Metacritic's 9th Annual Game Publisher Rankings

  • Publish Date: January 29, 2019
  • Comments: ↓ 11 user comments

Comparing the 2018 releases of game publishers

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Which game publishers released the best games last year? For the ninth consecutive year, we sifted through 12 months of data to determine the best and worst game publishers of the year, based solely on the quality of their 2018 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.

Ranking of major publishers (12 or more releases)

We divided publishers into two separately ranked groups, based on the number of titles released during the previous calendar year. Our first group consists of the most active companies who each published 12 or more distinct titles (with Metascores) during 2018. The remaining "mid-size" publishers, detailed further down the page, each released between 5-11 distinct titles last year. Publishers with 4 or fewer distinct 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 2018
  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 are the details on how the major publishers stacked up based on the quality of their 2018 releases:

1. Capcom
Previous year's rank: 5

Capcom
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 14
Total Products 30
Average Metascore
79.3 ▲ 2.8
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Monster Hunter: World (XB1) 90
Best New IP *
n/a  
Worst Overall Release
Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2 (Switch) 60
Metacritic Users' Favorite **
Okami HD (Switch) 8.7

With most publishers merely moving up or down one spot, there are few significant changes compared to last year's rankings. But this is the major exception. Increasing its Metascore for the second straight year, the 40-year-old Japanese videogame company soared to the top of our annual rankings after placing 5th a year ago. Capcom received positive reviews from the gaming press for five out of every six products released in 2018—an 83.3% success rate that easily led our group of the largest publishers. The company received stellar reviews for its latest Monster Hunter title, which is now Capcom's best-selling game in history. (And the publisher's 2019 is also off to a great start.) One caveat: Many of the other high-scoring Capcom titles from 2018 were remasters and/or compilations of previously released games, and there were no new properties added to Capcom's lineup.

* 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 Distinct Titles and Total Products results from multi-platform releases; for example, if Tom Clancy's Mario Warriors 7: Snake's Revenge comes out on the PS4, XB1, and PC, that counts as 3 total products but just 1 distinct title. Average Metascore is the average of all individual Metascores for all scored products in 2018 (next to that is the change from the 2017 average), 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. Sega
Previous year's rank: 3

Sega
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 30
Total Products 41
Average Metascore
78.5 ▲ 3.0
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Sonic Mania Plus (Switch) 91
Best New IP
Two Point Hospital (PC) 83
Worst Overall Release
Shining Resonance Refrain (PS4) 67
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Sonic Mania Plus (Switch) 8.9

Sega landed in our top 3 for the third time in four years (with the exception coming in a year when Sega failed to release enough games to qualify for our "major" publishers group). That's especially impressive given that Sega released more distinct titles than all but one other publisher in 2018. Note that all of Sega's averages and totals include games published by Atlus, a recently acquired Sega subsidiary that (as of 2018) now shares top-level management with the parent company.

3. Electronic Arts
Previous year's rank: n/a

EA
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 12
Total Products 30
Average Metascore
77.5 ▲ 4.3
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
FIFA 19 (PS4) 83
Best New IP
A Way Out (XB1) 79
Worst Overall Release
Fe (XB1) 70
Metacritic Users' Favorite
A Way Out (PS4) 8.0

EA actually landed on our "mid-sized" publishers chart a year ago (a rarity for them) thanks to lower-than-normal 2017 output. But their 2018 lineup of games was both bigger and better. The company averaged 78.4 for its EA Sports titles and 76.8 for its other games, and there wasn't a bad release in either group. EA was also one of the rare major game companies to publish multiple new IPs in 2018, releasing a pair of titles under its new EA Originals label for games from small, independent developers. The results of that initiative were a bit mixed last year, however: A Way Out received positive reviews, but Fe failed to impress critics.

