Metacritic's 6th Annual Game Publisher Rankings

  • Publish Date: February 4, 2016
  • Comments: ↓ 5 user comments

Comparing the 2015 releases of game publishers

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Which game publishers released the best games over the past year? In our annual tradition, we have sifted through 12 months of data to determine the best and worst game publishers of the past year, based solely on the quality of their 2015 releases. Sales and user reviews do not factor into these rankings; only critic reviews (as captured by each game's Metascore) are used to evaluate performance.

Find previous game publisher rankings here:
2014 releases / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010
(Merely looking for a list of 2015's highest-scoring games? Find that here.)

Ranking of major publishers

We split publishers into two separately ranked groups, based on the number of games they released during the last calendar year. Our first group consists of the largest publishers, who each issued 14 or more unique titles (with Metascores) during 2015. The remaining "mid-size" publishers each released between 6-13 unique titles last year. (Publishers with 5 or fewer unique titles are excluded.)

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 games released in 2015
  2. % of scored products with good reviews (Metascore of at least 75)
  3. % of scored products with bad reviews (49 or lower; in this case, a lower % is better)
  4. Number of "great" titles (Metascore of 90 or higher, min. 7 reviews)

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.) In addition, note that iOS games are not included in the figures below.

Here is how the major publishers stacked up based on the quality of their 2015 releases:

1. Sega
Previous year's rank: n/a

Sega
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 14
Total Products 17
Average Metascore
77.1
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
3D Streets of Rage II (3DS) 89
Best New IP *
Tembo the Badass Elephant (PS4) 72
Worst Overall Release
Sonic: Lost World (PC) 54
Metacritic Users' Favorite **
3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (3DS) 9.0

Sega is the sole major publisher in this year's rankings to finish the year with a "green" average Metascore indicating that, on average, its 2015 releases were approved by critics. The company ranked 5th among mid-sized publishers a year ago (it released fewer titles in 2014) and saw its average score increase by four points in this year's results, even without any releases scoring 90 or higher. Before you get too excited about Sega's success, note that half of its 2015 titles were new 3D re-releases of older games for the 3DS platform. The publisher released just one game for current-gen consoles: the middling, Sonic-influenced cartoonish platformer Tembo the Badass Elephant.

* 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); iOS games are not included. The difference in unique titles and total products results from multi-platform releases; for example, if LEGO Call of Duty: Arkham City—A Telltale Games Series comes out on the PS4, XB1, and PC, that counts as 3 total products but just one unique title. Average Metascore is the average of all individual Metascores for all scored products in 2015, while the Metascore distribution chart shows what percentage of those Metascores were green (Metascore of 75-100), yellow (50-74) or red (0-49).

2. Telltale Games
Previous year's rank: n/a

Telltale
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 16
Total Products 42
Average Metascore
74.6
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Tales ... Borderlands: Ep. 5 - Vault of the Traveler (PS4) 90
Best New IP
n/a  
Worst Overall Release
Minecraft: Story Mode - Ep. 2: Assembly Required (PS4) 53
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Tales ... Borderlands: Ep. 5 - The Vault of the Traveler (PC) 8.7

Telltale finished as the #1 mid-size publisher in last year's rankings, and jumps up to the major publisher group this year with a solid second-place finish, despite seeing its average Metascore drop from 79.7 to 74.6. Aside from reviving its Telltale Publishing arm to distribute one third-party title (The Jackbox Party Pack), Telltale once again spent the year releasing its own episodic adventure games based on existing pop culture franchises. The company's 2015 slate included multiple episodes of a game based on Game of Thrones as well as other company's game properties (Minecraft, Borderlands), with the latter (the Tales From the Borderlands series) faring the best in its translation to the Telltale format.

3. Sony
Previous year's rank: 4

Sony
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 24
Total Products 24
Average Metascore
74.4
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Journey (PS4) 92
Best New IP
Bloodborne (PS4) 92
Worst Overall Release
The Muppets: Movie Adventures (Vita) 48
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters (PS4) 8.7

The only major publisher with more than one title scoring 90 or higher, Sony saw its average score tick up by nearly two points compared to the previous year. Even better is the fact that over half of Sony-branded products released in 2015 received positive reviews from critics. That's something that Sony hasn't accomplished in any of the five previous years we compiled these reports. As always, though, the publisher's console (PS4) releases received better reviews than its Vita games. Subtract those Vita products, and Sony's average Metascore jumps up to 78.2.

4. Activision Blizzard
Previous year's rank: 8

Activision Blizzard
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 21
Total Products 36
Average Metascore
72.0
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Destiny: The Taken King (XB1) 89
Best New IP
White Night (PC) 68
Worst Overall Release
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (PS4) 32
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void (PC) 8.4

After landing at or near the bottom of our rankings in each of the last four years, Activision Blizzard managed to work its way up to the middle of the pack this year, increasing its average Metascore by nearly five points and earning positive reviews for 53% of its 2015 releases (compared to just 44% for its 2014 games). Once again, the Blizzard half of Activision Blizzard is the one that impressed critics the most, with five Blizzard-branded releases in 2015 averaging 84.9. Activision also failed to launch a promising new franchise in 2015 after introducing Destiny the year before.

