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How Activision Helped Tony Hawk Build a $140 Million Empire


The enduring popularity of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game series that Activision published and Vicarious Visions and Robomodo developed has helped cement the godfather of skateboarding, Tony Hawk, as one of the wealthiest athletes of all time in the extreme sports world. Just after his retirement in 2003, Hawk debuted the first of a hugely successful gaming franchise. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, published by Activision, became an instant hit as gamers of all ages attempted to successfully land one of Hawk’s 100 signature skateboarding tricks.

Working with Activision was as natural as hopping on the board for Hawk. ​​“Every game, I was involved in the development,” he’s said. “I would play the builds as I received them. The thing that I’m proud of is that it represented the culture well. It represented the lifestyle, in terms of the music and the attitude and the actual skating itself. When you do a kickflip in the game, you see what a real kickflip looks like. It taught a whole generation of kids what proper skating can be.”

The enduring appeal of Activision’s Tony Hawk Pro Skater 

“I believe that our series is the one that sort of started the whole idea that skating should be a genre,” Hawk has said. “I’ve always enjoyed the fact that you can pick up THPS and immediately start doing tricks. There is no steep learning curve, and if you want to go into more fantasy tricks, you have the ability to do so. And why not? As a skater, I know the challenges of real skating, and I enjoy our type of gameplay, where you can ride the power lines and things like that.”

Throughout the 2000s, Hawk was raking in approximately $6 million annually from the early games, like Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (2000), Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 (2001), Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003), and Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (2005). The Pro Skater game made Hawk not only a millionaire but also a household name. “It put skateboarding on the map as a genre of video games, for one,” Hawk has said. “It brought a new audience to skateboarding — and not just people who are interested in trying it, but people who learn to appreciate it from a fan’s perspective.”

“With American Wasteland, it was more echoing back to the original series and the original challenges, and also opening up building your world, so to speak,” Hawk has explained. “I was actually just on a call recently where the writer was a hard-core fan of the first few games and started saying, ‘Once we got into American Wasteland, it was sort of losing its way.’ I said, ‘I beg to differ because there’s a whole generation of people where that was their entry point, and that’s the one they remember with the most fondness.’ I love the American Wasteland game. I thought it was super cool.”

In total, the game franchise, published by Activision, has raked in an estimated $1.4 billion. Eventually, the licensing deal between Activision and Hawk expired, and in December 2018 he released a new video game, Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam, specifically for Android and iOS. That was the first of his games not published by Activision.

Picking a favorite game could be a bit like picking a favorite child, but father-of-four Hawk admits: “I think Pro Skater 2 is my personal favorite.  I keep going back to it because that’s the one that set us up as a franchise and the one that people like to refer to with the music and with the maps.”

Tony Hawk’s evolution from video games to television and film

In addition to video games and X Games appearances, Hawk has enjoyed making multiple cameos in movies and television shows. You can spot his signature smirk in the 1987’s comedy Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol and Vin Diesel’s 2002’s action flick XXX.  In 2020, he was unmasked as the elephant on Fox’s star-filled singing competition, The Masked Singer.

Still, those early Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games from Activision will always have a special place in his heart. “I’m really proud of that legacy and the fact that a lot of people say it turned them on to either skateboarding or a type of music that they didn’t know about or didn’t know that they would like,” Hawk’s said. 

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