4. Nintendo
Previous year's rank: 2

Nintendo
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 30
Total Products 31
Average Metascore
76.4 ▼ 1.6
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch) 93
Best New IP
Octopath Traveler (Switch) 83
Worst Overall Release
Kirby Battle Royale (3DS) 57
Metacritic Users' Favorite
(tie) Bayonetta + Bayonetta 2 (Switch), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Switch), and Octopath Traveler (Switch) 8.7

Nintendo tied Sega for the largest number of titles released in 2018. (Square Enix had more total products, but fewer distinct titles.) While its ranking and average Metascore declined a bit compared to the prior year, Nintendo had two games scoring 90 or more in 2018: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Bayonetta 2, both for the Switch. Nintendo also launched two well-reviewed new IPs last year (including its new Nintendo Labo cardboard-to-game series), though the better of those (Octopath Traveler) was developed by Square Enix rather than in house.

5. Ubisoft
Previous year's rank: 6

Ubisoft
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 25
Total Products 42
Average Metascore
73.7 ▼ 1.8
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Assassin's Creed Odyssey (XB1) 87
Best New IP
Transference (PC) 78
Worst Overall Release
Far Cry 5: Hours of Darkness (PS4) 55
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Child of Light (Switch) 8.5

Though Ubisoft's average Metascore dropped out of the green range, the publisher's overall ranking actually rose by one place—mainly because several of its competitors experienced similar (or worse) drops in 2018. Ubisoft's highlights last year included new installments in the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry franchises, though critics were left unimpressed by the many expansions released for the latter. Another disappointment was racing game sequel The Crew 2, which failed to improve over its mediocre predecessor.

6. Sony
Previous year's rank: 7

Sony
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 20
Total Products 21
Average Metascore
71.8 ▼ 3.1
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
God of War (PS4) 94
Best New IP
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (PS4) 90
Worst Overall Release
Bravo Team (PS4) 45
Metacritic Users' Favorite
God of War (PS4) 9.1

Sony may rank in the middle of the pack (again), but it places first in one category: most 90+ games released in 2018, with three (the stellar God of War reboot, the Shadow of the Colossus remake, and VR platformer Astro Bot: Rescue Mission). At the same time, unlike the five publishers ranking higher, Sony released a terrible game last year (and another, The Midnight Sanctuary nearly fell into the red score range). Note that Sony's averages and totals include games published by Unties, a label run by Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to those published directly by Sony Interactive Entertainment.

7. Square Enix
Previous year's rank: 8

Square Enix
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 25
Total Products 52
Average Metascore
71.0 ▼ 2.6
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
NieR: Automata - Become as Gods Edition (XB1) 90
Best New IP
Octahedron (PC) 85
Worst Overall Release
The Quiet Man (PS4) 29
Metacritic Users' Favorite
NieR: Automata - Become as Gods Edition (XB1) 9.1

Square Enix—which once again released more products overall than any other publisher—saw its average Metascore drop by over two points in 2018, thanks in no small part to a pair of lousy games: The Quiet Man, which quickly earned a reputation as one of 2018's biggest flops, and Fear Effect Sedna, a Fear Effect sequel which came from the company's indie game initiative, Square Enix Collective. But the Collective did score positive reviews for brand-new titles like Octahedron and Forgotton Anne. Note that we include games published by Taito (a Square Enix subsidiary) in all of Square Enix's totals and averages.

8. Bandai Namco Entertainment
Previous year's rank: 9

Namco Bandai
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 25
Total Products 44
Average Metascore
71.8 ▼ 1.2
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Dragon Ball FighterZ (Switch) 88
Best New IP
11-11: Memories Retold (PS4) 77
Worst Overall Release
Tennis (Switch) 28
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Dragon Ball FighterZ (Switch) 8.5

Bandai's totals include games branded under D3 Publisher, a subsidiary, and that group includes the Switch title Tennis, the lowest-scoring game released by a major publisher in 2018. But Bandai also had two negatively reviewed games released under its own name: New Gundam Breaker and One Piece: Grand Cruise. In all, only half of Bandai's games received positive reviews last year.

