Video game publisher

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A video game publisher is a company that publishes video games that have been developed either internally by the publisher or externally by a video game developer.


They often finance the development, sometimes by paying a video game developer (the publisher calls this external development) and sometimes by paying an internal staff of developers called a studio. The large video game publishers also distribute the games they publish, while some smaller publishers instead hire distribution companies (or larger video game publishers) to distribute the games they publish. Other functions usually performed by the publisher include deciding on and paying for any licenses used by the game; paying for localization; layout, printing, and possibly the writing of the user manual; and the creation of graphic design elements such as the box design. Some large publishers with vertical structure also own publishing subsidiaries (labels).

Large publishers may also attempt to boost efficiency across all internal and external development teams by providing services such as sound design and code packages for commonly needed functionality.

Because the publisher often finances development, it usually tries to manage development risk with a staff of producers or project managers to monitor the progress of the developer, critique ongoing development, and assist as necessary. Most video games created by an external video game developer are paid for with periodic advances on royalties. These advances are paid when the developer reaches certain stages of development, called milestones.

Business risks

Video game publishing is associated with high risk:

  • Contrasting with the big budget titles increased expense of "front-line" console games is the casual game market, in which smaller, simpler games are published for PCs and as downloadable console games. Also, Nintendo's Wii console, though debuting in the same generation as the PlayStation 3 [8] and the Xbox 360, [9] requires a smaller development budget, as innovation on the Wii is centered around the use of the Wii Remote and not around the graphics pipeline.

Investor interest

Numerous video game publishers are traded publicly on stock markets. As a group, they have had mixed performance. At present, Electronic Arts is the only third-party publisher present in the S&P 500 diversified list of large U.S. corporations; in April 2010, it entered the Fortune 500 for the first time. [10]

Hype over video game publisher stocks has been breathless at two points:


Major publishers

FY 2020-2021NameCountryRevenue in $bn
1 Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan, United States18.190
2 Tencent Games China16.224
3 Nintendo Japan12.010
4 Microsoft United States10.260
5 NetEase China6.668
6 Activision Blizzard United States6.388
7 Electronic Arts United States5.537
8 Take-Two Interactive United States3.089
9 Bandai Namco Entertainment Japan3.018
10 Square Enix Japan2.386
11 Nexon South Korea, Japan2.286
12 Netmarble South Korea1.883
13 Ubisoft France1.446
14 Konami Japan1.303
15 Sega Japan1.153
16 MiHoYo China0.855
17 Capcom Japan0.7673
18 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment United States0.7324
19 Embracer Group Sweden0.3225

In 2021, the largest public companies by game revenue were Tencent, with US$32.2 billion, followed by Sony, with US$18.2 billion, and Apple, with US$15.3 billion, according to Newzoo. [11]

Mid-size publishers

Name of Publisher
505 Games (Italy)
Aksys Games (US)
Annapurna Interactive (US)
Devolver Digital (US)
Focus Entertainment (France)
Frontier Developments (UK)
Humble Games (US)
Koei Tecmo (Japan)
Marvelous Inc (Japan)
Nacon (France)
NCSoft (South Korea)
Nippon Ichi Software (Japan)
Paradox Interactive (Sweden)
Team17 (UK)

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