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[]

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

2017 Name of Publisher Revenue in $bn
1 China Tencent Games 18.2
2 United States Sony Interactive Entertainment[12] 10.5
3 United States Apple 8.0
4 United States Microsoft 7.1
5 United States Activision Blizzard 6.5
6 China NetEase 5.6
7 United States Google 5.3
8 United States EA 5.1
9 Japan Nintendo 3.6
10 Japan 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 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 United States Aksys Games N/A
16 Sweden Deep Silver 9
17 France Focus Home Interactive 10
  1. ^ Was #1 as a major publisher
  2. ^ Was #7 as a major publisher


  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 (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. ^ 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. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-21. Retrieved 2013-12-20.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. ^ "Newzoo: Top 25 game companies captured 77% of $121.7 billion market". May 9, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  12. ^ "SIE Company Profile". Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Rita Liao (2017-07-03). "World's top grossing mobile game debunks gender stereotype". technode. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  14. ^ "Metacritic's 5th Annual Game Publisher Rankings",, CBS Interactive Inc., January 30, 2014