Tony Hawk turned down a $500,000 payment for 'Pro Skater,' opting for royalties instead. He ended up making at least 8 times that.

  • Tony Hawk made an appearance on "The Diary of a CEO" podcast and discussed his best financial move.

  • Ahead of the release of video game "Pro Skater," he was offered a $500,000 payment for his likeness.

  • By choosing to receive royalties instead, he made at least eight times Activision's buyout.

Tony Hawk's name is forever intertwined with skateboarding, but the vert-skating legend has pulled off some of his craziest maneuvers away from the half-pipe.

Last week, Hawk made an appearance on "The Diary of a CEO" podcast to discuss his career — and the most important financial decision he's made in his life — with host Steven Bartlett.

Right before the launch of the 1999 video game "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater," Activision, the developers behind the series, offered an up-front, flat-rate payment of $500,000 as compensation for using his likeness. Instead, Hawk decided to receive royalties from the game — a move that has paid off in droves, considering the series has garnered upwards of $1 billion in sales, he said on the podcast.

Activision's fiscal report from 2002 cites the video game series as "the single largest independent U.S. video game franchise for the fiscal year" and credits the game, in part, for the company's increased revenue.

While it's unclear exactly how much Hawk has pocketed from the popular franchise, he said during a 2018 episode of skateboarding podcast "Nine Club" that following the release of the series' fourth game — "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4" — Activision gave him a $4 million check.

Hawk pointed out that the decision to opt for royalties over a guaranteed payment was largely the result of timing.

"When they were close to launch of the game, they started to sense there was buzz about it," Hawk said about Activision on "Diary of a CEO." "They knew they had a good game overall and they felt this surge of interest, and so they offered me a buyout of future royalties — right before the game launched."

Even though the former skateboard prodigy claimed he had never fielded a payment of that magnitude before, he was willing to take a risk because his other business ventures — like his skateboard company and endorsement gigs — were in good positions, he said.

Hawk's decision may seem obvious in retrospect, what with the success of the series, which has gone on to spawn nine major sequels and offshoot titles. But the skate mogul was quick to point out that if Activision had approached him even a few months before with the same deal, while he was in the midst of purchasing a home, he maybe would have taken the check.

As recently as 2020, Activision released a remastered version of the first two editions of the game, a little over two decades after the original's release. 2020's "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2" would go on to sell one million units faster than any other iteration of the series, per Activision.

"Nowadays an entire generation of kids, have asked me if I'm named after a video game," Hawk said on "Diary of a CEO."

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