Metacritic's 4th Annual Game Publisher Rankings

  • Publish Date: January 30, 2014
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

Comparing the 2013 releases of game publishers


Which game publishers released the best games over the past year? In what has become an 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 2013 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:
2012 releases / 2011 / 2010
(Note that if you are merely looking for a list of 2013's highest- and lowest-scoring games, you can find that here.)

Ranking of major publishers

Once again, we have 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 15 or more unique titles (with Metascores) during 2013. You'll notice that this "major" group seems smaller this year, since many publishers released fewer titles in 2013 than they had in previous years (likely a result of 2013 being a transition year between console generations).

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 2013
  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 2013 releases:

1. Take-Two Interactive
(including 2K Games, 2K Sports, and Rockstar Games)
Previous year's rank: n/a

Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 16
Total Products 33
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Grand Theft Auto V (PS3/360) 97
Best New Original Title *
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol (PC) 71
Worst Overall Release
MLB 2K13 (360) 48
Metacritic Users' Favorite **
Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep (PC) 8.8

Take-Two, the parent of both 2K Games and Rockstar, didn't release enough titles in 2012 to qualify in our "major" publisher rankings, but the company did place first in our list of mid-size publishers a year ago. With a larger lineup in 2013, T2 has moved back to the big leagues, finishing in first place among all major publishers thanks in large part to a solid 78.0 average Metascore, over 3 points higher than its nearest major competitor. Two titles accounted for much of that success: Rockstar's latest Grand Theft Auto installment (last year's highest-scoring game from any publisher), and BioShock Infinite, the third installment in Irrational Games's acclaimed series. Outside of those hits, Take-Two actually had a rather mixed year. The publisher's average Metascore dropped five points compared to the previous year, its percentage of games with positive reviews fell from an impressive 93% in 2012 to just 58% in 2013, and the company released a critically panned title last year (Visual Concepts's rushed baseball game MLB 2K13) after emerging with a clean slate a year ago. Then again, every major publisher released at least one red-scoring game in 2013.

* 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 Batman: Arkham City comes out on the PS3, 360, 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 2013, 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. Ubisoft
Previous year's rank: 7

Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 21
Total Products 50
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Rayman Legends (Wii U) 92
Best New Original Title
Cloudberry Kingdom (PS3) 75
Worst Overall Release
Fighter Within (Xbox One) 24
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Rayman Legends (PS Vita) 8.8

With the biggest year-over-year increase in average Metascore out of any major publisher—a nearly 7-point gain—Ubisoft surged from the middle of last year's pack into second place in our rankings this year. Two in every three Ubisoft releases in 2013 received positive reviews from critics, a significant jump from the prior year's 39% approval rate. Rayman Legends was the main highlight, notching 90 or above on three separate platforms, while Rocksmith 2014 Edition and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag also scored well for the publisher. Ubisoft was the highest-scoring PC publisher of the year (see platform rankings at the bottom of this page), and even out-scored Nintendo on the Wii U console. The company also managed to reduce its list of terrible releases from five in 2012 to three last year.

3. Electronic Arts
Previous year's rank: 1

Electronic Arts
Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 23
Total Products 51
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Mass Effect 3: Citadel (PS3) has only 4 reviews 90
best with 7+ reviews: FIFA 14 (Xbox One) 89
Best New Original Title
Fuse (PS3) 63
Worst Overall Release
NBA Live 14 (Xbox One) 36
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Mass Effect 3: Citadel (PS3) 8.4

Though EA's average Metascore last year was very close to its mark the year before, and though the company topped all major publishers with 69% of its games receiving positive reviews last year, the publisher fell from first place to third place in our rankings. The reason: a lack of truly great games in 2013. EA was the only major publisher in our top five not to release a game with a score of 90 or higher last year (with only four reviews, DLC pack Mass Effect 3: Citadel doesn't count). In fact, FIFA 14 was the only EA game to score above 86. Disappointments included a reboot of SimCity and Insomniac's Fuse, while a revival of EA's NBA Live franchise for the new consoles was wholly forgettable (unless you spent money on it, in which case you probably remember it all too well).

