50 Best Developers In The World
Originally printed in games™ 157
How do you judge greatness?
As we took on the task of listing and judging the best developers in the world, we found that simply running them off the top of our heads wasn’t particularly satisfying. We needed a metric to cut through personal preferences as impartially as possible. We settled on six key criteria:
First, the average score across the games media to establish a general level of quality. Second, influence was judged on how impactful a developer’s games had been on the rest of the industry. Third, we judged consistency; how good can a studio be if it produces a turkey every other year? Fourth, regularity was judged based on how frequently titles were produced, likewise posing that developing high-quality games and content frequently is something that should be applauded. Fifth, we awarded a score for innovation, as we value new thinking almost as much as anything else. Lastly, and as something of a wildcard rating, we awarded a ‘cool factor’ score. Such a judgement is completely unscientific, but since some form of subjectivity cannot be avoided, it may as well be embraced transparently.
Ultimately every developer that made it into this 50 is here because we judge them overall to be among the very best, most consistent and most exciting game-makers on the planet, from small indie studios to large, triple-A blockbuster-creators. We expect you to agree with some, disagree with many more, but we’d love to hear your thoughts too. Tweet us @gamesTMmag or email firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your insight.
50 Eidos Montreal
Avg. Score: 8.0 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 7 | Regularity: 7 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 5
After Deus Ex caught the imagination of gamers with its gorgeous concept art, black-and-gold colour scheme and transhumanist narrative, Eidos Montreal floored everyone again with its multiplayer for Tomb Raider. Thief was a bit disappointing, but Eidos could win over the world again with its Deus Ex follow-up this year.
49 Intelligent Systems
Avg. Score: 8.1 | Influence: 5 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 4
Of all the Nintendo studios, Intelligent Systems probably gets less attention than it deserves. It can take a lot of credit for Super Mario and Fire Emblem, for instance, while in more recent years, its output has been no less worthy with the likes of Advance Wars and Wario Ware.
Avg. Score: 8.2 | Influence: 3 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 6
This international, three studio operation makes all sorts of apps, but its London team has produced Whale Trail and Monument Valley; two superb mobile experiences. The latter showed great signs of combining art style with gameplay mechanics with its gorgeous Escher-inspired world.
47 The Creative Assembly
Avg. Score: 7.5 | Influence: 5 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 6
The Creative Assembly recently cherry-picked veterans of the industry to form a team that could tackle the Alien franchise in a fresh way. Its integrity and craftsmanship extends beyond just the Total War games, and we really hope we get to see more interesting non-RTS titles continue to release from the studio in the coming years.
46 Square Enix (Kitase Team)
Avg. Score: 7.6 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 6 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 4
Once upon a time, Kitase and his team at Square Enix could have topped our list, but the recent Final Fantasy games he’s been involved with have sadly held him back. The recent re-releases of Final Fantasy X and X-2 have kept him relevant, though – and we hope Kitase finds his inspiration again for whatever his next project turns out to be.
45 SCE Santa Monica Studio
Avg. Score: 8.7 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 6 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 5
After showing it knew how to make games by developing the Kinetica engine, Sony Santa Monica went on to develop God Of War. Now, the studio proves its place in the industry with the technical progress it’s showing in The Order: 1886 – which probably has the best textures of any game we’ve seen on new-gen hardware.
Avg. Score: 8.7 | Influence: 5 | Consistency: 9 | Regularity: 7 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 5
As the studio that has to go toe-to-toe with Polyphony for the racing sim crown every couple of years, Turn 10 has held its own. What’s impressive is its commitment to pushing into new fields, such as its Drivatar tech in Forza 5. Plus it has a great relationship with its community with fantastic livery creation tools in every release.
43 CD Projekt Red
Avg. Score: 7.8 | Influence: 4 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 7 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 8
The Polish studio’s best work appears to be ahead of it. With The Witcher 3 near the top of several most wanted lists in 2015, anticipation for this final chapter is greater than for its predecessors. More than anything else, though, CD Projekt Red is garnering a reputation for making games the right way. DRM-free, plenty of DLC post launch for everyone at no cost, and delaying release to actually finish the game properly.
42 PopCap Games
Avg. Score: 7.8 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 4
PopCap apparently sells a copy of Bejeweled every 4.3 seconds. The studio has a game on just about every platform currently operational – including the Ouya. PopCap rides the fine line between hardcore and casual gamers, making products that can be roundly enjoyed by everyone. And, of course, it introduced the world to Plants Vs. Zombies.
41 Riot Games
Avg. Score: 7.8 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 6 | Regularity: 5 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 8
As a studio with only one gaming credit to its name, Riot Games has little to hang its hat on, but League Of Legends is the most played game on the planet, so that counts for a lot. Whatever Riot does next is going to have a massive impact on the industry. It has attracted that level of interest across the globe to compete with the biggest devs here.
40 Quantic Dream
Avg. Score: 7.9 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 7 | Regularity: 5 | Innovation: 8 | Cool factor: 5
David Cage might get the backs of some gamers up, but you can’t argue with his influence – Cage and his team at Quantic Dream are at the cutting edge of digital cinematography, and the developer’s work in the motion-capture field continues to innovate. The studio’s games might be divisive, but its impact reaches out further than just gaming in the broader appreciation of games as a form of visual art and entertainment.
