Metacritic's 10th Annual Game Publisher Rankings

  • Publish Date: March 10, 2020
  • Comments: ↓ 5 user comments

Comparing the 2019 releases of game publishers

Which game publishers released the best games last year? For the 10th 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 2019 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.

Our methodology

In past years, we divided publishers into two groups (bigger and less big) based on how many titles each one published. Because the cutoff was arbitrary, and publishers shifted from one group to another from year to year, we have decided to eliminate the groups this year and rank all publishers together in one big group. Publishers with 4 or fewer distinct titles* released last year are excluded.

We have ranked these publishers in order from best overall game quality to worst, using a points-based system based on four factors:

  1. Average Metascore for all games released in 2019
    150 possible points (awarded at 1.5 x the average Metascore)
  2. % of scored products with good reviews (Metascore of at least 75)
    100 possible points (ex: 80% good = 80 points)
  3. % of scored products with bad reviews (49 or lower; in this case, a lower % is better)
    100 possible points (ex: 20% bad = 80 points)
  4. Number of "great" titles (Metascore of 90 or higher, min. 7 reviews)
    Awarded as 5 bonus points for each distinct title with a 90+ score

Note that the Metascore average (the first factor) counts slightly more than the other factors. In addition, note that iOS games are not included in the figures below.

The rankings

Using the points system described above, this year's rankings are as follows:

Metacritic's #1 Publisher of the Year: 505 Games

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
15 8 80.0 spacerGoodSo-So 0 306.7

505 GamesThe Italian game company, which publishes third-party titles for every platform, had a strong 2019 thanks to a steady stream of positively reviewed games and few misfires. Though no 505 title scored higher than 85 last year, 87% (or all but two) of its products received positive reviews overall—tops among all publishers—led by the Remedy-developed award-winner Control and ArtPlay's Castlevania homage Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Upcoming 505 releases include the PC port of Death Stranding (due in June).

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 Scored 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 2019, while the Metascore distribution chart shows what percentage of those Metascores were green (Metascore of 75-100), yellow (50-74) or red (0-49). To qualify as Great (which earns the publisher 5 bonus points), a game must have a Metascore of at least 90 and have at least 7 critic reviews.

#2: Activision Blizzard

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
17 8 79.9 spacerGoodSo-So 1 301.4

Activision BlizzardIt was the second straight strong year for the publicly traded gaming giant. After ranking first in our "mid-sized" category a year ago (and the incongruity of having some of the industry's biggest companies labeled "mid-size publishers" is one reason we eliminated that distinction this year), Activision managed to increase its average Metascore by over two points, thanks to critically acclaimed releases like FromSoftware's Souls-like action-adventure title Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Of the publisher's four releases that didn't receive positive reviews, two came from its Blizzard subsidiary: a Switch port of Overwatch and a Hearthstone expansion.

#3: Nintendo

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
24 24 80 spacerGoodSo-So 0 299.2

NintendoNintendo boosted its average Metascore by nearly four points compared to last year's mark despite 2019 being one of the company's rare years without any releases scoring 90 or higher. However, a few Nintendo games narrowly missed that distinction, led by Switch titles Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Super Mario Maker 2. In all, 79% of Nintendo's 2019 releases scored positive reviews, up from 65% the prior year.

#4: Paradox Interactive

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
10 7 77.8 spacerGoodSo-So 0 296.8

ParadoxIn recent years, the Swedish strategy and management game specialist has ranked highly in our annual publisher lists, and 2019 was another strong year that saw Paradox's average Metascore increase by nearly 3 points. As always, Paradox's releases included numerous expansions to previously released games, but its best 2019 title was a new game: the 4X sci-fi title Age of Wonders: Planetfall.

#5: Capcom

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
24 13 79.1 spacerGoodSo-So 2 291.1

CapcomCapcom was one of just two publishers to release more than one 90+ product in 2019. For Capcom, that group included our 2019 Game of the Year, a remake of Resident Evil 2, as well as Monster Hunter: World's Iceborne expansion. But after ranking as our #1 game publisher a year ago, Capcom was unable to duplicate that feat because of a lower percentage of games receiving positive reviews: just 63% for its 2019 releases, compared to 83% the previous year. Many of Capcom's worst-reviewed 2019 titles were Switch ports of previously released games such as Devil May Cry 2 and Resident Evil 6.

#6: Annapurna Interactive

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
10 6 80.5 spacerGoodSo-So 0 290.7

AnnapurnaThe three-year-old spinoff from arthouse film studio Annapurna Pictures specializes in indie games—and good ones. No publisher had a higher average Metascore in 2019 than Annapurna, with most of its releases scoring in the 80s (including Outer Wilds and Telling Lies). But a few unexpected misfires (including Wattam from the creator of the Katamari Damacy series) meant that only 70% of Annapurna's products received favorable reviews, a lower percentage than most of the above publishers.

#7: Xbox Game Studios [fka Microsoft Studios]

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
8 6 76.4 spacerGoodSo-So 0 289.6

Xbox Game StudiosMicrosoft's 2019 performance is similar to that of its 2018 slate, with an average Metascore that is just 0.2 off the mark from last year's rankings. Renamed a year ago, Xbox Game Studios released only sequels and ports in 2019, ranging from very good (the Switch version of Ori and the Blind Forest) to disappointingly by-the-numbers (Crackdown 3).

