Video game publisher

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. As with book publishers or publishers of DVD movies, video game publishers are responsible for their product's manufacturing and marketing, including market research and all aspects of advertising.

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:

  • The Christmas selling season accounts for a highly significant portion of industry sales, leading to a concentrated influx of high-quality competition every year in every game category, all in the fourth quarter of the year.
  • Product slippage is common due to the uncertain schedules of software development. Most publishers have suffered a "false launch", in which the development staff assures the company that game development will be completed by a certain date, and a marketing launch is planned around that date, including advertising commitments, and then after all the advertising is paid for, the development staff announces that the game will "slip", and will actually be ready several months later than originally intended. When the game finally appears, the effects among consumers of the marketing launch—excitement and "buzz" over the release of the game and an intent to purchase have dissipated, and lackluster interest leads to weak sales. An example of this is the PSP version of Spider-Man 3.[1] These problems are compounded if the game is supposed to ship for the Christmas selling season, but actually slips into the subsequent year. Some developers (notably id and Epic) have alleviated this problem by simply saying that a given game will be released "when it's done", only announcing a definite date once the game is released to manufacturing. However, this sometimes can be problematic as well, as seen with Duke Nukem Forever.
  • The industry has become more "hit driven" over the past decade.[2][3][4] Consumers buy the game that's best-marketed but not necessarily of the highest quality, therefore buying fewer other games in that genre. This has led to much larger game development budgets, as every game publisher tries to ensure that its game is #1 in its category. It also caused publishers to on occasion force developers to focus on sequels of successful franchises instead of exploring original IP; some publishers such as Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts have both attracted criticism for acquiring studios with original games, and assigning them to support roles in more mainstream franchises.[5][6]
  • Games are becoming more expensive to produce.[7] Current generation consoles have more advanced graphic capabilities than previous consoles. Taking advantage of those capabilities requires a larger team-size than games on earlier, simpler consoles. In order to compete with the best games on these consoles, there are more characters to animate; all characters must be modeled with a higher level of detail; more textures must be created; the entire art pipeline must be made more complex to allow the creation of normal maps and more complex programming code is required to simulate physics in the game world, and to render everything as precisely and quickly as possible. On this generation of consoles, games commonly require budgets of US$15 million to $20 million. Activision's Spider-Man 3, for example, cost US$35 million to develop, not counting the cost of marketing and sales.[8] Every game financed is, then, a large gamble, and pressure to succeed is high.
  • 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[9] and the Xbox 360,[10] 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.
  • When publishing for game consoles, game publishers take on the burden of a great deal of inventory risk. All significant console manufacturers since Nintendo with its NES (1985) have monopolized the manufacture of every game made for their console, and have required all publishers to pay a royalty for every game so manufactured. This royalty must be paid at the time of manufacturing, as opposed to royalty payments in almost all other industries, where royalties are paid upon actual sales of the product—and, importantly, are payable for games that did not sell to a consumer. So, if a game publisher orders one million copies of its game, but half of them do not sell, the publisher has already paid the full console manufacturer royalty on one million copies of the game, and has to absorb that cost.

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.[11]

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

  • In the early 1990s, the introduction of CD-ROM computer drives caused hype about a multimedia revolution that would bring interactive entertainment to the masses. Several Hollywood movie studios formed "interactive" divisions to profit in this allegedly booming new media. Most of these divisions later folded after expensively producing several games that were heavy in "full-motion video" content, but light in the quality of gameplay.
  • In the United States, revenue from the sales of video and computer games exceeded revenue from film box-office receipts for the first time in the dot-com days of the late 1990s, when technology companies in general were surrounded by hype. The video game publishers did not, however, experience the same level of rise in stock prices that many dot-com companies saw. This was probably because video game publishing was seen as a more mature industry whose prospects were fairly well understood, as opposed to the typical exciting dot-com business model with unknown but possibly sky-high prospects. While many technology stocks were eventually destroyed in the dot-com crash in the early 2000s, the stock prices of the video game publishers recovered as a group; several of the larger publishers such as EA and Take-Two Interactive achieved historical highs in the mid-2000s.


