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Media franchises don't make their money from what made them famous

2 min read

A few days ago, I came across this list of the top grossing franchises on Wikipedia. They have an estimate of the sources of the revenue, which I thought would be nice to visualize:

(I cleaned up some categories for the sake of clarity. Code here)

What’s interesting from this is that most franchises make their money from selling stuff to people – the main thing for which franchises are known (movies, books, some video games) are rarely what makes the most revenue. The kids franchise Cars is a good example, making mostly mediocre movies (according to Rotten Tomatoes), but the universe makes it very easy to sell toys, which generated huge revenue.

On the other end, I find it surprising that the Legend of Zelda franchise doesn’t show up in the top 25 (or even 50 apparently). This is related to Nintendo’s business model: they make great games like Zelda to sell their console systems. They don’t “exploit” the intellectual property (by making tie-ins or adding microtransactions in-game) that much, which means the franchise is much beloved (I’ve seen more people with Zelda tattoos than any other game series) but is surprisingly not a cash cow like mediocre children’s movies with toy tie-ins.

Originally published on by Matt Ranger