Key profiles from the Develop 100
This month we've published the 2010 edition of the Develop 100.
Published in association with Deep Silver and based on data compiled by GfK Chart-Track, the Develop 100 ranks the world's games developers based on the amount of revenues their games generated at UK retail.
The Develop site is publishing major extracts from the book - here we present the details of positions 11 to 30…
Owned by: Warner Bros.
Address: Canute Court, Toft Road, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 0NL, UK
Top Title: Lego Batman: The Videogame
WHILE THEY’VE GOT all the Lego blocks a four-year old could eat, they’ve not got programmers’ block yet in Knutsford. 2009 saw Traveller’s Tales revisit Lego Indiana Jones across the formats, and it also rocked out with Lego Rock Band, although this didn’t make the top five by sales.
Add in the staying power of earlier games and it’s no surprise there’s plenty more where these hits came from (which may disappoint reviewers who are starting to mark down the games for repetition). If Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 doesn’t sell millions we’ll eat a sorting hat, and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is in
In fact, fellow wholly-owned Warner Bros’ subsidiary TT Games recently extended its deal with Lego to 2016, after achieving sales of nearly 50 million Lego games.
Owned by: Activision
Address: 20335 Ventura Blvd, Suite 320, Woodland Hills, California, 91364, USA
Top Title: Guitar Hero: World Tour
IT’S THE BEST of times, and the worst of times, or Neversoft. Massive ongoing success with the Guitar Hero franchise in 2009 clearly qualifies for the ‘best of’ badge.
But news of layoffs in February followed by a statement from Activision saying it will cut down the number of music-based games it releases in a year – and talk that development of the Guitar Hero titles has been moved to Activision stablemate Vicarious Visions – is hardly a positive. Surviving staff may someday admit that losing Guitar Hero was the best thing that ever happened to them – it’s been being beaten in the review stakes by Rock Band, and it’s clear Activision was stretching the brand.
On the other hand, there’s been no word on what the Tony Hawk and GUN originator will do next…
Founded: 2006 (from a merger of Konami
Owned by: Konami
Address: 9-7-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-8323, Japan
Top Title: Pro Evolution Soccer 2010
IT’S SURPRISING TO see Konami’s latest Develop 100 placing come down to a football franchise, albeit one with an illustrious past.
Sadly, ‘past’ could be the crucial world. Back in 2008, Konami ranked at number four in our chart, largely on the strength of the £26.7 million that Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 achieved at UK retail. Released at the same point in 2009, the latest PES sold less than half as much. Even worse, PES is no critically lauded underdog. According to Metacritic, EA’s FIFA 10 scores over 90, while PES only makes it to the high 70s.
Of course Konami is a massive operation, and this chart relates only to internally developed games. Konami fans must hope Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid: Rising and MGS: Peace Walker will do the business before next year’s listing.
Owned by: Microsoft
Address: 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, 98052, USA
Top Titles: Forza Motorsport 3
ROARING UP THE charts thanks to Xbox 360 smash Forza Motorsport 3, Turn 10 Studios proves familiarity need not breed contempt for game developers.
The second Forza title from this wholly-owned Microsoft Games Studio in just two years – and the third since 2005 – Forza Motorsport 3 was greeted with rapturous applause by the Xbox press, who rate it the best driving game on the platform (gun-toting GTA IV aside).
Clearly a labour of love, the studio deployed an incredible ten times as many polygons into each car model compared with the almost as well-received Forza Motorsport 2, which was released only 12 months previously for the same hardware.
Founded in 2001, Turn 10 enters its second decade creating DLC for Forza 3 and, we’re sure, developing Forza 4, which is rumoured to include Natal support.
Owned by: Codemasters
Address: Stoneythorpe, Southam, Warwickshire, CV47 2DL, UK
Top Title: Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
2009 SAW CODEMASTERS roll back the years, with two best-sellers very near the top of the UK charts and last year’s Race Driver: Grid continuing to do the business.
Dirt 2 was well-received; interestingly, despite their very different genres, both it and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising made use of Codemasters’ EGO Engine.
The future could hold some very different opportunities for the Warwickshire firm, however, following news that the massive Indian conglomerate Reliance has bought 50 per cent of the company, alongside existing VCs Balderton Capital.
Codemasters will work with Reliance’s game division, Zapak Digital Entertainment, with the latter likely to take Codemasters’ franchises to new platforms, including mobile.