9. Digerati Distribution
Previous year's rank: n/a

Digerati
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 13
Total Products 16
Average Metascore
69.9 ▲ 4.7
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Omega Strike (XB1) 80
Best New IP
Omega Strike (XB1) 80
Worst Overall Release
Fall of Light: Darkest Edition (XB1) 56
Metacritic Users' Favorite
n/a  

Digerati ranked 18th in our "mid-size" publishers group a year ago, and while it released more—and slightly better—games in 2018, the Austin, Texas-based company was unable to rank highly among its new "big"-company peers. The publisher released only a handful of decently reviewed titles, including the metroidvania game Omega Strike and arcade-style action sequel Bleed 2.

10. NIS America
Previous year's rank: 11

NIS America
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 17
Total Products 22
Average Metascore
69.5 ▲ 1.3
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Disgaea 1 Complete (PS4) 83
Best New IP
The Longest Five Minutes (Switch) 67
Worst Overall Release
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (PS4) 60
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA (Switch) 8.7

The American branch of Japan's Nippon Ichi Software once again landed very close to the bottom of our rankings, as it did a year ago, even though it managed to increase its average Metascore by more than a point. But NIS managed to avoid releasing any negatively reviewed games in 2018—a feat it could not accomplish in 2017.

11. Plug In Digital
Previous year's rank: n/a

Plug In Digital
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 15
Total Products 19
Average Metascore
69.4 ▼ 5.9
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Deluxier Edition (Switch) 80
Best New IP
Impulsion (PC) 79
Worst Overall Release
Hover (Switch) 53
Metacritic Users' Favorite
n/a  

Last year, European distributor Plug In Digital (which also operates under the name Playdius) ranked 7th in our "mid-size" group, thanks to a solid average Metascore of 75.3. But an increase in quantity in 2018 came with a decrease in quality. Just five of Plug In's 2018 releases scored positive reviews from critics, and only one managed to eke out an 80.

12. Focus Home Interactive
Previous year's rank: n/a

Focus Home Interactive
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 14
Total Products 37
Average Metascore
69.8 ▼ 0.5
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones (XB1) 79
Best New IP
The Council - Episode 1: The Mad Ones (XB1) 79
Worst Overall Release
Space Hulk: Deathwing (PS4) 55
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Insurgency: Sandstorm (PC) 9.1

Only 22% of Focus Home Interactive's 2018 releases received positive reviews from critics. (Hint: That's not good.) And most of those good releases were actually installments of the same episodic game: The Council, released in five parts. (And even some of those weren't good; one episode scored as low as 58.) Focus is also the only major publisher not to receive at least one score of 80 or higher in 2018.

13. THQ Nordic
Previous year's rank: n/a

THQ Nordic
Scored Releases - 2018
Distinct Titles 26
Total Products 47
Average Metascore
64.4 ▼ 3.8
Metascore Distribution
Best Overall Release
Wreckfest (PC) 81
Best New IP
Wreckfest (PC) 81
Worst Overall Release
Agony (XB1) 34
Metacritic Users' Favorite
Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC) 8.1

Only one publisher released more scored products than THQ Nordic in 2018 (we're including games published by THQ subsidiaries Deep Silver, HandyGames, Koch Media, and Ravenscourt here). Yet, out of those 47 products, only five received positive reviews from critics—that's a miserable 11% success rate, lowest among all major publishers by a large margin (and well below the publisher's already unimpressive 25% rate the year before).