4. Nintendo
Previous year's rank: 4

Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 34
Total Products 34
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) 93
Best New Original Title
LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) 80
Worst Overall Release
Pokemon Rumble U (Wii U) 49
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) 9.3

Holding in fourth place is Nintendo, which saw its average Metascore increase by 2.6 points last year compared to the previous 12 months even though fewer than half of its 2013 releases earned positive reviews. Nintendo had more 90+ scores than any publisher last year, with Super Mario 3D World, Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD all hitting or exceeding that mark. The publisher added another eight titles with scores in the 80 range, but also released more mediocre games last year than it did in 2012. The company had better reviews for its 3DS titles (75.5 average, tops among all publishers) than it did for the Wii U (71.7).

5. Sony
Previous year's rank: 3

Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 32
Total Products 34
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
The Last of Us (PS3) 95
Best New Original Title
The Last of Us (PS3) 95
Worst Overall Release
Dare To Fly (PS3) 40
Metacritic Users' Favorite
(tie) Killzone: Mercenary (PS Vita) 9.1
(tie) The Last of Us (PS3) 9.1

Though Sony finished with an identical 72.3 average one year ago, the publisher saw its ranking fall a bit this year. And that's even with Sony recording its highest Metascore in years, for the PS3 exclusive The Last of Us. The company also had a second 90+ title last year in the PS4 version of flower. In fact, in an encouraging sign for the future, Sony's average Metascore last year was higher for PlayStation 4 games (75.3) than it was for PS3 titles (72.3).

6. Microsoft
Previous year's rank: 2

Microsoft Studios
Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 22
Total Products 25
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Pinball FX 2: Star Wars Pinball (360) 87
Best New Original Title
Dust: An Elysian Tail (PC) 85
Worst Overall Release
LocoCycle (Xbox One) 48
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Dust: An Elysian Tail (PC) 8.8

Microsoft saw its average Metascore drop by nearly a full point last year, while its percentage of releases with positive reviews declined from 55% to 48%. Unlike Sony, Microsoft was actually weighed down by launch games for its new console: Xbox One titles published by Microsoft averaged a mere 65.2, while the company's Xbox 360 releases averaged a strong 77.0. Microsoft also failed to notch a 90+ score last year; it's the only time that has happened in the four years we've been compiling these annual rankings.

7. Sega
Previous year's rank: 9

Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 15
Total Products 25
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Football Manager 2014 (PC) 85
Best New Original Title
The Cave (PS3) 72
Worst Overall Release
Aliens: Colonial Marines (PS3) 43
Metacritic Users' Favorite
(tie) Anarchy Reigns (PS3) 8.3
(tie) Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PC) 8.3

Though Sega didn't release any great games in 2013—its highest-scoring product, as it was the previous year, was the latest iteration of Football Manager—the company moved up a few places in our rankings. Sega's average Metascore was actually on par with where it stood a year ago (69.9), while its percentage of releases earning positive reviews nudged up slightly from 30% to 32% (admittedly, still not great). Take away the hugely disappointing Aliens: Colonial Marines (which scored in the red with critics and users on three separate platforms), and Sega's Metascore average last year jumps to 72.8.

8. Activision Blizzard
Previous year's rank: 10

Activision Blizzard
Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 15
Total Products 33
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Skylanders Swap Force (Wii U) 89
Best New Original Title
Deadpool (PC) 63
Worst Overall Release
Fast & Furious: Showdown (PS3) 21
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC) 7.8

Activision Blizzard is once again near the bottom of the pack, for the same reason it landed there last year: too many terrible games. Nine Activision products (five different titles) scored 49 or below, including the PS versions of Angry Birds Star Wars, a lousy The Walking Dead TV show tie-in (Survival Instinct), and a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases. The company's average Metascore fell by a few points compared to 2012, while its percentage of products earning positive reviews dropped from 38% to just 33%. Activision Blizzard also managed to have to highest percentage of games with negative reviews last year (edging out Namco Bandai, 27% to 26%). What little good news there was last year mostly came from the Blizzard side of the equation, with the console versions of Diablo 3 and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm all scoring 86 or above. The company once again shunned original IP, with only Deadpool coming close to being an "original" property (yes, it's based on the Marvel character, but it isn't part of an existing game series or based on a movie or previously existing story).

