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Nintendo, Blizzard Top Game Developer's 2nd 'Top 50 Developers' List
Nintendo, Blizzard Top Game Developer's 2nd 'Top 50 Developers' List Exclusive
June 16, 2009 | By Staff

June 16, 2009 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Think Services’ Game Developer magazine and Game Developer Research division -- sister divisions to Gamasutra -- have announced a major study ranking the top 50 game development studios worldwide.

Following up on last year's inaugural study, Game Developer's Top 50 Developers 2009 combines empirical market data with a detailed survey taken by game development professionals via industry-leading website Gamasutra to create a holistic view of the top game developers using sales and reputation data.

In the countdown, also listed and detailed in the June/July 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, Nintendo's internal Kyoto studio came out on top -- thanks in no small part to incredible sales of a healthy lineup of DS and Wii software like Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii as well as ongoing catalogue titles like Wii Play and Brain Age.

Nintendo's incredibly strong sales and high industry reputation kept the studio on top for the second year, even as its total volume of software output shrank.

The second place went to Activision-owned developer Blizzard, based on the incredible sales success of its World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. It was also aided by its sterling reputation scores, which eclipsed every other developer on the list.

Blizzard moved up one slot from last year in the absence of Infinity Ward, which released no games in 2008, and therefore was not eligible for this year's Top Developers list.

Rounding out the top 3 was Ubisoft's Montreal studio, which saw strong sales, increased game output, and rising review scores bring the developer up considerably from last year's #12 showing. Games like Far Cry 2, Prince of Persia, and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 drove the studio's placing.

The top 20 rankings of game development studios for the 2009 countdown, alongside some of the notable games released in 2008, are as follows:

1. Nintendo (Kyoto studio) (Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit)
2. Blizzard Entertainment (World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King)
3. Ubisoft Montreal (Far Cry 2, Prince of Persia)
4. Rockstar North (Grand Theft Auto IV)
5. EA Canada (FIFA Soccer 09, NHL 09)
6. Konami (Tokyo studio) (Pro Evolution Soccer 2009, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia)
7. Valve (Left 4 Dead)
8. Epic Games (Gears of War 2, Unreal Tournament 3 [Xbox 360])
9. Electronic Arts Tiburon (Madden NFL 09, NASCAR 09)
10. Treyarch (Call of Duty: World at War)
11. HAL Laboratory (Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia)
12. Capcom (Osaka studio) (Devil May Cry 4, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite)
13. Traveller's Tales (LEGO Batman, LEGO Indiana Jones)
14. Bethesda Game Studios (Fallout 3)
15. Insomniac Games (Resistance 2, Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty)
16. Namco Bandai Games (Tokyo studio) (Soul Calibur IV, We Ski)
17. EA Redwood Shores (Dead Space, MySims)
18. Koei (Yokohama studio) (Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI, G1 Jockey 4 2008)
19. Kojima Productions (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
20. Harmonix Music Systems (Rock Band 2)

Each game developer was first assessed by combining the top ranking games using all weekly Top 10 charts of U.S., U.K., and Japanese sales in 2008, with their number of games released and average Metacritic review scores. Only those developers with games released in calendar 2008 were eligible for inclusion.

An anonymous survey was fielded on Gamasutra asking community members to score game developers on overall reputation, as well as on the quality of direct interaction working for or with that developer where possible. The resulting report is the first and pre-eminent multi-input empirical ranking available for game development studios.

A more detailed analysis of the top 50 developers, including brief analysis and reputation responses, is available in the June/July 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, out now and available at the magazine's website.

However, the full Top 50 Developers report, including extensive feedback, comparative charts, and statistics for all top 50 developers, as well as feedback and data for additional studios, is available via Game Developer Research's website.

(You can also see a raw list of all 50 Top Developers for this year in the research reports's table of contents.)

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Chris Notsaying
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Are you guys nuts?

UBI Montreal is the worst development studio in the world! Have you been to the UBI Forums for any of the games you mentioned or checked to see how many multiplayer servers have people actually playing?

Farcry 2 and Vegas 2 had horrible and buggy multiplayer and UBI dropped support within months. Vegas 2 was reduced to $5 just months after release and the final 1.03 patch for the PC version only allows hardcore mode to work for one round! UBI Montreal doesn't test their patches and can't program AI or Multiplayer!

It is amazing to watch the UBI developers interact with people and hype their games on the forums before they come out and then they all disapear the moment the game hits the shelves and they have your money.

Yannick Boucher
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Ok, so you being not happy about a patch for multiplayer in FC2 and Vegas 2 PC makes Ubi Montreal the "worst development studio in the world" ? I think you want the IGN Boards, they're that way. This here is Gamasutra. (please check carefully the basis on which this list was compiled).

On a more more sensible note, it's a shame Kojima Prod and KCET are treated as separate studios.

Tawna Evans
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This list is obviously determined by game sales and not neccessarily quality.

Also, I thought Activision didn't own Blizzard. Doesn't Vivendi own both Activision and Blizzard, hence the new company name Activision Blizzard? (Or Actiblizzard, as I heard on the grapevine.)