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, 2018 Releases
    Metascore Good Games Bad Games Great Games  
  Publisher Avg. Pts. % Pts. % Pts. # Pts. Total Pts.
1 Capcom 79.3 119.0 83% 83.3 0% 100.0 1 5.0 307.3
2 Sega 78.5 117.8 71% 70.7 0% 100.0 1 5.0 293.5
3 Electronic Arts 77.5 116.2 77% 76.7 0% 100.0 0 0.0 292.9
4 Nintendo 76.4 114.6 65% 64.5 0% 100.0 2 10.0 289.1
5 Ubisoft 73.7 110.5 52% 52.4 0% 100.0 0 0.0 262.9
6 Sony 71.8 107.6 43% 42.9 5% 95.2 3 15.0 260.7
7 Square Enix 71.0 106.5 52% 51.9 10% 90.4 1 5.0 253.8
8 Bandai Namco Games 71.8 107.7 50% 50.0 7% 93.2 0 0.0 250.9
9 Digerati Distribution 69.9 104.9 38% 37.5 0% 100.0 0 0.0 242.4
10 NIS America 69.5 104.2 36% 36.4 0% 100.0 0 0.0 240.6
11 Plug In Digital 69.4 104.1 26% 26.3 0% 100.0 0 0.0 230.4
12 Focus Home Interactive 69.8 104.7 22% 21.6 0% 100.0 0 0.0 226.3
13 THQ Nordic 64.4 96.6 11% 10.6 6% 93.6 0 0.0 200.8

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 (5-11 releases)

Each of the "mid-size" publishers listed below may in some cases actually be large companies, but all of them released just 5-11 distinct titles in 2018. (Note that in previous years the minimum cutoff was 6 titles, but we wanted to be a bit more inclusive this year.) 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.

Mid-Size Publisher Rankings, 2018 Releases
  Publisher Total
Products
Distinct
Titles
2018 Avg. Metascore vs.
2017
Metascore
Distribution
Points
1 Activision Blizzard 19 10 77.4 ▲1.7 GoodSo-So 284.5
Activision finished fourth in our major publisher rankings in last year's report. This year, the company dropped to our "mid-size" list as a result of publishing fewer titles in 2018, but the games that Activision did release were mostly good, most notably Destiny 2: Forsaken and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The former, however, comes from development studio Bungie, which this year is terminating its decade-long deal with Activision and taking the Destiny franchise with it.
2 Paradox Interactive 10 8 75.2 ▼5.4 GoodSo-So 282.8
Though its average Metascore fell over five points compared to the previous year, Paradox finds itself ranked #2 for the second consecutive year (and in the top two for the third straight year). But Paradox had no stellar releases in 2018. The publisher's highest-scoring product, a Cities: Skylines expansion, scored just 79.
3 505 Games 7 5 74.1 ▲4.8 GoodBad 282.6
The Italian publisher didn't release enough games to qualify for our rankings last year. The company's best 2018 release was the PS4 version of Laser League, though 505's overall average was brought down by its one truly terrible 2018 game, Underworld Ascendant.
4 Take-Two Interactive 18 9 77.0 ▲4.2 GoodSo-SoBad 281.6
Despite publishing 2018's best-reviewed game, Rockstar Games and 2K parent company Take-Two Interactive finished in just fourth place—though that's a major improvement over the company's ninth-place rank a year ago. Take Two's best 2018 release published under the 2K Games label was the Switch version of Civ 6, while another Switch release was the publisher's worst game of 2018.
5 Aksys Games 7 5 72.7 ▲1.8 GoodSo-So 266.2
After landing in the middle of our mid-size publisher rankings a year ago, the Japanese game specialist shot up to #5 this year on the strength of titles like Death Mark.
6 Bethesda Softworks 12 6 71.4 ▼8.6 GoodSo-SoBad 265.4
7 Microsoft 9 6 76.6 ▲4.7 GoodSo-So 264.4
Microsoft Game Studios had a strong average Metascore thanks to a few stellar releases (most notably, Forza Horizon 4), but was also weighed down a bit by disappointing reviews for State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves.
8 Devolver Digital 21 11 75.2 ▼1.3 GoodSo-So 260.4
9 Team17 23 10 73.8 ▼0.5 GoodSo-So 258.6
10 Arc System Works 10 6 69.2 ▲15.9 GoodSo-SoBad 253.9
While 2018 wasn't necessarily a banner year for Arc, the publisher did score the year's biggest improvement in average Metascore, boosting its figure by nearly 16 points compared to the average for its 2017 games. As a result, Arc shot up from 25th place to 10th.
11 Warner Bros. Interact. 20 9 73.3 ▼0.4 GoodSo-SoBad 249.9
12 Zen Studios 8 6 71.4 ▼7.6 GoodSo-SoBad 244.6
13 Curve Digital 12 7 72.4 ▲3.8 GoodSo-So 242.0
14 Koei Tecmo Games 16 7 69.9 ▲0.2 GoodSo-So 236.1
15 Adult Swim 7 6 70.2 ▼0.9 GoodSo-So 233.9
16 Konami 11 5 69.5 ▼7.6 GoodSo-So 231.6
17 Microïds 8 6 66.2 ▲7.0 GoodSo-So 224.2
18 Milestone S.r.l 13 5 68.3 n/a GoodSo-So 217.9
19 1C Entertainment 6 5 66.2 n/a GoodSo-So 216.0
20 Headup Games 16 11 66.4 ▼1.9 GoodSo-SoBad 212.0
21 tinyBuild 12 11 66.0 ▲3.3 GoodSo-SoBad 207.3
22 Good Shepherd Ent. 13 8 65.4 n/a GoodSo-SoBad 205.8
23 Flyhigh Works 6 6 68.6 ▼2.6 So-So 202.8
24 Wales Interactive 12 8 62.8 ▲2.6 GoodSo-SoBad 202.6
25 QubicGames 6 6 60.5 n/a So-SoBad 174.1
26 XSEED/Marvelous 12 11 60.1 ▼12.9 GoodSo-SoBad 173.4
27 Ratalaika Games 7 7 56.7 ▲1.5 So-SoBad 156.5
Our lowest-ranked publisher of the year failed to release a single positively reviewed game in 2018. Ratalaika's "best release" was I Am the Hero, which scored just 68.

