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

Below are the largest publishers in general according to their revenue in billions of dollars as of 2017. [11]

2017Name of PublisherRevenue in $bn
1 Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Tencent Games 18.2
2 Flag of the United States.svg Sony Interactive Entertainment [12] 10.5
3 Flag of the United States.svg Apple 8.0
4 Flag of the United States.svg Microsoft 7.1
5 Flag of the United States.svg Activision Blizzard 6.5
6 Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg NetEase 5.6
7 Flag of the United States.svg Google 5.3
8 Flag of the United States.svg EA 5.1
9 Flag of Japan.svg Nintendo 3.6
10 Flag of Japan.svg Bandai Namco 2.4

In 2016, the largest public companies by game revenue were Tencent, with US$10.2 billion, followed by Sony, with US$7.8 billion, and Activision Blizzard, with US$6.6 billion, according to Newzoo. [13]

Mid-size publishers

Below are the top AA (midsize) video game publishers, ranked by Metacritic in January 2014 based on game quality according to reviews. [14] These lists are based on the ranking by best to worst publishers according to metacritic's website. Note that two major publishers, Take-Two Interactive and Sega fell to mid-size and one, Square Enix, jumped from mid-size to major. Three mid-size publishers ranked in 2013 were dropped from 2014 chart, namely Xseed Games and Kalypso Media. No iOS games were included in the figures.

2014 PositionName of Publisher2013 Position
1 Flag of the United States.svg Telltale Games N/A
2 Flag of Sweden.svg Paradox Interactive 4
3 Flag of Japan.svg Capcom 2
4 Flag of the United States.svg Take-Two Interactive N/A [note 1]
5 Flag of Japan.svg Sega N/A [note 2]
6 Flag of Hungary.svg Zen Studios N/A
7 Flag of the United States.svg Devolver Digital N/A
8 Flag of Japan.svg Konami 1
9 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Slitherine Strategies N/A
10 Flag of the United States.svg NIS America 8
11 Flag of the United States.svg Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment 3
12 Flag of Japan.svg Koei Tecmo 7
13 Flag of Japan.svg Atlus 6
14 Flag of Italy.svg 505 Games 5
15 Flag of the United States.svg Aksys Games N/A
16 Flag of Sweden.svg Deep Silver 9
17 Flag of France.svg Focus Home Interactive 10
  1. Was #1 as a major publisher
  2. Was #7 as a major publisher

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