#8: Humble Bundle

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
12 7 76.2 spacerGoodSo-So 0 289.2

Humble BundleIn addition to serving as an online games storefront, Humble has also operated its own publishing business for the past few years, handling distribution for a handful of titles from indie game studios. This is the first time Humble has qualified for our publisher rankings, and it's an auspicious start. The publisher received positive reviews for 75% of its 2019 releases, led by the popular Slay the Spire.

#9: Square Enix

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
52 28 76.1 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 3 285.0

Square EnixAs it has in many recent years, Square Enix released more products in 2019 than any other publisher—and it's not even close. And those products received positive reviews more often than not—60% of the time, to be exact. The company released three titles that scored 91, though they were either expansions (Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers), ports (the Switch version of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age), or repackages (NieR: Automata - Game of the YoRHa Edition). And Square Enix also released one of the biggest duds of 2019, Left Alive.

#10: Devolver Digital

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
29 19 76.0 spacerGoodSo-So 0 283.0

DevolverThe Texas-based publisher posted an average Metascore in the green range for the third consecutive year thanks to acclaimed releases like a new Switch version of Downwell, GORN, and Ape Out. But a belated XB1 port of Absolver and a remaster/localization of FromSoftware's Japanese cult hit Metal Wolf Chaos disappointed critics.

#11: Focus Home Interactive

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
13 7 74.7 spacerGoodSo-So 0 273.6

Focus Home InteractiveAfter finishing near the bottom of our rankings a year ago, Focus improved quite a bit with its 2019 slate. The publisher's average Metascore shot up by nearly five points, and its percentage of releases with positive reviews soared from 22% to 62%. Focus's top 2019 entry, A Plague Tale: Innocence, was its first product to score higher than 80 since 2015.

#12: Take-Two Interactive

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
25 11 74.9 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 1 273.4

Take-Two InteractiveTake-Two's average Metascore dropped by over two points compared to the prior year, hurt by awful reviews for its annual sports entry WWE 2K20 and disappointing ones for Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey from the publisher's new-ish Private Division label. Last year's other new Private Division game, The Outer Worlds, fared much better with critics, but Take-Two's slate was once again led by a release from its Rockstar Games division—in this case, the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2.

#13: Electronic Arts

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
31 13 75.2 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 270.9

EAAfter ranking in our top three a year ago, EA also saw a more than two-point drop in its average Metascore in 2019 thanks to a release slate that included the publisher's first negatively reviewed game in years (the feature-poor Switch version of FIFA 20, basically little more than a re-badge of FIFA 19). Other disappointments included the high-profile multiplayer dud Anthem, indie Sea of Solitude (from the publisher's EA Originals label), and a lackluster installment of Need for Speed, while EA's top 2019 highlight was its well-received Fortnite competitor Apex Legends (which faces increased competition today with the arrival of Call of Duty: Warzone).

#14: Ubisoft

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
25 11 73.3 spacerGoodSo-So 0 265.9

UbisoftThough it released far fewer products in 2019 (the company's 2018 slate was cluttered with DLC), Ubisoft's results aren't all that different from its overall numbers the prior year. While nothing stood out as exceptionally great or terrible, Ubisoft's best 2019 releases were Trials Rising and Tom Clancy's The Division 2, while its worst was another Tom Clancy title, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint.

#15: Team17

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
17 5 74.7 spacerGoodSo-So 0 265.1

Team17The English publisher, which has been around in some form for 30 years, had a decent 2019 led by platformer Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair and metroidvania Blasphemous. Overall, Team17's average Metascore was up by about a point compared to the previous year.

#16: Spike Chunsoft

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
10 8 75.3 spacerGoodSo-So 0 262.9

The Japanese game company publishes titles around the world through an American subsidiary. Their best such release in 2019 was the visual novel Steins;Gate Elite.

#17: Koei Tecmo Games

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
14 5 74.7 spacerGoodSo-So 0 262.1

Though the Japanese publisher is in the middle of our rankings, it's an improvement: Last year's average Metascore was nearly five points lower.

#18: Sega

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
35 27 73.4 spacerGoodSo-So 0 253.0

Strategy title Total War: Three Kingdoms was the best-reviewed 2019 release for the now 60-year-old company. But Sega fell quite a bit from our rankings a year ago, where it placed 2nd thanks to an average Metascore that was over five points higher.

#19: Bandai Namco

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
38 18 71.4 spacerGoodSo-So 0 246.5

An updated version of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was among the few highlights in a mostly lackluster 2019 slate that saw only 39% of Bandai's releases receive positive reviews.

#20: Konami

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
15 6 69.9 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 244.8

Konami's best 2019 release was its annual Pro Evolution Soccer title (newly renamed eFootball), while its worst was its most recent Contra entry, Rogue Corps.

#21: Idea Factory

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
8 7 68.7 spacerGoodSo-So 0 240.6

Visual novel Date-A-Live: Rio Reincarnation was the Japanese company's top 2019 release.

