Metacritic's 1st Annual Game Publisher Rankings

  • Comments: ↓ 31 user comments
  • Publish Date: February 9, 2011

Comparing the 2010 releases of game publishers

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A few weeks ago, we revealed our final list of 2010's best videogames. Now, it's time to look at which companies are responsible for those releases. Now, for the first time, we're ranking game publishers, based on how well their games were reviewed last year.

Ranking of major publishers

Rather than try to compare smaller publishers to giant ones, we have divided all publishers into two separately ranked groups, based on the number of games they released last year. Our first group consists of major publishers, who each issued 15 or more unique titles in 2010. We have ranked these publishers in order from best overall game quality to worst, using a formula based on four factors:

  1. Average Metascore for all products released in 2010
  2. % of products with good reviews (Metascore of at least 75)
  3. % of products with bad reviews (49 or lower; in this case, a lower % is better)
  4. Number of "great" titles (Metascore of 90 or higher)

Note that the Metascore average (the first factor) counts slightly more than the other factors. (Detailed scoring information appears in a table below the rankings.)

Here is how the major publishers stacked up based on their 2010 releases:

1. Take Two Interactive
(incl. 2K Games, 2K Play, 2K Sports, Rockstar Games)

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Products Released in 2010 †
# Scored 40 (19 titles)
# Unscored 6 (3 titles)
Average Metascore
77.1
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
63,38,0
Best Overall Release
Red Dead Redemption (360) 95
Best Original Title *
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (360) 83
Worst Overall Release
Major League Baseball 2K10 (Wii) 52
Metacritic Users' Favorite **
Red Dead Redemption (360) 8.8

One of just two major publishers to finish 2010 with an average Metascore in the green range (75 or higher) indicating positive reviews from game critics, Take Two Interactive tops our 2010 rankings thanks to critically lauded releases like the sandbox-style multi-platform western Red Dead Redemption and PC strategy game Sid Meier's Civilization V 90, which professional reviewers loved even if some longtime fans weren't quite as delighted. Take Two did not release a single poorly-reviewed game last year; on the contrary, nearly two in every three releases earned positive reviews. And the numbers for subsidiary Rockstar Games were even better; Rockstar averaged 82.1 for its 10 scored products last year. Another Take Two label, 2K Sports, also finished with a green average Metascore (75.0), though that mark was inferior to the 78.5 average held by the other major publisher of sports titles, EA Sports.

* Not part of or related to an existing game or series
** Out of games with at least 25 user reviews.
Scored products are the number of products released last year with at least four reviews from professional critics (which is the minimum needed to have a Metascore calculated). The number in parentheses shows the number of unique titles released last year rather than the total of all products. (For example, Red Dead Redemption PS3 and Red Dead Redemption 360 count as two different scored products but just one unique title.) Unscored products have 1-3 reviews from professional critics. Additional products that were never reviewed are not included in this report. Average Metascore is the average of all individual Metascores for all scored products released in 2010, while the pie chart shows what percentage of those Metascores were green (Metascore of 75-100), yellow (50-74) or red (0-49).

2. Nintendo

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 39
# Unscored 16
Average Metascore
76.1
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
64,33,3
Best Overall Release
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) 97
Best Original Title
Fluidity (Wii) 86
Worst Overall Release
AquaSpace (Wii) 48
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) 9.4

In addition to finishing with the second-best average Metascore among the biggest game companies, Nintendo boasted the highest percentage (64%) of positively reviewed releases out of any major publisher last year. Nintendo also was responsible for our overall highest-scoring game of 2010, the Wii title Super Mario Galaxy 2. One note of caution, however: Nintendo also had the largest number of "unscored" titles -- games with fewer than four reviews -- out of any publisher we tracked last year. While these releases aren't necessarily all bad (indeed, many of them received some positive reviews), they are very minor releases of little significance or interest to most gamers.

3. Capcom

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 33 (19 titles)
# Unscored 3 (2 titles)
Average Metascore
74.5
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
58,42,0
Best Overall Release
Super Street Fighter IV (PS3) 92
Best Original Title
Dark Void (PS3) 59
Worst Overall Release
Dark Void (PC) 57
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Wii) 9.3

Capcom's latest Super Street Fighter installment booked terrific scores in both its PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, the highlight of a year in which the publisher didn't release a single negatively-reviewed title. That said, nearly all of Capcom's 2010 game lineup in 2010 consisted of sequels to existing properties; the publisher's only new concept -- the sci-fi shooter Dark Void, developed by Airtight Games -- was its worst-reviewed game of the year.