39 Platinum Games
Avg. Score: 7.0 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 7 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 7
Shinji Mikami, Atsushi Inaba and Hideki Kamiya founded Platinum – three of the most influential Japanese developers operating today. Only Kamiya remains at the studio, but with an output consisting of The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2, it’s clear he’s keeping the studio on the right track. Hopefully the upcoming Scalebound will offset the disappointing The Legend Of Korra.
Avg. Score: 8.1 | Influence: 5 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 4 | Cool factor: 6
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be good at your craft, just make the most engaging, fun and addictive wheel possible, and that’s what RedLynx does. Its small action racers from Trials to MotoHeroz and DrawRace are a joy to play. We expect nothing less of this team now and Trials Fusion was as good an example as any.
37 Visceral Studios
Avg. Score: 7.2 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 6
Starting on licensed games – James Bond, Lord Of The Rings, The Simpsons – Visceral eventually created its own IP (Dead Space), and helped define a new generation of survival horror in the process. With an untitled Star Wars game in the works, and Battlefield: Hardline due for release, we’ve only seen the start of what Visceral can do…
36 Supergiant Games
Avg. Score: 8.4 | Influence: 4 | Consistency: 9 | Regularity: 7 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 6
With a commitment to expressive art styles and the kind of versatile gameplay that means it works on practically every platform, Supergiant has made itself one of our must-watch developers, despite releasing only two games. Bastion’s reactive narration was deeply impressive and Supergiant again found success with Transistor.
35 SCE Japan Studio
Avg. Score: 7.4 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 5 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 7 | Cool factor: 6
Sony’s internal Japanese studio was responsible for Knack – which dragged down the developer’s consistency and average score – but otherwise its back catalogue is a stellar example of Japanese games with a Western appeal. The studio often teams up with external developers to lend its 18 years of experience to fledgling companies.
34 Polyphony Digital
Avg. Score: 8.4 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 6 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 6
Whether you’re interested in sim racers or not, you have to respect the fact that no matter what generation of console, Polyphony’s Gran Turismo is always the best looking game on the system. It takes pride in being at the cutting edge of visual fidelity and it always leads the way.
33 id Software
Avg. Score: 7.6 | Influence: 8 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 7 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 5
Most of id’s good reputation comes from its influential early work like Doom and Quake, but you have to give some credit to Rage and the id Tech engine. Having spent several years now working on the next Doom, id has really raised our expectations. We think we’ll see something massive from this legendary team.
32 Terry Cavanagh
Avg. Score: 8.7 | Influence: 4 | Consistency: 9 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 5
As the only solo developer in this list, Cavanagh stands out, but then he should, thanks to titles like Don’t Look Back, VVVVVV and Super Hexagon. His work is consistently innovative, creative and subverts the convention of the genres they embrace. His work is small, but perfectly formed and it impresses us time and again.
31 Remedy Entertainment
Avg. Score: 7.8 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 7 | Regularity: 6 | Innovation: 7 | Cool factor: 6
If there’s one thing we love consistently about Remedy it’s the studio’s commitment to blending story and gameplay in smart, fun and inventive ways. Max Payne did it with a comic style, Alan Wake with novelisation, and now Quantum Break wants to tackle episodic TV.
30 Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Avg. Score: 8.9 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 9 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 3
While its more recent output has been (admittedly very well done) remakes of previously popular Nintendo games like Ocarina Of Time, the EAD Tokyo team still carries a lot of expectation after producing Super Mario Galaxy. Can it be that innovative and groundbreaking again? We hope so.
29 Traveller’s Tales
Avg. Score: 7.0 | Influence: 6 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 5
A British developer that’s been operating since 1990, Traveller’s Tales is one of the most successful studios in the world right now: its work on various Lego licences has seen it propelled to the mainstream. The developer is probably the best studio making licensed games right now – what’s more, it’s making them cool again.
28 Hello Games
Avg. Score: 8.3 | Influence: 4 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 5 | Cool factor: 8
The four-man Guildford team that started Hello Games gave themselves a great base to build on when they created the Joe Danger series of action games. Successful and fun on every platform it launched on, Joe Danger is the launchpad for this team to build one of the most ambitious games we’ve ever seen in No Man’s Sky.
27 From Software
Avg. Score: 7.4 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 8 | Regularity: 9 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 4
While the average score is dragged down by ten years of Armored Core games, From has proven itself as one of the most influential studios in the world after its more recent releases gained their own cult following. Dark Souls has already inspired clones, and From’s sadistic approach to game design established it as a unique presence.
26 Ubisoft Montreal
Avg. Score: 6.8 | Influence: 7 | Consistency: 7 | Regularity: 8 | Innovation: 6 | Cool factor: 7
Despite some issues with recent releases – Assassin’s Creed Unity, for example – Ubisoft Montreal is still worthy of note: the Far Cry series is solid, Watch Dogs reviewed well and its work with the UbiArt Framework on Child Of Light proved it’s more than a one-trick pony. We hope the studio recovers from Unity’s bad press in time for 2015’s AC.