5. Devolver Digital
Previous year's rank: n/a

Devolver Digital
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 15
Total Products 20
Average Metascore
73.5
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
The Talos Principle (PS4) 88
Best New IP
Downwell (PC) 84
Worst Overall Release
Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star (PS4) 58
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition (Vita) 8.3

Included in our "major" group for the first time thanks to a bigger-than-ever release slate, the seven-year-old, Texas-based publisher focuses on releasing games from indie developers. That indie focus produced scattershot results in 2015, with only 40% of Devolver's releases last year collecting positive reviews from critics, and the publisher's average score dropping by 2.5 points.

6. Nintendo
Previous year's rank: 1

Nintendo
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 31
Total Products 32
Average Metascore
71.7
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 (Wii U) 90
Best New IP
Splatoon (Wii U) 81
Worst Overall Release
Devil's Third (Wii U) 43
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 (Wii U) 9.2

It wasn't a good year for the Nintendo brand. A year after finishing first in our rankings, Nintendo saw its average Metascore decline by nearly five points and its percentage of games receiving positive reviews fall from 56% to just 41%. The company once again released more unique titles than any other publisher, but too few of them connected with critics. The duds seemed to be spread fairly evenly among Nintendo's two platforms, with its Wii U titles averaging 71.3 and its 3DS games averaging 71.9.

7. Electronic Arts
Previous year's rank: 3

Electronic Arts
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 14
Total Products 27
Average Metascore
71.9
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Madden NFL 16 (XB1) 84
Best New IP
n/a  
Worst Overall Release
NBA Live 16 (PS4) 59
Metacritic Users' Favorite
(tie) Need for Speed (XB1) 7.9
(tie) The Sims 4: Get Together (PC) 7.9

It's probably not a good sign that EA's highest-scoring game of the year was its latest version of Madden. Indeed, the 34-year-old brand received positive reviews for just one of every three products released in 2015, while its average Metascore dropped by 2.5 points. The company's EA Sports-branded titles actually fared better (averaging 73.8) than its other releases (70.6). The latter group included just two games (including Star Wars Battlefront) with positive reviews, and consisted solely of sequels and remakes, without a single new franchise or original title.

8. Bandai Namco Entertainment
Previous year's rank: 7

Namco Bandai
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 14
Total Products 26
Average Metascore
69.5
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (XB1) 89
Best New IP
Project CARS (PC) 83
Worst Overall Release
Godzilla (PS4) 38
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Tales of Zestiria (PC) 8.4

Despite yet another (slight) name change, the former Bandai Namco Games finds itself in a very familiar position: near the bottom of our rankings. Though the publisher actually saw its average Metascore increase slightly compared to the prior year, its success rate fell a bit, with just 31% of its 2015 releases collecting approval from critics (compared to 34% in 2014). Bandai was able to (somewhat) successfully launch a new racing franchise, however, with the fairly well reviewed Project CARS selling enough units to merit a sequel despite numerous issues with the game's Xbox One version.

9. Ubisoft
Previous year's rank: 2

Ubisoft
Scored Releases - 2015
Unique Titles 20
Total Products 39
Average Metascore
69.9
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Child of Light (Vita) 83
Best New IP
Grow Home (PC) 75
Worst Overall Release
Far Cry 4: Escape from Durgesh Prison (PS4) 56
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Toy Soldiers: War Chest (XB1) 8.3

Ranked #2 after 2014, Ubisoft fell all the way to dead last among major publishers this year, thanks to a deeply mediocre 2015 slate that saw just seven of 39 (18%) releases receive positive reviews from professional critics. Even some of Ubisoft's best 2015 releases count as disappointments, including the latest Assassin's Creed entry (Syndicate), which became the third straight release in the once-great series to fail to score 80 or higher.

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 just how close a race it was:

Major Publisher Rankings, 2015 Releases
    Metascore Good Games Bad Games Great Games  
  Publisher Avg. Pts. % Pts. % Pts. # Pts. Total Pts.
1 Sega 77.1 115.7 65% 64.7 0% 100.0 0 0 280.4
2 Telltale Games 74.6 111.9 55% 54.8 0% 100.0 1 5 271.7
3 Sony 74.4 111.6 54% 54.2 4% 95.8 2 10 271.6
4 Activision Blizzard 72.0 108.0 53% 52.8 8% 91.7 0 0 252.5
5 Devolver Digital 73.5 110.2 40% 40.0 0% 100.0 0 0 250.2
6 Nintendo 71.7 107.5 41% 40.6 6% 93.8 1 5 246.9
7 Electronic Arts 71.9 107.9 33% 33.3 0% 100.0 0 0 241.3
8 Bandai Namco Games 69.5 104.2 31% 30.8 4% 96.2 0 0 231.2
9 Ubisoft 69.9 104.9 18% 17.9 0% 100.0 0 0 222.8

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 (5.0 points per unique title). To qualify as "great," a game must have a Metascore of at least 90 and have at least 7 critic reviews.

