movies and tie-in media.
If you’ve never watched a RE movie, you’re not really missing anything though no one will tell you that those movies aren’t fun. Sure, they’re not the best video game adaptations put to film, but the keep the spirit alive in a unique way.
Beyond that, the CG movies do a great job of making a game-like film or short show.
Outside of the movies and television shorts, Resident Evil has the requisite toys, apparel, and other stuff you would expect from a massive video game franchise.
DOOM had books before it was cool. DOOM also had a movie that wasn’t that good but it made an effort. Regardless, none of this has stopped the franchise from becoming a multimedia behemoth.
Though not as hardcore in terms of tie-ins as some of the others on this list, DOOM is also not he most multimedia empire friendly property out there.
How do you market demons from hell fighting against a lone marine who employs the most brutal methods available to dispatch his foes? Just ask the folks behind DOOM because they’ve managed to turn a savagely dark premise into a multimedia machine.
7. The Legend of Zelda
Though this might not be the first franchise that comes to mind when you think of vast multimedia universes, the Legend of Zelda is, nonetheless, one of the most well developmed multimedia franchises in gaming.
There was a short run cartoon back in the day and there’s a series of great Manga comics that tells the tale of A Link to the Past and Majora’s Mask, among others.
Peruse any GameStop or gaming specialty store and you will find everything from apparel to figurines, keychains, and other accessories. We expect that the Legend of Zelda will become even bigger in terms of multimedia properties as we go along as Nintendo has stated their desire to do more with the series.
Diablo has just started getting into the multimedia gaming franchise frenzy but so far, so good. There are some books and an app coming out as well as rumors of another game down the road.
What makes Diablo compelling is that the tie-in media adheres more to the dark, gritty Diablo that fans love instead of the brighter, more airy version in the form of Diablo 3.
We expect that this franchise has more growth potential than most on this list and we wouldn’t be shocked to see a film or television series being optioned at some point in the future.
Blizzard has mastered the art of iteration, and no franchise illustrates this better than Warcraft. Whether it is the film, the books, the games, or the loads of tie-in products out there, few games match Warcraft for sheer volume of material.
The books are massive, the movie was a massive hit in China, and World of Warcraft remains one of the most popular games online.
Though the movie disappointed some western audiences, we wouldn’t be shocked to see a sequel in the near future. Beyond that, the books are some of the best game lore titles around and endless updates to the online game only provide that much more material for spinoffs and tie-in opportunities.
4. The Elder Scrolls
The Elder Scrolls make this list for a litany of reasons but chief among them is its extremely deep lore and dedicated fanbase. A series of books, a recently released app, and tons of accessories and tschotske make TES one of the bigger gaming franchises out there and this trend is likely to continue in the future (especially once The Elder Scrolls 6 comes out).
But the real draw for TES is the online game, a game that many people never thought would succeed. Not only does it tie together the lore of the other games but it actively promotes further exploration on the gamer’s part.
Microsoft’s flagship franchise is also one of the biggest cash cows when it comes to tie-in materials. Books, games, board games, figurines, apparel, bespoke video game equipment – you name it, Halo has made it.
Easily the biggest franchise on Xbox consoles for years, Halo has taken more of a backseat during the Xbox One era but that doesn’t mean it has slowed down in terms of tie-in media and materials.
There’s rumors of a movie – but those have circulated for some time – but, in the meantime, there’s a range of books and shows to help satisfy your needs for Halo lore.
2. Street Fighter
Street Fighter II was a sensation in the arcades and beyond. It spawned a questionable Hollywood movie, a range of GI Joe-esque action figures, a short-lived comic book series, an anime film, and an anime television series, among others.
There’s just something about the SF universe that brings players back for more and Capcom have never shied away from this. And it has never really slowed down.
Though we doubt you’ll see a sequel to that live-action Hollywood flick, we can assure you that other media tie-ins will not cease so long as Street Fighter remains relevant to fighting game fans around the world.
1. Final Fantasy series
Calling this series massive is like saying that the sun is quite hot. It is both true and a meaningless observation: Everyone involved in gaming can tell you that Final Fantasy, more than perhaps any other franchise, hocks merchandise like there is no tomorrow.
Sometimes it is in the service of promoting a new title, like the various multimedia efforts that surrounded FFXV upon its release, but usually it is just an extension of the masterful experience you’ve already had. Books, art books, orchestral scores, sheet music, figurines, and card games are just a few of the properties that come to mind when thinking about Final Fantasy.
As Square’s premier property alongside Dragon Quest, we think that the current lineup of tie-in materials will only grow to exponential proportions in the future.