Video Games Are Surpassing Movies in Revenue


By Jason Fogerty (JFogerty)

Depending on how old you are, it is possible that for much of your lifetime, you remember Hollywood being the unshakeable giant of entertainment. You might also remember how growing up, the games you played were very much a niche interest. To those outside your social circle, they may have been virtually unknown. So, it may have come as some surprise to learn that video games are surpassing movies in terms of revenue in our modern era.

In this article, we explore the growth of the video game industry and its connections to Hollywood in-depth. We also will offer some context in terms of the broader entertainment landscape.

Grand Theft Auto

Video Games are Surpassing Movies as the Biggest Form of Modern Entertainment

In 2019, the BBC reported, “The industry is worth £3.86bn ($4.85bn) – more than double its value in 2007 – said the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA). That makes it more lucrative than video and music combined. The success is largely down to three games: Fifa 19, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”

That trend has only continued. In 2020, research center CYENS wrote, “Leading online games services and platforms are seeing a surge of activity and the latest estimates indicate that the global games market will generate revenues of $159.3 billion in 2020 from 2.7 billion gamers around the world keeping the video game business larger than both the movie and music industries combined!”

Research from Betway casino offers a detailed look at this trend, providing the following data:

  • Based on revenue in the first days after launch, major movies and video games have ranked as follows over recent years: Avengers Endgame, Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, Avengers Infinity War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Jurassic World, Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
  • Betway writes, “The best selling adult video game of all time is Grand Theft Auto V, which has sold more than 110 million copies. By comparison, the best selling movie DVD, Finding Nemo, sold 47 million copies.”

So, that is some pretty astonishing perspective on the outstanding performance of video games over recent years as compared to major blockbusters.

Cyberpunk 2077 Starring Keanu Reeves

Movies, Video Games, and Other Media Now Overlap

Another interesting trend with respect to video games, film franchises, and other forms of popular entertainment (i.e. comic books and television) is an increasing overlap. For example, we are now seeing a lot more video games based on other media. Some examples are Marvel Avengers Alliance and Star Trek Online. For film-goers, titles like these serve as an easy transition into the world of gaming.

Additionally, it is becoming common for Hollywood actors to show up as video game voice actors. One example is Samuel L. Jackson in Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas, who played Officer Tenpenny. Another example is Liam Neeson, who plays James in Fallout 3, the protagonist’s father. Yet another is Sean Bean, famous for playing Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. He played Martin Septim in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Film actors are also starring in video games using motion capture technology, sometimes even with their own likenesses appearing on-screen. Consider Keanu Reeves starring in Cyberpunk 2077 as Johnny Silverhand. Another example is Kit Harington, who played Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. He also appeared as Admiral Salen Kotch in Call of Duty – Infinite Warfare. One more example is Ellen Page, who stared in Beyond – Two Souls as Jodie Holmes.

Incidentally, there is also a lot of overlap with TV now as well. You probably have noticed a lot more major Hollywood actors showing up in TV shows than in the past. We also are seeing a lot of TV actors voicing video game characters. TV shows are earning more revenue than in the past. They also are paying actors more money than they used to, sometimes even surpassing Hollywood salaries.

TLOU Troy Baker

What Do Video Game Actors Earn?

You might be curious whether there is good money in video game voice acting. The answer is a resounding “yes.” Nolan North, who played Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, is worth $4 million. Troy Baker, who starred in BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us, is worth $6 million. Tara Strong, who appeared in Batman – Arkham City, Final Fantasy X and X-2, and Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain, is worth $10 million.

So, that means there is plenty of monetary incentive to continue to draw Hollywood actors and TV actors to video games. It is true that the numbers we are looking at here are not nearly as huge as the salaries that top actors receive to appear in Hollywood films. But acting in video games can offer a rewarding experience, broad exposure, and the chance to do something different.

What Can We Expect for the Future of Video Games and Films?

There is no denying that right now, video games are surpassing movies. Not only that, but television has also become a more dominant form of entertainment. These are trends we can expect to continue over the years ahead. Furthermore, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are improving. Both are likely to play a role in the continuing growth of video game popularity and revenue as we advance into the future.

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