Computer, video and electronic games have had serious money making potential since their inception and as the gaming industry has diversified, profits have expanded to make it one of the most lucrative modern leisure industries. The game generally pointed to as the first mainstream example of a video game was the famous arcade game Pong, released in the early 1970s. Platform games like Super Mario Brothers brought digital gaming out of the arcade and into peoples’ homes and since then the gaming industry has evolved almost beyond recognition. Devices such as the Xbox, the Wii, and the Playstation, mobile gaming devices and smart phone gaming apps have hugely increased the accessibility of video games and have popularised gaming far beyond the reach of kids and ‘nerds’. Today, some of the world’s most popular sports are digital. They’re played on various consoles with a range of sophisticated, pricey hardware for the competitive and, now, professional gamers. A survey conducted by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board indicates that the average age of a gamer is thirty-four, with sixty-seven percent of households in the US playing video games regularly. The survey also suggests that the gaming industry is a hugely lucrative one, having achieved revenue of $10.5 billion in 2009 alone. As such, it comes as no surprise that some of the biggest names in the computer and video game industry are also some of the richest businessmen and tycoons worldwide. We should note that certain leaders of the industry are missing here, due to an attitude towards earnings that’s notoriously more secretive in the gaming world than in most other industries. Consequently, we have incomplete information about their full net worths; were a figure available, it’s a safe bet that the CEO of Zynga inc. (with a current market cap of over $2.7 billion), Don Mattrick, and Jason Jones – the man behind the Halo series – would feature very near the top. But in the absence of these figures we’ve compiled the rundown of some – if not all – of the very richest players in the gaming world.
6. Sam and Dan Houser — $80 million each
The brains behind the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series are British brothers Sam and Dan Houser, whose net worth is a considerable eighty million dollars a head. The pair founded Rockstar Games back in 1998 along with some old friends from school and began collaborating the year after with Edinburgh-based DMA Design, (now known as Rockstar North). The two businesses worked together to bring about the various GTA games, all of which sold stunningly well, particularly in the case of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which became the world’s best-selling video game after its launch in November of 2002.
5. Mark Pincus — $425 million
Mark Pincus is the founder of gaming company Zynga, Inc., which was launched in 2007. He’s now worth an approximate four hundred and twenty-five million dollars. Zynga provides social games for mobile devices, online and social networking sites such as Facebook. Pincus previously co-founded Support.com in 1997 and Tribe Networks, Inc. in 2003, before foraying into the gaming industry. He studied Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
4. Gabe Newell — $1.5 billion
Gabe Newell‘s first employer was Bill Gates, which boded well for his earning potential. Newell is worth around one point five billion dollars, and, like Gates, dropped out of Harvard to work in Microsoft. In 1997, after earning over a million dollars for their work at Microsoft, Newell and co-worker Mike Harrington set up Valve Corporation. The company has since produced a number of wildly successful games, including Team Fortress and Portal, and is behind Steam, a digital games hub which was released in 2003 and has become the largest of its kind. Newell works at Valve as Managing Director of Game Development.
3. Mike Morhaime — $1.8 billion
Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, has a net worth of about one point eight billion dollars. Blizzard Entertainment is a developer and publisher of entertainment software, and was established in 1994. Since its beginnings, Blizzard has designed and produced games of worldwide renown, including the World of Warcraft series. As well as serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of Blizzard Entertainment, Morhaime has worked with Vivendi Games.
2. Bobby Kotick — $2 billion
Bobby Kotick, worth in and around two billion dollars, has been a director of Activision Blizzard since 1991. Activision Blizzard is the holding company for the merger of Blizzard and Activision and is the second largest and most lucrative of its kind in the world (Nintendo takes the number one spot). This company is responsible for developing and publishing some of the best known games worldwide, including Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. In addition to his gaming wealth, Kotick also earns considerable money on the board of directors of The Coca-Cola Company, and previously served on the board of directors for Yahoo!, from 2003 to 2008. He’s a controversial figure in the gaming community, as many believe his leadership of Blizzard Activision saw Kotick eliminate several titles in order to back cash cows with plenty of easy-money sequels. Whether or not you appreciate his methods, Kotick’s certainly raking in profit.
1. Hiroshi Yamauci— $4.2 billion
The first retired and now sadly passed on gaming tycoon of this list is Hiroshi Yamauchi, who is worth around four point two billion dollars. Yamauchi was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1927, and had his university life interrupted by the advent of World War II. In the year 1947, which Yamauchi was studying Law, his grandfather had a stroke, and Yamauchi inherited his job — working as President of a company called Nintendo. Nintendo at the time made playing cards, and Yamouchi’s savvy business decisions, such as teaming up with Disney to bring Western playing cards into Japan, ensured that Nintendo dominated the market. Yamauchi tried to expand into different areas — such as instant rice and taxis — many times, but none of these ventures were successful until he hit on the idea of toy production. After that, it was only a matter of time before Nintendo tended towards electronic games, which began with the launch of Color TV Game 6 in Japan, and hit the big time with the first design of Donkey Kong in 1981. Since then, Nintendo has gone from strength to strength within the gaming industry.