#22: Sony

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
15 14 71.5 spacerGoodSo-So 0 240.5

It was a relatively quiet year for the PlayStation maker's publishing division. The company's sole high-profile newcomer, the Kojima-produced PS4 console exclusive Death Stranding, was a bit more divisive than expected, leaving annual baseball title MLB The Show 19 as Sony's best-reviewed 2019 release.

#23: PQube

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
17 11 68.2 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 237.6

The UK publisher's 2019 slate was topped by the rhythm platformer Songbird Symphony.

#24: Xseed/Marvelous

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
13 10 69.4 spacerGoodSo-So 0 234.9

There were few marvelous entries in Xseed's 2019 game roster, with the possible exception of a pair of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel ports for the PS4.

#25: tinyBuild

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
7 5 67.8 spacerGoodSo-So 0 230.3

The small Washington state publisher had just one modest critical success in 2019: Streets of Rogue.

#26: Iceberg Interactive

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
8 5 70.0 spacerGoodSo-So 0 229.9

The Dutch publisher received decent reviews for its PC title Still There.

#27: Koch Media

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
12 6 69.9 spacerGoodSo-So 0 229.9

Koch brands (collected into the figures above) include Deep Silver and Ravenscourt. Their 2019 highlight was Metro Exodus.

#28: Digerati Distribution

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
8 7 69.3 spacerGoodSo-So 0 229.0

Only two releases scored in the green for the Austin, Texas-based publisher: Omensight: Definitive Edition and Stories: The Path of Destinies.

#29: THQ Nordic

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
27 19 66.3 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 225.4

The Austrian company (formerly Nordic Games) continues to swallow up other developers and publishers—the figures above include games released under the HandyGames label, though not those under the various brands of sister company Koch Media—but released plenty of mediocre titles in 2019. THQ's best game last year was the racing title Wreckfest.

#30: Bethesda Softworks

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
14 7 69.1 spacerGoodSo-So 0 225.1

A Switch port of DOOM 3 and a pair of Elder Scrolls DLC titles were Bethesda's only 2019 highlights.

#31: NIS America

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
16 10 69 spacerGoodSo-So 0 222.2

It was another lackluster year for NIS, whose 2019 was highlighted by Disgaea 4 Complete+.

#32: Daedalic Entertainment

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
10 8 66.7 spacerGoodSo-So 0 222.0

Only two 2019 games (barely) scored in the green for the German company: Switch titles Goodbye Deponia and Silence.

#33: QubicGames

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
5 5 65.5 spacerGoodSo-So 0 218.2

The numbers above actually reflect a significant improvement for a publisher that failed to release even one positively reviewed title in 2018. (In 2019, there was one and only one: Switch title Blazing Beaks.)

#34: Curve Digital

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
19 9 66.2 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 215.1

Curve's average Metascore fell by over six points compared to the prior year. The company's few 2019 highlights were led by RPG For the King.

#35: Plug In Digital

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
10 6 66.1 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 209.1

Plug In (which also releases games under the Playdius and Dear Villagers labels) released a few decent games last year: Ghost of a Tale and Bury Me, My Love.

#36: Ratalaika Games

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
11 9 62.9 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 203.5

A year after finishing dead last in our rankings, Ratalaika managed a bit of an improvement, and even landed some positive reviews for a pair of titles, Sagebrush and Warlock's Tower.

#37: Bigben Interactive

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
22 10 64.7 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 201.5

Now operating under the name Nacon, the French publisher specializes in second-tier sports games like rugby, fishing, and truck racing (though also releases non-sports title like The Sinking City). Their one good 2019 release was WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship.

#38: 1C Company

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
10 7 62.1 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 193.2

It was a 2019 of extremes for the Russian publisher, with critics either really liking (Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark) or despising (Eternity: The Last Unicorn) their games.

#39: Headup Games

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
15 8 61.3 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 192.0

The opposite of the aforementioned 1C, Headup's 2019 games were, to use the technical term, meh, resulting in the lowest average Metascore for any publisher this year. A few titles did sneak into the green, including The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia.

#40: Merge Games

Scored
Products
Distinct
Titles
Average
Metascore
Metascore
Distribution
"Great"
(90+)
Points
21 12 61.8 spacerGoodSo-SoBad 0 188.0

Our lowest-ranked publisher this year, Merge had three different titles score in the red, including Crimson Keep and Mainlining.

 

All scores in this report are from March 6, 2020, 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:
2019 (for games released in 2018) / 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011

Comments (5)

  • kcamfork  

    So I wonder what the rankings are considering Square Enix did NOT actually publish Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition on the Nintendo Switch in the United States. Nintendo published it.

  • YodaCracker  

    3rd place: Nintendo
    7th place: Microsoft
    22nd place: Sony

    Yikes for PlayStation! That’s pretty embarrassing.

  • morrish  

    to clarify, as an example, this scoring system ranks a publisher with one very good game above someone that puts out several good games?

  • LamontRaymond  

    Talk about upsets! Who would have ever thought 505 Games would be publisher of the year?

  • MGTSLT  

    Congratulations 505 Games on this incredible achievement

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