4. Microsoft

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 21
# Unscored 0
Average Metascore
73.4
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
57,43,0
Best Overall Release
Halo: Reach (360) 91
Best Original Title
Alan Wake (360) 83
Worst Overall Release
Fable III: Understone Quest Pack (360) 50
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Perfect Dark (360) 9.0

Microsoft had a fairly strong year as a publisher in 2010, with well over half of its games receiving positive reviews and none scoring below 50. However, aside from high-scoring title Halo: Reach, the company's only game to surpass Alan Wake's 83 was the Xbox Live Arcade title Pinball FX 2 88.

5. Electronic Arts

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 111 (48 titles)
# Unscored 15
Average Metascore
72.6
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
50,45,5
Best Overall Release
Mass Effect 2 (360) 96
Best Original Title
DeathSpank (PS3) 79
Worst Overall Release
Dead Space Ignition (360) 35
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker (360) 9.2

Electronic Arts had one of the best-reviewed games of the year in sequel Mass Effect 2 for the 360, which also earned a stellar 94 for its PS3 version. And two more PS3 titles -- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 89 and FIFA Soccer 11 89 -- just missed falling into great territory. But when you release as many products as EA does each year, they can't all be good, and the publisher especially seemed to struggle with its Wii releases, averaging just 68.9 on that platform. Another blemish was the multi-platform release Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, which was poor even by games-based-on-movies standards. However, EA does take the title as the top sports game publisher of 2010; its EA Sports label averaged 78.5 for its 33 scored products (13 unique titles) last year, finishing ahead of 2K Sports.

6. Activision Blizzard

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 58 (26 titles)
# Unscored 4
Average Metascore
69.3
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
43,52,5
Best Overall Release
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC) 93
Best Original Title
Blur (360) 82
Worst Overall Release
Blood Drive (360) 40
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Transformers: War for Cybertron (360) 8.8

Activision Blizzard's two best games in 2010 were Blizzard titles: the long-awaited Starcraft sequel Wings of Liberty 93, and the World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm 90, each for the PC. DJ Hero 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops were among the best Activision console titles of 2010, though reviewers weren't quite as enthusiastic about ports of the latter game for the DS and Wii. The company made a few too many middling games for the DS, however, averaging 65.9 over 8 products.

7. Sony

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 48 (46 titles)
# Unscored 3
Average Metascore
70.9
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
40,54,6
Best Overall Release
God of War III (PS3) 92
Best Original Title
Heavy Rain (PS3) 87
Worst Overall Release
Kung Fu Rider (PS3) 36
Metacritic Users' Favorite
MLB 10: The Show (PS3) 9.3

Sony's latest God of War installment didn't disappoint critics, finishing as one of two games to top the 90 mark for the publisher. The other one? Sports title MLB 10: The Show 91. At the other end of the spectrum, several titles designed to showcase Sony's new Move motion controller were critical failures, including action title Kung Fu Rider 36 and boxing game The Fight: Lights Out 48. Sony actually scored better for its PSP releases than its console titles, averaging over 73 for the former and 69.8 for the latter.

8. Square Enix
(incl. Eidos Interactive and Taito)

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 29 (17 titles)
# Unscored 1
Average Metascore
70.8
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
48,45,7
Best Overall Release
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (360) 85
Best Original Title
Nier (PS3) 68
Worst Overall Release
Raystorm HD (360) 46
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (PSP) 8.8

Though Square Enix's percentage of games with green Metascores was higher than the two publishers ahead of them in our rankings, those publishers had something that Square Enix lacked: some great games. The Xbox 360 version of Tomb Raider title Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was the company's highest-scoring release at just 85, and while the company did have 11 other products in a sequel-heavy lineup that scored at least an 80, only THQ among the major publishers had such a low-scoring "best" release of 2010.

9. Sega

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 49 (28 titles)
# Unscored 1
Average Metascore
67.4
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
39,47,14
Best Overall Release
Bayonetta (360) 90
Best Original Title
Bayonetta (360) 90
Worst Overall Release
Iron Man 2 (360) 41
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Sonic Colors (Wii) 8.4

Developed by Platinum Games, the action title Bayonetta is the only original game concept released by a major publisher last year to receive strong enough reviews to meet or exceed the 90 mark; all of the other "great" games released by major publishers in 2010 were sequels, or, in the case of Red Dead Redemption, inspired by a previous title. (Note that the PS3 version of Bayonetta received an 87.) Unfortunately for Sega, several Sonic titles, an Iron Man 2 tie-in game, and a Winter Olympics title all flopped with critics, contributing to the publisher's middling overall ranking.

