Many developers toil away in obscurity all their lives, but some gaming icons managed to make the industry work for them. There are probably richer CEOs of companies tangentially related to gaming, publishing houses, translation companies, import companies, and the like, but these are the richest we could find that were deeply and directly connected to the gaming industry.
Although his name may like a piece of furniture from Ikea, Ilkka Paananen is actually the CEO and cofounder of Supercell. Don’t know what Supercell is? It’s the studio behind mobile gaming hit Clash of Clans. Now things are starting to sound familiar, right? Supercell makes a ton of money off of that game alone. Professional players own multiple devices so that they can play in the shower. It’s one of the most lucrative mobile titles in existence, and managed to make Ilkka Paananen raise his personal worth to four hundred million dollars. It’s incredible what microtransactions can do.
Someone’s gotta be getting rich off of this virtual reality stuff, and that person is Palmer Luckey. The creator of the Oculus Rift, and one of the most successful Kickstarter entrepreneurs of all time, Luckey made a small fortune just through the miracle of crowdfunding. However, his big break came when he sold his company to Facebook for two billion dollars. Now, it’s estimated that Luckey alone is worth five hundred million dollars… and the Oculus Rift hasn’t even come out yet! Luckey made this incredible sale when he was at the age of 21, making him the youngest ever to make a sale that large.
Ricardo Zacconi and Melvyn Morris
You probably haven’t heard of these guys either, which should tip you off that they are moguls of the mobile gaming world. Ever hear of something called Candy Crush? Yep, these are the guys behind it. Zacconi is the CEO of King games and Morris is the chairman. Every time you match 3, there’s some money going into these guys’ pockets. Zacconi is rated as worth five hundred and forty eight million dollars, while Morris is worth six hundred and twenty seven million dollars, all for a match-3 formula that Bejeweled did first. Kind of rubs you the wrong way, doesn’t it? Well, that, and their attempt to copyright the word “saga” so that The Banner Saga couldn’t use it. Fun fact: Morris made his first fortune creating dating site Udate.com.
Zynga. ‘Nuff said. While the mammoth of casual games has seen better days, FarmVille alone made this man millions. Cofounder and former CEO, Pincus is also an incredibly keen investor. He sank money into Napster, Twitter, and Facebook all in their early days, and they just keep making money for him. His net worth comes in just short of being a billionaire, and while his business might have taken a hit, he likely won’t ever be completely ruined by the shift in gaming away from social games, Pincus teaches us an important lesson about making money in the gaming world. It’s not about making a good product. It’s about making a product that will continue to make you money for lengthy periods of time.
Of course, some people strike it big on just one game, and nobody fits this model better than the one and only Notch, creator of Minecraft. Minecraft is just so good that people can’t stop playing it. It’s now on PC, every console, mobile devices, handhelds, and more. I wouldn’t be surprised if my toaster eventually had a version of Minecraft to play. Notch owned 71% of Mojang, the Minecraft studio, before he sold it to Microsoft for two and a half billion dollars in cold hard cash. This has raised his net worth to over one billion dollars! Notch doesn’t do much in terms of Minecraft development anymore, even though Mojang continues to grow, but why would he? He is set for life.
All hail the great Gaben. Newell learned an important lesson while leading Valve. Why make games when you can make way more money selling other people’s games? Steam is one of the most lucrative digital distribution platforms in existence, and Valve’s actual games are only a very small part of it. It can be argued that Steam changed the face of gaming as we know it, making games instantly available to buy and play. With every transaction on Steam, Valve earns more money, and since Gabe owns half of Valve, half of that money is basically going to Gabe. This has made Gaben’s net worth 1.3 billion dollars. Wait a minute… Gabe makes half of the money that Valve makes and will do so for the rest of his life , and he is currently worth one point three billion dollars. Half-Life 3 confirmed!