Major publishers

Below are the largest publishers in general according to their revenue in billions of dollars as of 2017.[12]

2017 Name of Publisher Revenue in $bn
1 China Tencent Games 18.2
2 United States Sony Interactive Entertainment 10.5
3 United States Apple 8.0
4 United States Microsoft Studios 7.1
5 United States Activision Blizzard 6.5

Below are the largest publishers in general according to their revenue in billions of euros as of 2015.[13]

2015 Name of Publisher Revenue in €bn
1 United States Sony Interactive Entertainment 9.89
2 China Tencent Games 7.73
3 United States Microsoft Studios 7.25
4 Japan Nintendo 3.92
5 United States Activision Blizzard 3.32
6 United States Electronic Arts 3.25
7 Japan Bandai Namco Entertainment 2.05
8 United Kingdom King 1.7
9 South Korea Nexon 1.55
10 France Ubisoft 1.46

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.[14]

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.[15] 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. Note also that iOS games were not included in the figures.

2014 Position Name of Publisher 2013 Position
1 United States Telltale Games N/A
2 Sweden Paradox Interactive 4
3 Japan Capcom 2
4 United States Take-Two Interactive N/A[note 1]
5 Japan Sega N/A[note 2]
6 Hungary Zen Studios N/A
7 United States Devolver Digital N/A
8 Japan Konami 1
9 United Kingdom Slitherine Strategies N/A
10 United States NIS America 8
11 United States Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment 3
12 Japan Koei Tecmo 7
13 Japan Atlus 6
14 Italy 505 Games 5
15 Japan Aksys Games N/A
16 Germany Deep Silver 9
17 France Focus Home Interactive 10
  1. ^ Was #1 as a major publisher
  2. ^ Was #7 as a major publisher


  1. ^ "Months late, Spider-Man 3 goes to PSP with new content". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  2. ^ Matthews, Matt (19 April 2012). "Has video game retail become an entirely 'hits driven' industry?". Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  3. ^ "'White space' helps us understand the strategic direction of gaming mergers and acquisitions". Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  4. ^ Messina, Judith (31 July 2013). "Color Zen throws spotlight on city's games scene". Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Activision Reduces Prototype Devs To "Support" Role, Significantly Reduces Staff Levels". TheSixthAxis. 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  6. ^ "Activision cuts staff at 'Prototype' video game studio". 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
  7. ^ Zee, Mike (25 July 2013). "Are Video Games Getting More Expensive Than They're Worth?". Yahoo Voices. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  8. ^ "Activision exec prices PS3 games" from GameSpot
  9. ^ "PlayStation® Official Site – PlayStation Console, Games, Accessories". Playstation. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-21. Retrieved 2013-12-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Electronic Arts Breaks Into Fortune 500", Leigh Alexander, April 26, 2010, Fetched from Web on April 26, 2010.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Revenue of the largest video game publishers worldwide 2015 - Statistic". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  14. ^ Rita Liao (2017-07-03). "World's top grossing mobile game debunks gender stereotype". technode. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  15. ^ "Metacritic's 5th Annual Game Publisher Rankings",, CBS Interactive Inc., January 30, 2014
2K Games

2K Games, Inc. (commonly referred to as 2K) is an American video game publisher based in Novato, California. The company and its 2K Sports division were founded in January 2005 by Christoph Hartmann, David Ismailer, Jason Argent and Greg Thomas, as a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive. 2K is Take-Two Interactive's second publishing label, after Rockstar Games, and houses all of Take-Two Interactive's development studios, apart from Social Point and those suborganized under Rockstar Games.

2K Play

2K Play is an American video game publisher and a division of 2K Games. Founded in September 2007 for a partnership between Take-Two Interactive and Nickelodeon, the division publishes family-friendly games for Take-Two Interactive.

2K Sports

2K Sports is an American video game publisher and a division of 2K Games. The company was established alongside 2K Games, in January 2005, by Christoph Hartmann, David Ismailer, Jason Argent and Greg Thomas. 2K Sports publishes all of 2K Games' sport games, such as NBA 2K and WWE 2K series, and manages Visual Concepts as those games' developer.

505 Games

505 Games S.r.l. is an Italian video game publisher founded in 2006, and is a subsidiary of Italian company Digital Bros. S.p.A. The company publishes games globally for leading platforms along with console and handheld systems such as Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, as well as for mobile devices and social networks. 505 Games headquarters is located in the city of Milan, Italy. The company also maintains divisions in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom; Los Angeles, United States; Lyon, France; Munich, Germany; Madrid, Spain and a network of distribution partners.