9. Namco Bandai
(including D3 Publisher)
Previous year's rank: 11

Namco Bandai
Scored Releases - 2013
Unique Titles 28
Total Products 39
Average Metascore
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX + (PC) 86
Best New Original Title
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3) 85
Worst Overall Release
Power Rangers Megaforce (3DS) 30
Metacritic Users' Favorite
(tie) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3) 8.6
(tie) Tales of Xillia (PS3) 8.6

Namco Bandai's move up the rankings from 11th to 9th is more a factor of the smaller total of "major" publishers this year rather than any improvement on Namco's part; in fact, the publisher has once again managed to finish dead last, as it did last year, while earning positive reviews for just one in every five releases. In fact, Namco's average Metascore fell by 0.8 points last year compared to its 2012 releases. The company did release a few strong JRPGs, however, including the original, Studio Ghibli-created Ni no Kuni and Tales of Xillia. But there were far more duds, including a glitchy new Star Trek game and a variety of lower-budget titles—mainly Cartoon Network tie-ins—from its D3Publisher subsidiary. (Average Metascore for D3 games: 45.9.)

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, 2013 Releases
    Metascore Good Games Bad Games Great Games  
  Publisher Avg. Pts. % Pts. % Pts. # Pts. Total Pts.
1 Take-Two Interactive 78.0 117.0 58% 57.6 3% 97.0 2 10 281.6
2 Ubisoft 74.9 112.4 66% 66.0 6% 94.0 1 5 277.4
3 Electronic Arts 74.7 112.1 69% 68.6 4% 96.1 0 0 276.8
4 Nintendo 73.8 110.8 44% 44.1 3% 97.1 4 20 271.9
5 Sony 72.3 108.5 47% 47.1 3% 97.1 2 10 262.6
6 Microsoft 72.1 108.2 48% 48.0 4% 96.0 0 0 252.2
7 Sega 69.5 104.3 32% 32.0 12% 88.0 0 0 224.3
8 Activision Blizzard 62.5 93.7 33% 33.3 27% 72.7 0 0 199.7
9 Namco Bandai 61.8 92.6 21% 20.5 26% 74.4 0 0 187.5

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 7-14 unique titles in 2013. (Publishers who released fewer than seven games last year are not included in this report.) 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.

The three top publishers listed below were ranked as "majors" a year ago, but released fewer games in 2013: Konami (last year's #8 major publisher), Capcom (#5), and Warner Bros. Interactive (#6). (Three companies listed below, Tecmo Koei, Deep Silver, and Kalypso Media, were not ranked anywhere a year ago.) The five highest-ranked mid-size publishers below all experienced large increases in their average Metascores last year (compared to 2012), led by Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons publisher 505 Games's 16-point increase and Paradox Interactive's 11.6-point gain. Kalypso clearly had a year to forget, with exactly half of its 2013 products scoring 49 or lower.

Three mid-size publishers that ranked highly a year ago were dropped from this year's chart because they released fewer than seven unique titles. Telltale Games, last year's #2 mid-size publisher, averaged a strong 78.1 for its 13 products (but only 5 titles) released in 2013. Square Enix boasted an even better 80.7 for 11 products (6 titles). And Bethesda Softworks also scored an impressive 78.9 for 9 products (5 titles).

Mid-Size Publisher Rankings, 2013 Releases
  Publisher Unique
Average Metascore # Great Metascore
1 Konami 7 11 77.4 0 GoodSo-So 270.7
2 Capcom 13 33 74.5 0 GoodSo-So 269.3
3 Warner Bros. Interactive 11 24 73.5 0 GoodSo-So 260.3
4 Paradox Interactive 12 12 73.7 0 GoodSo-SoBad 252.3
5 505 Games 9 17 69.3 1 GoodSo-SoBad 244.3
6 Atlus Co. 9 14 65.8 0 GoodSo-SoBad 227.3
7 Tecmo Koei 10 15 66.5 0 GoodSo-SoBad 213.1
8 Xseed Games 8 9 68.0 0 GoodSo-SoBad 213.0
9 Deep Silver 11 22 58.1 0 GoodSo-SoBad 196.2
10 Focus Home Interactive 8 16 60.1 0 GoodSo-SoBad 177.7
11 Kalypso Media 8 10 52.5 0 GoodSo-SoBad 138.7

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. (Note that there weren't quite enough launch titles released last year to make it worthwhile to include the next-gen consoles.)

