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.

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[]

A Graphviz graphic showing major video game publishers structures

Below are the largest publicly held publishers according to their games net revenue earning in billions of dollars during 2019-2020 fiscal and calendar periods.[11] The list does not include privately held companies, such as Epic Games and Valve Corporation.

FY 2020-2021 Name of Publisher HQ Country Revenue in $bn
1 Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan, United States 18.190
2 Tencent Games China 16.224
3 Nintendo Japan 12.010
4 Microsoft United States 10.260
5 NetEase China 6.668
6 Activision Blizzard United States 6.388
7 Electronic Arts United States 5.537
8 Take-Two Interactive United States 3.089
9 Bandai Namco Entertainment Japan 3.018
10 Square Enix Japan 2.386
11 Nexon South Korea, Japan 2.286
12 Netmarble South Korea 1.883
13 Ubisoft France 1.446
14 Konami Japan 1.303
15 Sega Japan 1.153
16 Capcom Japan 0.7673
17 Embracer Group Sweden 0.3225

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.[12]

Mid-size publishers[]

Name of Publisher
505 Games (Italy)
Aksys Games (U.S)
Annapurna Interactive (U.S)
Devolver Digital (U.S)
Focus Entertainment (France)
Koei Tecmo (Japan)
Marvelous Inc (Japan)
Nacon (France)
NCSoft (South Korea)
Nippon Ichi Software (Japan)
Paradox Interactive (Sweden)
Team17 (U.K)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (U.S)


  1. ^ Yoon, Andrew (September 10, 2007). "Months late, Spider-Man 3 goes to PSP with new content". Engadget. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  2. ^ Matthews, Matt (April 19, 2012). "Has video game retail become an entirely 'hits driven' industry?". Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  3. ^ "'White space' helps us understand the strategic direction of gaming mergers and acquisitions". August 12, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  4. ^ Messina, Judith (July 31, 2013). "Color Zen throws spotlight on city's games scene". Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  5. ^ "Activision Reduces Prototype Devs To "Support" Role, Significantly Reduces Staff Levels". TheSixthAxis. June 28, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  6. ^ "Activision cuts staff at 'Prototype' video game studio". June 28, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  7. ^ Sinclair, Brendan (September 14, 2006). "Activision exec prices PS3 games". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  8. ^ "PlayStation® Official Site – PlayStation Console, Games, Accessories". Playstation. Archived from the original on November 17, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Electronic Arts Breaks Into Fortune 500", Leigh Alexander, April 26, 2010, Fetched from Web on April 26, 2010.
  11. ^ Derek Strickland (May 22, 2020). "2019's top-earning video game companies: Sony conquers the charts | TweakTown". Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  12. ^ Rita Liao (July 3, 2017). "World's top grossing mobile game debunks gender stereotype". technode. Retrieved July 7, 2017.