The company transitioned from being an Italian games distributor to a global games publisher, offering a broad selection of titles for players of all ages and levels. In March 2015, Digital Bros, through subsidiary 505 Games, purchased 2.67% stock of Swedish game developer Starbreeze Studios.Since its founding in E3 2006, the company has published several major titles such as Sniper Elite III, Payday 2, Assetto Corsa, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Terraria, How to Survive, Defense Grid 2, Deep Black, ABZU, ADR1FT, and Virginia. The company found its early success through its video games such as Cooking Mama and Zumba Fitness.In April 2015, 505 Games was awarded the title of Best Indie Games Label at the MCV Awards.

Accolade (company)

Infogrames North America, Inc. (formerly Accolade, Inc.) was an American video game developer and publisher based in San Jose, California. The company was founded as Accolade in November 1984 by Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead, who had previously co-founded Activision in October 1979.

In April 1999, Accolade was acquired by French video game company Infogrames Entertainment for a combined sum of US$60 million, of which US$50 million in cash and US$10 million in growth capital, and was renamed Infogrames North America, Inc. The company chief executive officer, Jim Barnett, was named head of Infogrames Entertainment's American distribution subsidiary. In December 1999, Infogrames additionally acquired a controlling stake in GT Interactive for a total investment of US$135 million, and renamed it Infogrames, Inc.On September 11, 2000, Infogrames North America was acquired by Infogrames, Inc. for 28 million market shares transitioned to Infogrames Entertainment, effectively merging Infogrames North America into a newly founded, wholly owned subsidiary of Infogrames, Inc.In June 2017, Hong Kongese holding company Billionsoft announced that they had acquired the "Accolade" label, and announced Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, in cooperation with developer Black Forest Games and publisher Tommo, to be the first game released under it.

Apogee Software

Apogee Software, LLC is an American video game publisher based in Rowlett, Texas. The company was founded by Terry Nagy in 2008 after he acquired the rights to the name and logo from 3D Realms.

Conspiracy Entertainment

Conspiracy Entertainment (formerly Conspiracy Games) is an American third-party developer video game publisher, publishing games from smaller companies that would face difficulties distributing games themselves. The company has also developed a few games of its own.


Eidos may refer to

Eidos a Greek term meaning "form" "essence", "type" or "species". See Plato's theory of Forms and Aristotle's theory of universals

Eidos Interactive, a former name of British video game publisher Square Enix Europe

Eidos Hungary, a defunct Hungarian development studio formerly of Eidos Interactive

Eidos Montréal, an active Canadian development studio of Square Enix Europe

Eidos Shanghai, an active Chinese development studio of Square Enix Europe

EidosMedia, an Italian software house

Eidos, an Italian menswear brand owned by Isaia.

Larry Probst

Lawrence Francis "Larry" Probst III (born June 3, 1950) is an American businessman who is best known for his work with the video game publisher Electronic Arts, including acting as CEO from 1991 until 2007 and as executive chairman from 2013-14. He remains chairman of EA and serves as chairman of the United States Olympic Committee.

Portkey Games

Portkey Games is a video game publisher owned by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, founded in 2017 to publish games related to J. K. Rowling's Wizarding World.


RedLynx Oy (formerly Punainen Ilves Laboratoriot Oy) is a Finnish video game developer based in Helsinki, Finland, founded by brothers Atte and Antti Ilvessuo on 17 August 2000. The company originally operated under the name Punainen Ilves Laboratoriot (lit. Red Lynx Laboratories), but was officially renamed RedLynx on 3 June 2004. Best known for their Trials series of games, RedLynx was acquired by French video game publisher Ubisoft on 2 November 2011.

Rising Star Games

Rising Star Games is a video game publisher formed in 2004 as a joint business venture between Scandinavian distributor Bergsala and Japanese video game publisher and content developer Intergrow. The company is based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England, and in North America in California, United States.

Its initial focus was to publish titles from Japanese companies for release in European, Australian and North American markets; it has a wider range of products from developers all over the world. The company has published over 105 titles for Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as PC.

In late 2007, the company was surrounded with controversy over what appeared to be its decision to censor the European version of No More Heroes, though it was later revealed that the decision was made by its parent company and the developer Grasshopper Manufacture to release the censored version in Europe unlike what was released in North America.In 2012, Rising Star Games announced the opening of Rising Star Games USA, where North American releases will be published.On July 3, 2018, it was announced Thunderful has acquire the company.

Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games, Inc. is an American video game publisher based in New York City. The company was established in December 1998 as a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, and as successor to BMG Interactive, a dormant video game publisher of which Take-Two had previously acquired the assets. Founding members of the company were Sam and Dan Houser, Terry Donovan and Jamie King, who worked for Take-Two at the time, and of which the Houser brothers were previously executives at BMG Interactive. Co-founders Sam and Dan Houser head the studio as president and vice-president for creative, respectively.Since 1999, several companies acquired by or established under Take-Two became part of Rockstar Games, such as Rockstar Canada (later renamed Rockstar Toronto) becoming the first one in 1999, and Rockstar India the most recent in 2016. All companies organized under Rockstar Games bear the "Rockstar" name and logo; in that context, Rockstar Games is sometimes also referred to as Rockstar New York or Rockstar NYC. Rockstar also sports a motion capture studio in Bethpage, New York.Rockstar Games predominantly publishes games in the action-adventure genre, while racing games also saw success for the company. One of such action-adventure game franchises is Grand Theft Auto, which Rockstar Games took over from BMG Interactive, which published the series' original 1997 entry. The most recent game in the series, Grand Theft Auto V, has shipped over 95 million copies since its release in September 2013, making it one of the best-selling video games of all time. Other popular franchises published by Rockstar Games are Red Dead, Midnight Club, Max Payne and Manhunt.

THQ Nordic

THQ Nordic GmbH (formerly Nordic Games GmbH) is an Austrian video game publisher based in Vienna. It is a subsidiary of Swedish company THQ Nordic AB. The company was founded in 2011 by Swedish entrepreneur Lars Eric Olof Wingefors. Its core portfolio comprises products and brands which were acquired from other large publishers, such as JoWooD Entertainment and its former subsidiaries DreamCatcher Interactive and The Adventure Company in 2011, THQ in 2013, and NovaLogic in 2016.

As part of its acquisition of THQ, Nordic Games also took over video game developer THQ Digital Phoenix in 2013, and in 2015, renamed it back to its original name, Rainbow Studios. In December 2013, they opened an original game studio, Grimlore Games, in Munich. In August 2016, Nordic Games changed its name to THQ Nordic, using the THQ trademark they had acquired previously, to regain its association with their franchises acquired from THQ. Sister companies to THQ Nordic are Koch Media and Coffee Stain Holding (the parent of Coffee Stain Studios and related companies), both of which are, like THQ Nordic, owned by Swedish holding company THQ Nordic AB.

TT Games Publishing

TT Games Publishing Limited (formerly Giant Interactive Entertainment Limited) is a British video game publisher and a division of TT Games.

U.S. Gold

U.S. Gold Limited was a British video game publisher based in Witton, England. The company was founded in 1984 by Geoff Brown in parallel to his distributor firm, CentreSoft, both of which became part of Woodward Brown Holdings (later renamed CentreGold). The company primarily aimed at publishing games imported from the United States with a lower price tag in Europe and especially the United Kingdom.

By 1985, U.S. Gold projected a turnover of US$6 million for their first fiscal year, and expected to release further 150 games in the year to come. In 1988, U.S. Gold received the Golden Joystick Award for "Software House of the Year". The company also operated the budget range label Kixx. In April 1996, Eidos Interactive acquired the entire CentreGold umbrella (including U.S. Gold) for GB£17.6 million, as a result of which U.S. Gold and CentreSoft ceased all operations.

Ubisoft Motion Pictures

Ubisoft Motion Pictures SASU is a French film production company and a subsidiary of video game publisher Ubisoft based in Montreuil. Founded on 27 January 2011, Ubisoft Motion Pictures is in charge of producing films and television shows based on Ubisoft franchises.

Xicat Interactive

Xicat Interactive was a video game publisher with distribution across Europe and North America. Xicat held several significant licenses, including

Gothic; Motor Trend; Jane's Information Group; and Guns & Ammo.

Zushi Games

Zushi Games was a British video game publisher. Based in Sheffield, Zushi is the owner of the multi-million selling Premier Manager series and best known for Alien Hominid. Zushi publishes titles for the Nintendo DS, Wii, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, PC and Xbox.

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