As young gamers back in the eighties and nineties, we knew which games were worthy of our pocket money because they received critical acclaim from reviewers, and the same titles would ride high in the charts week in, week out. What we weren’t privy to were the sales volume figures from which these charts were compiled. For all we knew Sensible Soccer could have climbed to the summit by selling merely 100 copies in a given week if the competition happened to have been sub-par; it was all relative.
In the UK up until March 1996 (when Chart-Track took over the reins), the software, music and video charts were compiled by Gallup (and endorsed by ELSPA) through polling up to 150 of the most prolific high street retailers. They’d send a weekly form to the likes of John Menzies (who later became WH Smith), Woolworth’s, Boots and a number of smaller CTN (Confectionery, Tobacco, and News) outlets, who would list the top 50 best sellers for the period along with the sales figures, broken equally into budget and full price releases.
Some charts were supplied by independent retailers like MicroByte or HMV. This example is from CU Amiga.
Before the budget game phenomenon found its feet, the chart was a top 30 rather than two sets of 25. At this juncture, the decision was taken to split them because budget titles sold in much higher volumes, and over an extended period of time, thereby skewing the results. Budget games in the Speccy days could cost as little as £1.99 so could be considered an impulse buy you’d pick up when you nipped into the newsagents to grab the daily paper. It just wasn’t a fair fight to pit one against the other when developers of full-price releases relied as heavily on the charts to nurture awareness of their catalogue of games.
The summary results of this raw data were distributed to the magazines who would publish them each month showing a rise or fall in rank since the previous line up. Though to drill down to the precise number of units sold you’d have to subscribe to the industry insider’s publication, Computer Trade Weekly. Thousands of publishers, developers, retailers, distributors, critics and so on certainly did so, yet strangely the statistics remain thin on the ground today.
Instead, to determine how well a game sold we generally have to rely on information presented in interviews with the developers, either published in magazines at the time or retrospectively. These figures, of course, would be prone to inherent biases (pride, exaggeration etc.), or inaccuracies imbued by faulty memory or lack of access to the company’s finances.
Part of the problem was, the people most likely to have a handle on the sales figures – backroom staff such as distribution and sales managers, accountants etc. – were the least likely to be profiled in magazines, or later online. Information might trickle down to the coders, artists and musicians, but it would often be vague hearsay. The ‘suits’ in the early days were reticent to even credit the developers for their craft, let alone invite them into the inner circle to share key performance indicators. Quite bizarre – even without the benefit of hindsight – given that they’d be more invested in establishing the fruits of their labour than anyone.
Another factor was the common separation between developers and publishers who would often operate as mutually dependent, yet entirely independent entities. The developers could deliver a game’s code to the publisher and have little involvement from that point onwards. Sales results would be communicated between the upper echelons of each organisation, and treated as a closely guarded secret unless you happened to have a million-seller on your hands. Then it would be a wasted PR opportunity if you didn’t emblazon the fact across the box of the budget or compilation re-release, or boast about it in the promotional material for your subsequent games. Incidentally, the inherent claim vaunted by Ocean’s ‘They Sold a Million’ series (there were three collections in all) was pure, unadulterated marketing spiel.
What we also have to keep in mind is that Amiga games sold in minuscule quantities compared to the major Japanese console franchises, so shouting the figures from the roof tops wouldn’t be advisable. It would project the message that the Amiga is an inferior gaming platform, and in the twilight years approaching Commodore’s collapse, convince people to prematurely jump ship.
In 1996 some games were selling so poorly that embarrassingly the revenues wouldn’t have even covered the development costs. Ironically they may still have entered the charts because so many leading developers had already switched their focus towards the PC or Playstation so were no longer in the race.
Finally, for a while the Gallup charts were sponsored by McVitie’s, manufacturers of Penguin biscuits. This explains why Aquatic Games and Robocod were in pole position for 97 weeks in a row, and were awarded the trophy for the ‘Chocolatiest Games in the World’!
Nevertheless, with the advent of the Amiga’s cult status, a number of sales figures have been coaxed out of their stones like the proverbially bashful blood. Below you’ll find a selection of these in ascending order, along with any critical caveats and several entries from rival platforms for the sake of perspective.
So for the first time in the history of the known and unknown Megaverse we will discover which were the bestestest selling Amiga games of all time, ever-ever-ever… ever. *
* subject to available data (wriggle, weasel, wriggle etc.)
