Back in the early '90s, Activision was hardly the dominating video game publisher we know now; in fact, the company filed for bankruptcy.
But nearly 20 years later, things have changed drastically. According to data compiled by the NPD, Activision is responsible for 5 of the top 10 highest grossing games of all time . As a frame of reference, rival Electronic Arts is nowhere to be found on that list, while Nintendo takes four of the last five slots (with Viacom holding the last position). Call of Duty alone takes up three slots and the latest, Black Ops , shows "every sign that it will soon become the best selling game of all time, as judged by gross sales." However, bear in mind that Activision is the leader on this list due to a now-defunct blockbuster series: Guitar Hero . Believe it or not, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock actually sits in the #1 spot with life-to-date sales of $830.9 million.
Just remember that the NPD doesn't take inflation into account, and it doesn't include titles that were shipped bundled with systems. Only standalone titles were evaluated. If we talk bundled titles, Wii Sports would be the clear winner, and Super Mario Bros. on the original NES (over 40 million copies distributed since 1985) would also land on the list. As for inflation adjustment, the standalone winner appears to be Super Mario Bros. 3 with 18 million copies sold on the NES. With a price tag of $50 at the time, and when total sales are converted to today's dollars, that's a whopping $1.7 billion…and nothing else comes close.
But as we said: times have changed.