All scores in this report are from January 15, 2019, 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:
2018 (for games released in 2017) / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011

More of our Best of 2018 coverage:
Best Games of 2018 | Worst Games of 2018

Comments (11)

  • Jeroend1986  

    Who pays the most for good scores list.

  • Mcgarth  

    @ Metacritic please put a foot note or something under EA for the, recent, huge backlash on it's titles and releases that have gardened good professional reviews but received massive negativity to users.....this is misleading....

  • jmason86  

    Dang, Bethesda didn't even warrant a short paragraph of narrative. Didn't think anyone would pass up an opportunity to (rightfully) diss Fallout 76. Still looking forward to Starfield though!

    The methodology here seems fine to me. They are transparent about what was done and it's consistent with prior years so comparisons are valid. There's enough supplemental information provided to provide context, especially for the big publishers (best/worst games, etc).

  • dabossman  

    the fact that EA is above Nintendo on this list proves the whole thing is a joke

  • Kaprawiec  

    EA and UBI in top 5 best developers of 2018? Digerati distribution as a "major" developer - who tf are they really, I play games for over 30 years now and never heard of them.... what a joke

  • mijan  

    Methodology of yours is very very very weird and it's very misleading. You count games of 75 and 89 exactly same as good games and it doesn't matter to you if game is 75 or 89, when in real world 75 is considered meh yet 89 is practically masterpiece almost. You should take games released and sum their scores and count real average, and not this your misleading **** How can EA be 3rd with FIFA as best game with only 83??? Sony has god of war 94, shadow of colossus 91, astro bot 90, spiderman 87 and only with your stupid methodology can ea rank 3rd and sony 6th. Even ubisoft has best game 87, same as 4th best game of sony and it's infront of sony. Whole world knows that Sony had best year of 2018 and only you can do **** like this and rank it 6th. I'd be embarassed with your methodology and whoever created it. It's very misleading

  • Joeizzle  

    Extremely misleading!!!!

  • Simpatico  

    @puscus They released Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales

  • puscus  

    @Pawel0007PL, I love CDProject, but how many games did they released in 2018?

  • Mando44646  

    Sony really gets hurt by terrible VR games, it seems

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