|The Entrepreneur||Atari, C64||2||Peter Molyneux’s first game||Venture Beat|
|The Saddam Hussein Game||Amiga||3||Microsoft|
|Crazy Cars 3||Amiga, Atari ST||6||World of Stuart|
|Hilt 2||Amiga||10||taken from interview with Mark Sheeky||Amiga PD|
|Hellcat Ace||Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, PC Booter||50||Sid Meier’s first game||Introduction to Game Development|
|Toado||Amiga||180||taken from interview with Jim Wills||Amiga PD|
|XTR||Amiga||250||figures for February 1996 provided by Alex Amsel, Silltunna Software Lead Programmer||comp.sys.amiga.games|
|Atomino||Amiga, Atari ST, DOS, C64||317||over two week period in January 1996 according to Mike Clarke||comp.sys.amiga.games|
|World Darts||Amiga||1,000||estimated figure from developers (Pickford Bros)||Zee-3 Digital Publishing|
|Inherit the Earth||Amiga||2500||German CD version figures for period from November 1995 – March 1996 provided by Sven Tegethoff||comp.sys.amiga.games|
|Worms: Director’s Cut||Amiga||5,000||Dream 17|
|Alien Breed 3D 2||Amiga||5,000||Weyland-Yutani Corporation|
|Alien Breed 3D||Amiga||15,000||figure provided by Lauri Ahon||Very Computer|
|Touch Typist||Amiga||15,000||Sector Software|
|Menace||Amiga||20,000||The Complete History of DMA Design by Mike Dailly|
|Softporn Adventure||Apple II, Atari 8-bit, DOS||25,000||The Adventure Gamer|
|Turrican||Amiga||30,000||as reported in Amiga Joker magazine||Turrican SETA|
|Worms||Amiga||35,000||figure up until March 1996 provided by Martyn Brown||comp.sys.amiga.games|
|Blood Money||Amiga||40,000||The Complete History of DMA Design by Mike Dailly|
|Dungeon Master||Atari ST||40,000||copies sold in year of release alone||Wikipedia|
|Cannon Fodder 2||Amiga||45,000||over two days||Amiga Format issue 68, February 1995|
|Shadow of the Beast||Amiga||50,000||Derek dela Fuente interviews Paul Howarth for TVG (08.11.2005)|
|Phantasie||Commodore 64, Apple II, DOS, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Amiga, MSX||50,000||figure for North America||Keith Ferrell (December 1987). ‘The Commodore Games That Live On And On’. Compute’s Gazette. Pages 18-22.|
|Lawnmower Simulator II||Amiga||50,000||copies sold in first week||Illogicopedia|
|Lemmings||Amiga||55,000||first day sales figure, 15m sold across all platforms||The Complete History of DMA Design by Mike Dailly|
|Donkey Kong||Arcade||65,000||Japanese sales figure||Arcade Mania: The Turbo-charged World of Japan’s Game Centers by Brian Ashcraft (2008)|
|Sensible World of Soccer||Amiga||70,000||Amiga Format issue 68, February 1995|
|Shovel Knight||Steam||75,000||article by David D’Angelo||Gameasutra|
|Mystery House||Apple II||80,000||world’s first graphical adventure game||Adventureland|
|Alien Breed||Amiga||80,000||figure provided by Imran Ghory, professional software developer||Quora|
|Abuse||DOS, Win32, Mac OS, AIX, SGI Irix, Amiga, Linux||80,000||DOS Games Archive|
|Cannon Fodder||Amiga||100,000||Amiga Format issue 66, December 1994|
|Airbus 320||Amiga, Atari ST, MS DOS||100,000||The Thalion Source|
|Hillsfar||Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, IBM, Mac||100,000||History of SSI Games|
|Secret of the Silver Blades||Amiga, Atari ST?, Commodore 64, IBM, Mac||100,000||History of SSI Games|
|Champions of Krynn||Amiga, Apple II, Commodore 64, IBM||125,000||History of SSI Games|
|The Games Creator||Atari ST||130,000||90,000 of which resulted from Atari bundling it with the ST for a year||Triumph Over Challenges|
|Curse of the Azure Bonds||Amiga, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Commodore 64, IBM, Mac||150,000||History of SSI Games|
|Space Quest||DOS, Macintosh, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Amiga Atari ST||200,000||Wikipedia|
|Pool of Radiance||Amiga, Apple II, Commodore 64, IBM, Mac, Atari, Atari ST, Apple IIGS||250,000||History of SSI Games|
|Leisure Suit Larry||PC DOS, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple IIGS, Apple Macintosh, Tandy Color Computer 3||250,000||copies sold in first year||Mental Floss|
|Duke Nukem 64||N64||290,000||North American sales||Retro Gaming Australia|
|ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire||everything!||380,000||Gaming After 40|
|Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy||Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, CP/M, DOS, Amiga, Atari 8-bit and Atari ST||400,000||Open Culture|
|WordZap||Windows||800,000||originally an Amiga game converted for Microsoft Entertainment Pack III, sales figure for 8 year period||Classic WordZap Home Page|
|Adventure for Atari||Atari 2600||1,000,000||first graphical action/adventure game, first gaming easter egg||Complex Media Inc.|
|Street Fighter II||SNES||2,880,000||data provided by Steven ‘Dreamking23’ Chavez||Event Hubs|
|Roller Coaster Tycoon||Windows||14,000,000||taken from interview with Alister Brimble||Arcade Attack|
|Super Mario Bros||NES||40,240,000||global total as of 2nd July 2016||VG Chartz|