Codemasters already employs 300 staff in the UK, and has annual global revenues in excess of $150 million
Address: 434 Kirkland Way, Kirkland WA, 98033, USA
Top Title: Halo 3: ODST
JUDGING FROM Halo: ODST, Bungie is doing just fine now it’s out in the realms of the independents again after splitting from Microsoft in 2007. Its first title developed since the split was lauded by nearly all reviewers – a few said it wasn’t quite a full-sized retail release – and sold three million copies in less than two months.
It’s expected that Bungie’s next game, Halo: Reach, will be the last Halo title the studio will develop for Microsoft, which retained a minority stake in Bungie following the demerger. Reach is due this autumn; future iterations will be handled by new Microsoft division 343 Industries.
There’s no official word on what Bungie’s 160-plus employees will be developing in its new 80,000 sq.ft. offices, but it recently trademarked ‘Bungie Aerospace’. Employees in interviews have confirmed an unnamed new franchise is in development.
Address: 5th Floor, Mill House, 8 Mill Street, London, SE1 2BA
Top Title: Need for Speed: Shift
WHEN GERMAN CONGLOMERATE 10tacle got into difficulties, they eventually put its UK developer Blimey! Games into administration, threatening jobs at one of London’s last sizeable codeshops.
However swift footwork by Blimey!’s directors saw a new outfit, Slightly Mad Studios, swoop in to secure the stricken company’s assets from the administrator in early January 2009, securing all the jobs.
Headed up by Blimey! Games’ founder Ian Bell, Slightly Mad was soon revealed as the developer for EA’s Need for Speed Shift, working in conjunction with executive producer Michael Mann at EA Black Box and Patrick Soderlund of EA Games Europe. Shift received great reviews across the board, and the remarkable sales that followed have landed 95-strong Slightly Mad near the top of the Develop 100. Bonkers – in a good way
Owned by: Activision
Address: 150 Broadway, Suite 205, Menands, New York 12204, USA
Top Title: Guitar Hero: World Tour
IF THE RUMOURS are to be believed, Vicarious Visions’ Wii versions of Guitar Hero 5, Guitar Hero: World Tour, and Band Hero have won it future lead format development duties for the Guitar Hero franchise, to commence following the release of the sixth title that’s currently in development at recently-shrunk Neversoft.
If true, it will be some coup for a studio once best known for its handheld games. Wholly-owned by Activision since January 2005, but founded way back in 1990 by brothers Karthik and Guha Bala, Vicarious Visions is a rare New York area game developer.
A bit of a quiet stalking horse, as of 2008 it already had more than 150 employees, and had shipped 100 titles amount to $1 billion at retail worldwide. All those numbers will have increased since then.
Founded: 1982 as EA Redwood Shores, Visceral rebrand in 2009
Owned by: Electronic Arts
Address: 209 Redwood Shores, Parkway, Redwood City, CA 94065, USA
Top Title: The Godfather II
VISCA-WHO? DON’T worry, you’re not wildly out of touch. Visceral Games is the name slapped for no obvious reason last April onto what we used to call EA Redwood Shores.
If forced to guess, we’d look through the PR message to wager that the renaming reflects EA trying to telegraph to investors that some of its output is in the same bloody ballpark as Take-Two and Activision’s. Visceral is after all the source of EA’s gorier Godfather, Dead Space, and Dante’s Inferno franchises, and there’s also apparently a downloadable Jack the Ripper game in development there, too. (Many of the Sims titles previously handled by ‘Redwood Shores’ will now be made by the co-located The Sims Studio.)
Visceral’s two hundred employees are also working on Dead Space 2, which is due next year.
Owned by: Rockstar Games/Take-Two
Address: Carlton Square, 1 Greenside Row, Edinburgh, EH1 3AP, UK
Top Title: Grand Theft Auto IV
GRAND THEFT AUTO IV not only kept selling like hot drugs in 2009 – its fabulous DLC bundle for retail outsold most of the competition, too. Forget the long tail: As a character from Liberty City might say, it’s all about being Mr Big these days.
Located in Edinburgh and still wholly-owned by Take-Two Interactive (despite recurrent speculation of acquisition bids), Rockstar North is an enigma even in its home country. While Rockstar San Diego and other locations were rocked by allegations over working conditions, Rockstar North staff are either blissfully happy or in solitary confinement.
The studio is working on Agent, an original PS3 game being overseen by Rockstar’s founding Houser brothers, who agreed a deal in late 2008 locking them in until 2012. A new GTA release is undoubtedly underway, too.