Ranking of mid-size publishers

Each of the "mid-size" publishers listed below released between 6-13 unique titles in 2015. They are ranked according to the exact same methodology we used to rank the larger publishers above, earning points for average Metascore, % of releases that earn positive or negative reviews, and the total number of great games.

Two members of this group (Square Enix and Microsoft) were both in our "major" publishers group a year ago, but were demoted this year because they released fewer than 14 unique titles in 2015. And last year's highest-ranked mid-size publisher, Telltale Games, is now included among the major publishers listed above.

Mid-Size Publisher Rankings, 2015 Releases
  Publisher Unique
Titles
Total
Products
Avg. Metascore vs. 2014 #
Great
Metascore
Distribution
Points
1 Bethesda Softworks 8 17 77.4 n/a 0 GoodSo-So 298.4
2 Zen Studios 7 7 78.7 ▲3.9 0 GoodSo-So 289.5
3 Capcom 10 28 76.9 0.0 0 GoodSo-So 283.1
4 Microsoft 10 11 78.6 ▲9.6 0 GoodSo-So 281.5
5 Square Enix 12 28 77.3 ▲5.6 0 GoodSo-So 280.2
6 Take-Two Interactive 9 14 77.7 ▲2.1 1 GoodSo-So 278.8
7 Paradox Interactive 6 7 76.9 ▼0.8 0 GoodSo-So 272.5
8 Warner Bros. Interact. 13 31 75.6 ▲4.9 2 GoodSo-So 265.4
9 Xseed Games 11 13 71.4 n/a 0 GoodSo-So 261.0
10 Slitherine 6 6 72.4 ▲1.0 0 GoodSo-So 258.6
11 Curve Digital 8 17 74.2 n/a 1 GoodSo-So 257.5
12 Aksys Games 8 9 71.0 ▲8.2 0 GoodSo-So 250.9
13 Atlus Co. 12 17 71.3 ▲3.6 0 GoodSo-SoBad 242.2
14 Deep Silver 6 10 67.8 ▲5.3 0 GoodSo-So 231.7
15 Koei Tecmo 11 19 69.4 ▲1.5 0 GoodSo-SoBad 225.2
16 Focus Home Interact. 10 14 68.4 ▲4.0 0 GoodSo-SoBad 224.0
17 Daedalic Entertainment 7 7 69.9 n/a 0 GoodSo-So 219.2
18 Nordic Games 6 11 65.6 n/a 0 GoodSo-SoBad 216.6
19 Idea Factory 8 9 68.4 n/a 0 So-So 202.6
20 Team17 6 14 65.6 n/a 0 GoodSo-SoBad 198.5
21 Mastertronic 10 10 61.0 n/a 0 So-SoBad 181.5
22 NIS America 7 8 60.8 ▼4.9 0 GoodSo-SoBad 178.7
23 Versus Evil 6 7 55.4 n/a 0 So-SoBad 168.8

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.

PS3Highest Avg. Metascores Among PlayStation 4 Publishers, 2015 Releases
Publisher PS4 Titles Average Metascore
1 Zen Studios greengreengreengreengreenyellow 79.5
2 Square Enix greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellow 78.8
3 Sony greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowyellow 78.2
4 Capcom greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreen 77.2
5 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowyellow 76.6
360Highest Avg. Metascores Among Xbox One Publishers, 2015 Releases
Publisher Xbox One Titles Average Metascore
1 Bethesda Softworks greengreengreengreengreengreen 78.9
2 Microsoft Game Studios greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 78.7
3 Capcom greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellow 77.0
4 Square Enix greengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellow 76.7
5 Curve Digital greengreengreenyellowyellow 76.5
PCHighest Avg. Metascores Among PC Game Publishers, 2015 Releases
  Publisher PC Titles Average Metascore
1 Activision Blizzard greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 80.0
2 Paradox Interactive greengreengreengreenyellowyellow 77.8
3 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment greengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellow 77.2
4 Capcom greengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellow 76.7
5 Take-Two Interactive greengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 76.4

All scores in this report are from February 2, 2016, and U.S. release dates and publishers are used for all games except those never released in the U.S. iOS games are excluded.

View our previous Game Publisher Rankings:
2015 (for games released in 2014) / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011

More of our best of 2015 coverage:
Best Games of 2015 | Worst Games of 2015

Comments (5)

  • alvargon  

    ¿Where is CD Project Red?

  • sprode  

    Funny to see Sega #1 considering they're dead weight to many long-time gamers. Numbers can be worked to reflect a different vision. Personally, I think it's more telling that the user favorite was a game released on the Genesis - which sounds about right to me. A bunch of rereleases and the new Sonic sucked.

  • OliJackson  

    Its an interesting statistic that Bethesda might be doing more for the Xbox One in terms of software than Microsoft Game Studios.

  • KPH1  

    Let's hope that Nintendo's quality decline results in an especially better year here.

  • Bat-Gamer-Guy  

    Honestly, I was really surprised to see SEGA of all companies on the number one spot, but I love SEGA so much, I'm glad they're on there! And congrats to all of the other publishers who made it! Have a great 2016 everybody!

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