Game Developer Magazine published a story in the March 2008 issue ranking the top 50 game development studios worldwide according to empirical data that they have gathered. They are using sales data as well as qualitative evaluations by developers working at the studios for their research. Detailed reports include releases per platform and review score averages (from Metacritic) as well as mean reputation scores however, the number of participants in those evaluations seems to be rather low when looking at free sample data from big developer Ubisoft Montréal, for whom they reported only 30 respondents (just barely 2% from 1600 employees according to Wikipedia). What I always find a bit more troubling as an European seems to be the high number of US American studios in the top list. While Nintendo’s Kyoto, Japan, studio made the top of the list, almost half of the studios come from the USA.
Only two European developers made it into the toplist: Germany’s Crytek at number 22 and Sweden’s Massive at number 42. While I regret this small number of European game development studios, I am very happy to see those two studios up there, because I know employees of both companies and they seem like Europe’s top spots, when it comes to game development. Also, in my personal opinion, Germany and Sweden are the most relevant countries, when it comes to game development in Europe. But, please take a closer peak at the distribution of game development studios per Country as given by the Game Developer survey.
Of course this data also indicates something known to most of the people wanting to go into the industry. Most of the best jobs are located in English speaking countries and nations, where games are also played widely and accepted culturally. Great Britain is certainly leading the pack on my side of the Oceans with 6 studios placed in the toplist. Now, of course, something we should not forget when interpreting the survey data is also that for most of it, just the main offices of development studios are named. Studios like Realtime Worlds in Scotland have according to their website subsidiary offices in Seoul, South Korea, and in Boulder Colorado, USA. So, yes, in most cases main offices may be in the US, because it is (besides Japan) the major dominating market for digital games, but maybe the bigger studios also have offices in Europe or Australasia. Now, let’s realign the data a bit.
If we are looking at the top 20 development studios according to their reported Metacritic score, Bioshock developer Irrational Games, now named 2K Boston is leading the pack. It is hard to deny the lead with this great title, which I have only enjoyed the first minutes of, but have decided to devote more future spare time to. I have not played the new Call of Duty, but my students rave about it all the time, so it cannot be bad. 🙂 Now, on sweet spot three, we find Valve, whose Source SDK I have very much grown to love over the past year. Many people where complaining about Valve only making fifth place in the overall ranking. Even though I have not worked at or know anyone working at Valve, I do have the impression that they are a nice bunch, their community support is certainly outstanding and Portal is one of my favorite titles.
Finally, let’s resort the data again and look at SKUs (Store Keeping Units, the stuff that sits on the shelves) developed by the Top 20 developers. Nobody would have doubted that a studio responsible for many of EA’s major sports series (e.g. Fifa Soccer) to produce most of the stuff last year. And again we can see a sports title developer Konami Japan (e.g. Pro Evolution Soccer) to line up as second with 30 developed SKUs for 2008. I would really like to look at all the other real data from the research report, but I am a cheap student and therefore my quick look at the top studio survey ends here. I thought it was interesting to see such research done. It definitely helps to cluster developers and define quality. However, if the return run of respondents is as low as that of Ubisoft Montréal, this survey is far from being representative. It will be interesting to see how this grows and develops in the following years. Hope you liked my quick rundown here and hope to see you here again soon.