Owned by: Electronic Arts
Address: 209 Redwood Shores Parkway, Redwood City, CA 94065, USA
Top Title: The Sims 3
HALF THE GAMING world still thinks Maxis makes the
The Sims, but that hasn’t been true for years.
Maxis is all about Spore; instead, EA created The Sims
Studio to handle the proliferation of The Sims IP across
sequels, the next set of MySims console spin-offs, and
countless expansion packs. Some of the latter – such as
World Adventures – are even considered bestsellers
in their own right.
However even that’s not the whole story, because The
Sims Studio isn’t a studio, but a division of EA Play that
includes several production teams, working out of EA’s
Redwood offices. Complicating matters further, a team
from The Sims Studio has moved to EA Salt Lake City.
A console release for The Sims 3 is rumoured this year,
as well as more MySims games. EA has also pencilled in
a new PC Sims product for early 2011.
Address: 10500 NE 8th Street, Suite 1000, Bellevue, MA 98009,USA
Top Title: Left 4 Dead 2
NOW A SOLID three-franchise company – with Half-
Life, Left 4 Dead, and Portal – not to mention a digital
distribution pioneer with Steam, it’s a wonder Valve took
so long to outgrow its old Bellevue, Washington offices.
But with its headcount hitting 225, the superdeveloper
finally transplanted to custom-built offices this year. The new place is about three times bigger, with around 100,000 sq. ft. of prime game development floor space – the perfect environment to make Portal 2 (due late 2010) and Half-life 3 (due someday over the rainbow).
Another big change at Valve is its support for the MacOS platform via native code and Steam. Left 4 Dead 2and its forerunner as well as other Valve games will bereleased for Apple Macs, albeit it through Steam ratherthan retail.
Owned by: Namco Bandai
Address: 9F Taiyo Seimei Shinagawa Building, 2-16-2
Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 108-0075, Japan
Top Title: Tekken 6
THERE IS AN interesting juxtaposition in Namco Bandai’s
top five sellers for 2009. The above list makes up 73 per
cent of its UK sales – for other studios, its top five games tend to be its only five sellers. Namco instead has a diverse slate of games.
In its Wii Balance Board titles – branded ‘Family’ in
Europe – we see the newer and more casual-friendly
Namco Bandai. The Wii is the single biggest platform for
the its publisher parent, according to its most recent
earnings report. Yet the Japanese giant’s best-seller in the UK, Tekken 6, is very much somethin the more hardcore, pre-Bandai merger Namco of old is known for.
As with all entries in the Develop 100, we’re counting
Namco Bandai-developed games, which means several
fanboy-friendly ‘Namco games’ like Klonoa made by thirdparty studios don’t count towards this tally.
Owned by: Warner Bros (majority stakeholder; Square Enix/Eidos retains a minority share)
Address: 1 Ballards Lane, Finchley, London N3 ILQ, UK
Top Title: Batman: Arkham Asylum
IT’S IMPOSSIBLE NOT to see Rocksteady as a phoenix
that arose from the wildfire that swept through UK game
development in the Noughties. Following the collapse of
Argonaut in 2004, the team behind game-in-progress Roll Call set-up Rocksteady Studios to finish it.
Rocksteady was kept afloat by a cash infusion from SCi in 2005 in exchange for a 25.1% stake; this later became Eidos’ and then Square Enix Europe’s as UK development continued.
Along the way Roll Call became 2006’s Urban Chaos: Riot Response, and Rocksteady secured the gig to develop Batman: Arkham Asylum, which was released to praisefilled reviews.
Finally, Warner Bros bought Rocksteady in early 2010 –
Square Enix retains its 25.1 per cent share. Rocksteady employs around 70 staff in North London, and is hard at work on an Arkham follow up.
Owned by: Electronic Arts
Address: 1950 Summit Park Drive, Orlando, FL 32810, USA
Top Title: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
IF IT AIN’T broke, don’t fix it – we can only guess this
is the motto used by EA to describe its erstwhile Tiburon, Florida offices.
With the jury out on EA’s shift to original IP and its
recent closing of studios and projects across the board
– let alone its middling push into the casual, online, and
social spaces, or the slightly desperate-seeming $400
million purchase of Facebook startup PlayFish – you’d
think the banker behind Tiger Woods and Madden was
Not so. Jobs went at Tiburon in January 2009 and more in November last year, as EA took out 2,500 positions from across its development resources in barely two years. Despite the losses, the studio added a new IP to its roster – fighting game EA Sports MMA – for release later this year.