10. Namco Bandai
(incl. D3 Publisher)

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 37 (25 titles)
# Unscored 2
Average Metascore
66.3
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
24,70,5
Best Overall Release
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (360) 93
Best Original Title
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (360) 82
Worst Overall Release
Clash of the Titans (PS3) 41
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (360) 8.1

Unless it's 1980, if your best game of the year is Pac-Man, you're not doing well as a game publisher. (If it is 1980, please stop reading this article, as the Web hasn't been invented yet and we wouldn't want you to spoil it for anyone.) While Namco Bandai did manage to avoid many of the negative reviews that the other bottom-ranked publishers collected last year, the company was aggressively mediocre: a full 70% of Namco Bandai's 2010 releases had a yellow Metascore.

11. THQ

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 27 (17 titles)
# Unscored 3
Average Metascore
67.0
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
37,44,19
Best Overall Release
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising (PC) 85
Best Original Title
Darksiders (PC) 83
Worst Overall Release
Truth or Lies (360) 33
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising (PC) 9.1

THQ does get credit for establishing a new franchise with its action-adventure hit Darksiders (average Metascore on three platforms: 83). But the publisher was brought down by its five Wii releases (average Metascore: 56) and lacked a single major critical hit. Despite publishing fewer products in 2010 than any other major game company, THQ seemingly couldn't focus on quality; nearly 1 out of every 5 games THQ released last year received poor reviews.

12. Ubisoft

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 52 (30 titles)
# Unscored 5
Average Metascore
64.6
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
33,46,21
Best Overall Release
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PS3) 90
Best Original Title
R.U.S.E. (360) 78
Worst Overall Release
Fighters Uncaged (360) 31
Metacritic Users' Favorite
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Wii) 9.2

Only EA and Activision Blizzard released more individual products that Ubisoft last year, but those two companies managed to avoid releasing as many bad games as Ubisoft did. Only a third of the publisher's 2010 releases earned positive reviews, while 11 individual products -- about 21% -- earned negative ones. Ubisoft did best when it focused on computer games, averaging a Metascore of over 72 for nine PC releases.

13. Konami
(incl. Hudson Soft/Hudson Entertainment)

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Products Released in 2010
# Scored 51 (33 titles)
# Unscored 7
Average Metascore
62.2
Metascore Breakdown
Good / So-So / Bad:
24,51,25
Best Overall Release
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP) 89
Best Original Title
Tomena Sanner (Wii) 77
Worst Overall Release
Deca Sports Freedom (360) 27
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP) 9.2

Konami released more poorly-reviewed products than any other major game publisher in 2010, one of several reasons the company finds itself at the bottom of our rankings. Half the company's games scored under 64; six titles alone scored under 40, which is a fairly dreadful score. Aside from that extremely solid Metal Gear Solid release and the multi-platform Castlevania: Lords of Shadow title, there is very little worth remembering about Konami's 2010 lineup.

Recap: rankings at a glance

Here are the above rankings again in a more compact form, with the points displayed, for anyone wishing to see how close a race it was:

Major Publisher Rankings, 2010 Releases
    Metascore Good Games Bad Games Great Games  
  Publisher Avg. Pts. % Pts. % Pts. # Pts. Total Points
1 Take-Two Interactive 77.1 115.7 63% 62.5 0% 100.0 2 20 298.2
2 Nintendo 76.1 114.2 64% 64.1 3% 97.4 1 10 285.7
3 Capcom 74.5 111.7 58% 57.6 0% 100.0 1 10 279.3
4 Microsoft 73.4 110.1 57% 57.1 0% 100.0 1 10 277.2
5 Electronic Arts 72.6 108.9 50% 49.5 5% 94.6 1 10 263.0
6 Activision Blizzard 69.3 103.9 43% 43.1 5% 94.8 2 20 261.8
7 Sony 70.9 106.3 40% 39.6 6% 93.8 2 20 259.6
8 Square Enix 70.8 106.2 48% 48.3 7% 93.1 0 0 247.6
9 Sega 67.4 101.2 39% 38.8 14% 85.7 1 10 235.7
10 Namco Bandai 66.3 99.4 24% 24.3 5% 94.6 1 10 228.3
11 THQ 67.0 100.6 37% 37.0 19% 81.5 0 0 219.1
12 Ubisoft 64.6 96.8 33% 32.7 21% 78.8 1 10 218.4
13 Konami 62.2 93.2 24% 23.5 25% 74.5 0 0 191.3

Points for average Metascore are awarded at 1.5 x the average (with a maximum of 150 points possible). Points for good % and bad % are awarded based on a maximum of 100 each. Points for "great" games are awarded as bonus points (10 per unique title).

Ranking of mid-size publishers

Each of the mid-size publishers listed below released between 7-14 unique titles in 2010. (Publishers who released fewer than seven games last year are not included in this report.) They are ranked according to the same methodology we used to rank the larger publishers above, earning points for average Metascore, % good and bad, and total number of great games. Telltale Games, best known for its Sam & Max series, was the clear leader, with the highest average Metascore of any publisher last year.