Chris Remo
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Tawna Evans,

The list is determined by a number of factors, as indicated in the piece.

And yeah, point taken about Vivendi, although for these purposes, we generally use "Activision" as shorthand for "Activision Blizzard" since for all intents and purposes they are now the same. We'd still also consider Infinity Ward owned by Activision, even though Vivendi is the top parent company. It's also worth noting that Vivendi only owns 54% of Activision Blizzard, whereas Blizzard itself is 100% a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard.


Your concern is valid, but no, the number of servers active for particular games is too circumstantial a metric to tie into a list of this nature. Judging individual games isn't the purpose of this report; it aims to look at overall reputation, quality, and commercial success of each studio. We do factor in reputation based on responses, so if a lot of respondents shared your complaint, that indeed was factored in.

Paul Lazenby
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@ Chris T:

Agreed 100%. But within your criticism lies the answer: Ubi Montreal is knowm for spending an inordinate amount of their time stuffing ballot boxes with their own hype, and this survey is no doubt a prime example of this.

It's also amusing to note that the FarCry 2 team was disbanded after the game was released because of the poor management structure and the disappointing quality of the game

@ Chris R:

If this list is to be taken seriously, you guys need to do more research and less counting of ballots. Placing a studio in the top 5 that has had half of it's staff directed to other products because of their failures is not something that should be rewarded, and it's a slap in the face to many others who are further down on this list or who didn't make the count.

Alex Chiang
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Valve at 7 is a bit of a shock. As far as I know, their reputation is as rock solid as any of the developers above them.

Chris Remo
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The methodology behind the creation of this list, which we're carrying on from last year, can certainly be criticized. But at a certain point, a choice was made to go with empirical figures as much as possible, without introducing our own editorial decisions into the rankings. This is the approach we take to all Game Developer Research projects. That's not to say it wouldn't be possible to do a more subjective list, but it's not consistent with our past reports.


Valve's score in the reputation area was second only to Blizzard. Due to the number of factors involved, however, it would be very difficult for a company with only one released game in a year to get up to the top few places. Blizzard manages that feat because it has the highest or second-highest ranking in most categories, which is extremely impressive.

An Dang
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Well, I guess these are probably the most successful developers (sales and profit plays a big part here, right?). I wouldn't be able to agree with the list if they are supposed to be the "best" developers.

Anyway, I'm glad to see Romance of the Three Kingdoms appears on the list. I am still hoping we'll see a 12th one some day.

steve roger
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Doesn't look like Microsoft and Rare will be purchasing your survey. My, my have the mighty fallen.

Tom Kammerer
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I am going to have to agree that Ubisoft holding the 3rd rank is a shame. Luckily we can expect Infinity Ward to take back what's rightfully there's with modern warfare 2.

Alex Chiang
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I guess that makes sense, especially considering how long they take to put out games.

Bob Stevens
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Just because you don't like some company on the list doesn't mean you get to throw out actual research. This was based on surveys of game developers about companies they work for or have worked with, as well as sales and metacritic data. That's a lot more scientific than fanboyism or nostalgia. To be honest the comments here sound more like reverse-fanboyism.

If you're going to declare this list invalid, go ahead and do it on scientific grounds. Of course that might involve research so it isn't going to happen.

Sylvain Vignaud
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Bob Stevens: exactly!

I don't like any of Nintendo games (used to play similar games on Apple II, then switched to other genres). Still I perfectly understand (and I know, from reading sites such as this one or kotaku or others) that lots of people love or used to love their games.

Yannick Boucher
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Chris N, Rob, you guys obviously have a beef with Ubi Mtl, and you're entitled to it I guess. But Bob Stevens is perfectly right. I disagree with many of these rankings on a personal opinion basis (Activision-Blizzard are dead to me, for example), but __don't criticize unless you have a better solution__. It's real, real, easy to criticize, and say stuff in a comment box on some website, but to actually DO something to be part of the solution is another story.

As for the disbanding of teams, that's a perfectly INvalid point in measuring anything. Some teams at Ubi Montreal get disbanded, some stay together, and it's the same at any other major developer/publisher that isn't putting out 1 game every 2 years (you know who they are). Heck, it happens at Capcom, it happens at Konami, YES it happens at Infinity Ward, and it even happens at Kojima Productions! Some times people find better jobs elsewhere, they move away, they have to leave for health reasons, they change career paths, they have babies, who knows! Do you even work in the industry? Do you know what it entails to manage a pool of developers, of PEOPLE, looking beyond the almighty project's needs? I'm assuming not, judging by your comments.

Anywhere you go, the real core teams remain, and the rest move around, unless you're working at a "boutique" developer. But for the rest of us, that's the reality of a big developer/publisher, and these entities certainly have a role to play in how big and mighty the industry as a whole has become. So again, real easy to criticize.

As for ballot boosting... well, this chart also includes sales figures... so really, I think you can argue all you want, but until you have a better empirical and objective way to measure this, keep it to yourself.