Owned by: Electronic Arts
Address: Onslow House, Onslow Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4TN, UK
Top Title: Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince
DEPLOYING THE PENULTIMATE Harry Potter title
across every major format magicked EA’s ‘other’ UK developer up the rankings in 2009. Reviews were only fair, but the sales were great and the original score was good enough to secure composer James Hannigan a BAFTA.
While the Guildford team developed all EA’s Potter
titles, it would be hard to pin a ‘Bright Light’ sensibility
onto the series, and the label is yet to live up to some of
the more ambitious talk at the time of its rebranding.
But in delivering not particularly ambitious takes on Potter in time for the movies’ release dates, or competent digital incarnations of Hasbro’s IP, the studio seems a very safe pair of hands.
Indeed, EA Bright Light recently picked up development of the Spielbergoriginated Boom Blox franchise from EA Los Angeles.
Owned by: Ubisoft
Address: 28 rue Armand Carrel, 93 108 Montreuil Cedex, France
Top Title: Just Dance
DEVELOPED BY THE mega-publisher’s Parisian office, Just Dance had sold two million units by March, which Ubisoft says makes it ‘the fastest selling new intellectual property from a third-party publisher on Wii’.
Not one of the more obvious scalps, that one, but we take the point – Just Dance will be with us for roughly ever from here onwards. After all, Ubisoft’s ancient mega-IP – Rayman – is still going strong, thanks to the Rabbids brand extension, with Ubisoft Montepelier’s title getting a good reception from the casual congregation on Wii, though less so on DS.
That studio is apparently still working on Beyond Good & Evil 2 under the direction of Michel Ancel, as well as a Tintin movie tie-in for 2011. Ubisoft Paris just delivered the Wiimote-toting gunslinger, Red Steel 2.
Owned by: Electronic Arts
Address: One Bentall Centre, Box 77, 505 Burrard Street, Vancouver, Canada
Top Title: Need for Speed: Undercover
EA CLOSED Black Box’s gorgeous offices in downtown
Vancouver in early 2009, fired more than half the staff,
and relocated the remainder to nearby Burnaby.
All of which raises several questions. Firstly, was EA right to shut the studio in a seemingly near-random pursuit of headcount cuts, given the subsequent good reviews and sales of Skate 2? (Perhaps – Black Box’s NFS: Undercover sold well in 2009, too, and nobody thought that was a great game.)
Secondly, why hasn’t EA closed the old EA Black Box
website? Did they fire the chap responsible? It seems a
cruel memorial, or a warning, like a head on a stake. Talking of which: there were more layoffs in late 2009, and we presume the Black Box identity will disappear in time. Perhaps soon – Skate 3 just shipped.
Owned by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Address: 1601 Cloverfield Blvd, Suite 6000 North, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA
Top Title: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
IT MAY BE an obvious choice (like Warren Buffett buying safe Coca-Cola shares and IT managers always choosing IBM) but if Develop was forced to invest into just one studio we’d plump for Naughty Dog.
Whether it’s in the culture, the water, or a Faustian pact with the game gods, its most recent Uncharted games prove that Naughty Dog just keeps getting better.
Uncharted 2 is second only to GTA IV in the PS3 quality rankings according to Metacritic, and with 3.5 million sales worldwide as of February 2010, it’s Sony’s fastest-ever selling PlayStation title, too.
What’s most remarkable, given the lifecycle of similar
studios, is how the Californian company survived both
its acquisition in 2001 by Sony, and the departure of
charismatic founder Jason Rubin in 2005.
Owned by: Sega
Address: PO Box 60255, London, EC1P 1GG, UK
Top Title: Football Manager 2010
THE PREMIER FOOTBALL management studio continues to do the business for Sega. Football Manager 2009 sold steadily for much of the year, before the 2010 update hit shelves in October.
“Newcomers will pick it up and never want to put it down,” was how The Telegraph put the traditional warning. With an office in London’s Old Street, Sports Interactive now has 60 full-time staff and also calls upon over 1,000 researchers and translators around the world.
It continues to work on the Football Manager series, as well as Football Manager Handheld for PSP as well as its multiplayer online game, Football Manager Live, which was recently rebooted.
Its R&D department is also busy working on new ideas, of which Football Manager on iPhone is the most recent to come to fruition.