Mid-Size Publisher Rankings, 2010 Releases
  Publisher # Scored
Releases
# Unscored
Releases
Average Metascore # Great Metascore
Distribution
Points
1 Telltale Games 14 (10 titles) 0 78.4 0 79,21,0 296.2
2 Aksys Games 11 (9 titles) 0 73.1 0 64,27,9 264.2
3 Atlus Co. 12 0 72.4 1 50,42,8 260.3
4 Disney Interactive Studios 20 (9 titles) 1 70.4 0 40,60,0 245.5
5 Xseed Games 10 (9 titles) 0 70.3 0 40,50,10 235.5
6 NIS America 11 (10 titles) 0 69.6 0 27,64,9 222.6
7 Warner Bros. Interactive 17 (7 titles) 0 65.8 0 35,53,12 222.2
8 Paradox Interactive 11 (10 titles) 1 64.9 0 18,82,0 215.5
9 SouthPeak Games 11 (9 titles) 3 (2 titles) 65.8 0 9,91,0 207.8
10 Focus Home Interactive 8 0 65.0 0 13,75,13 197.5
11 Atari 10 (7 titles) 2 (1 title) 61.2 0 0,100,0 191.8
12 Deep Silver 10 (7 titles) 0 60.2 0 10,60,30 170.3
13 Tecmo Koei 14 (9 titles) 1 56.8 0 0,79,21 163.8
14 Majesco Games 11 (9 titles) 0 57.9 0 9,55,36 159.6

Platform-by-platform averages

Finally, here are the top publishers for each console and for the PC. In these tables, publishers are simply ranked by their average Metascores for each platform; the green, yellow, and red dots indicate individual products (with green, yellow, or red Metascores). Publishers with five or more releases for the platform were eligible for inclusion.

360Highest Avg. Metascores Among Xbox 360 Publishers, 2010 Releases
  Publisher Xbox 360 Titles Average Metascore
1 Take-Two 77.7
2 Capcom 75.5
3 Electronic Arts 73.5
4 Microsoft 73.4
5 Square Enix 69.3
PS3Highest Avg. Metascores Among PlayStation 3 Publishers, 2010 Releases
  Publisher PS3 Titles Average Metascore
1 Telltale Games 81.0
2 Take-Two Interactive 79.1
3 Electronic Arts 74.3
4 Capcom 74.1
5 Square Enix 74.0
WiiHighest Avg. Metascores Among Wii Publishers, 2010 Releases
  Publisher Wii Titles Average Metascore
1 Capcom 74.8
2 Nintendo 73.4
3 Activision Blizzard 71.4
4 Disney Interactive Studios 69.3
5 Electronic Arts 68.9
PCHighest Avg. Metascores Among PC Game Publishers, 2010 Releases
  Publisher PC Titles Average Metascore
1 Take-Two Interactive 77.2
2 Telltale Games 76.3
3 Activision Blizzard 75.5
4 Electronic Arts 73.3
5 Sega 73.0

All data in this report is from January 24, 2011, and U.S. release dates and publishers are used for all games except those never released in the U.S.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (31)

  • WadeMcg  

    Homefront? Please. There was a suspiciously large gap between the pre-release review score average (88%) that just happened to make it thought the embargo, and the post-release review score average (72% downwards) that came from people who weren't allowed to sneak through the embargo.

    While THQ got outed by Ars Technica for blocking pre-release reviews with scores lower than 85%, they're not the only offenders (just type "Tomb Raider Underworld Embargo" into Google).

    In next year's edition of Game Publisher Rankings, could Metacritic please discuss this. I'd love to see which company has the most >15% Pre-release/Post-release gaps against their name.

  • Batman  

    HomeFront is better than COD, and why is T2 #1 it only had one good game ( Red Dead Redemtion)

  • Uncle Tom  

    Why is THQ not #1

  • SonyfanboyMan  

    Wait. I don't see any kinect tiles on the list... is it just me?

  • Vast deferens  

    Judging by the comments, a minority of posters are literate enough to actually read the article. This is only for games published last year, folks!!!

    Hukt on Fonics wurkt four me.

  • Uncle Tom  

    THQ's Homefront is gonna bring up it's ranking.

  • Chris Cakel  

    I think that Nitendo is over rated all they make is games for little kids.

  • Rooster  

    How the mighty have fallen. Capcom, Konami, and square enix used to be like the top publishers around

  • Mitch Tough  

    @Duff : Next stop: Rocket science....

  • duff  

    This article is total and absolute garbage. Metacritic is the most terrible review site out there. They have no idea what they are talking about half the time. Terrible and meaningless article. Anyone who thinks this is excellent report is just clueless and ignorant.

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