360Highest Avg. Metascores Among Xbox 360 Publishers, 2013 Releases
  Publisher Xbox 360 Titles Average Metascore
1 Microsoft greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 77.0
2 Take-Two Interactive greengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowred 76.0
3 Electronic Arts greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 73.7
4 Capcom greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellow 73.1
5 Ubisoft greengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowred 72.8
PS3Highest Avg. Metascores Among PlayStation 3 Publishers, 2013 Releases
  Publisher PS3 Titles Average Metascore
1 Take-Two Interactive greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 81.7
2 Konami greengreengreenyellowyellow 78.0
3 Ubisoft greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellow 76.4
4 Electronic Arts greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellow 76.2
5 Capcom greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellow 75.0
PCHighest Avg. Metascores Among PC Game Publishers, 2013 Releases
  Publisher PC Titles Average Metascore
1 Ubisoft greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellow 79.5
2 Take-Two Interactive greengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellow 76.2
3 Electronic Arts greengreengreengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellow 75.5
4 Paradox Interactive greengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowred 73.7
5 Warner Bros. Interactive greengreenyellowyellowyellow 72.4
PCHighest Avg. Metascores Among Wii U Game Publishers, 2013 Releases
  Publisher PC Titles Average Metascore
1 Warner Bros. Interactive greengreengreenyellowyellow 76.4
2 Ubisoft greengreengreengreenyellowred 73.6
3 Nintendo greengreengreengreengreengreenyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowyellowred 71.7

All scores in this report are from January 24, 2013, and U.S. release dates and publishers are used for all games except those never released in the U.S. iOS games are excluded.

Comments (3)

  • JRath  

    GTA V and The Last of Us might have been the best games of the year (with TLOU being my GOTY).

    But I have to give credit where credit is due. When it comes to quality AND quantity, Ubisoft is killing it. Far Cry 3 was one of my favorite games of all time, its DLC was hilarious and awesome, Rayman Legends is great, they completely revitalized the Splinter Cell series with Blacklist (the best since Chaos Theory IMO), Assassins Creed IV made the series relevant again after two disappointing entries with III and Revelations, and maybe most importantly, they delayed what was sure to be their biggest game of the year, Watch Dogs, in order for more polish.

    Hats off to Ubisoft! Other than Naughty Dog, their studios are the ones I look forward to the most these days. Some truly fantastic games coming from them these days.

  • WadeMcG  

    If more game journos covered the kind of stuff that Seanbaby did for his Rest of the Crap column in EGM, I'm fairly sure that Ubisoft would've had more than 8 terrible games over the past two years counted on Metacritic (Imagine Babies 3D for example). Hell, if every single game by every single publisher was covered by any substantial number of game journos, quite a few publisher's meta-scores on this (and any previous) ranking list would drop by at least 12%.

    I also couldn't help but notice that Activision's Meta-score has failed to pop 70% for the fourth year in a row. In this day and age of Four point review scales that start at 7/10, that's a disgraceful failure, especially for a company of their size and resources (Most, if not all, sub 7/10 reviews I've seen in the past few years were for games that had already been out for a few weeks before the review was published).

    I'm also interested in the fact that no Assassin's Creed game has been Ubisoft's highest Meta-scoring game for the past three years, despite each of them seemingly accounting for at least 80% of Ubisoft's annual advertising budget. Rayman has actually accounted for two of those.

  • LamontRaymond  

    Take 2 deserves the throne with BioShock Infinite & GTA V - that's a double-barreled dose of gaming goodness. I'm a little surprised that Ubisoft made it up to 2 this year based on their 2013 games.

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