10. Atari Inc.
Years active: 1972-1984 (as Atari Inc.), 1984-1998 (as Atari Corporation) 2002-2013 (as Atari Interactive, now defunct)
Known for: Pong, Breakout, Combat, Asteroids, Adventure, Centipede, Missile Command and Millipede.
Can you remember the time when Atari dominated the video game market? Not many gamers today do. I wasn't even born when Atari were at their brilliant best. Yet their arcade titles from the 70's and early 80's are some of their most defining titles, and the Atari 2600 is the console upon which our entire industry today is based. For many 30-40 year old gamers the 2600 would have been their first exposure to video games, and the name Atari will always remain synonymous with the industry for them. Back then you didn't play anything other than Atari. Despite countless other companies, such as Mattel, Fairchild, Bally and Coleco also creating consoles, Atari remained the market lead for years. But eventually an over saturation of consoles and bad games in the market place brought around a crash, resulting in many gaming companies either folding or pulling out of the market. The crash resulted in the end for Atari, despite their name getting dragged all over the place for the last 30 years.
9. Rockstar North
Years active: 1988-2002 (as DMA Design), 2002-present (as Rockstar North)
Known for: Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt.
If you don't like Grand Theft Auto you'll probably feel I've rated Rockstar too highly. But those who do like Grand Theft Auto will understand why Rockstar made my top 10. While the early GTA games for the PlayStation weren't memorable, Rockstar North, or as they were then known as DMA Designs, released Grand Theft Auto III for the PS2 in 2001 to universal acclaim. The title is seen today as the start of the sandbox genre, although some feel Shenmue should take that prize. But it doesn't matter which invented the genre, Grand Theft Auto III was a fantastic game and built the foundations which sandbox games are still based on today. It was followed a year later by Vice City, then in 2004 San Andreas rolled around. San Andreas was huge, one of the biggest games ever made for the PS2 in terms of content. Outside of Grand Theft Auto the company has also been responsible for other games. GTA is hugely controversial thanks to its depiction of violence, yet Manhunt, another Rockstar North game, took the controversy even further. It was so graphic in its depiction of violence that it was banned in some countries.
8. BioWare Corp.
Years active: 1995-present
Known for: Baldur's Gate, MDK2, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Originally founded in 1995, BioWare rose to fame thanks to a selection of wonderful RPGs based on the second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, all of which were originally produced by Interplay. Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II are seen as the games that revived the computer RPG genre, and their engines and general game play mechanics were used on other AD&D games. Their next title, Neverwinter Nights, was the last of their games to use the D&D rules, and was followed by Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, the first two games BioWare made for consoles. This generation BioWare has reached a level of fame beyond what they were previously accustomed to. Mass Effect and Dragon Age have proven some of the greatest modern RPG efforts, and fans have especially taken to Mass Effect's intricate, three game story arc. EA bought them out a few years ago, and they seem dead certain to dilute their brand. The future for BioWare may not recapture their glory years, but we are all better off for the experiences they have already delivered.
Years active: 1983-present
Known for: Gradius, Castlevania, Metal Gear, Contra, Bionic Commando, Pro Evolution Soccer, Suikoden, Dance Dance Revolution and Silent Hill.
Konami was one of the best third party developers for the NES, releasing such timeless classics as Castlevania, Contra and Bionic Commando for the system. One defining aspect of their NES titles was their difficulty. Those games were so god damn hard that most modern gamers will probably not be able to stand up to them. But those who grew up playing Konami games knew no different, they played the games constantly and eventually grew a think skin. Their biggest franchise today is Metal Gear, a franchise of story-heavy stealth titles created by Hideo Kojima. The first two games were released for the MSX exclusively in Japan, all the west got were a couple of poorly ported NES versions. They weren't nice at all. Metal Gear is seen today as one of the most influential games Konami ever made. But the series never hit the big time until 1998, when a little title called Metal Gear Solid hit the PlayStation. It was big, to say the least, and is seen by many today as the best game on Sony's debut console. Their other big franchises include Silent Hill, Pro Evolution Soccer, Gradius, Suikoden and Dance Dance Revolution.
Years active: 1983-present
Known for: Mega Man, Street Fighter, Capcom vs. Series, Resident Evil, Darkstalkers, Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter.
Capcom are probably seen as the kings of the fighting genre, mainly thanks to the likes of Street Fighter, Darkstalkers and Marvel vs. Capcom. But labelling them as that alone diminishes their creativity in other genres. Back in the days of the NES the company was rocking out to Mega Man, some of the best action platformers of their day, while Resident Evil and Dino Crisis set the basis for what became the survival horror genre for the PlayStation. Devil May Cry, originally a spin-off for Resident Evil, eventually became a franchise of its own, and harkened back to the glory days of the beat 'em up genre. And Monster Hunter, while not massive in the west, has continually improved over the years. Although it is indeed their fighting games which they will be most remembered for. Street Fighter II is one of the highest grossing video games of all time in terms of revenue, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is more often than not voted as the greatest fighting game in history. But like some other developers in this list Capcom today aren't the force they once were, as they've resulted to using dirty on-disc DLC tactics to grease more and more hard-earned cash off their fans. But over the course of the history of the industry there aren't many other names that have demanded as much respect.
5. Valve Corporation
Years active: 1996-present
Known for: Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Day of Defeat, Portal, Left 4 Dead and Steam.
Valve's debut title, Half-Life, is arguably the greatest game of its kind and easily one of the greatest debut titles any video game company has ever produced. Its sequel is often seen by many (myself included) as even better, and the likes of Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, Day of Defeat and Portal cement them as the greatest first-person shooter creators of all time. They may not have created the genre, but Valve has perfected it. One of the main reasons why I love genre is because of Valve, and in a time when an influx of poorly made first-person shooters are hitting store shelves Valve remain a shining light and a reminder of how good the genre can be when at its best. I can't praise their games enough. Outside of creating games Valve have also developed Steam, a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform. It is used to distribute gamers and related media online from indie developers and larger software teams. Since its launch Steam has proven to be extremely popular, housing nearly 2000 individual games and more than 54 million active user accounts. It is estimated that between 50% and 70% of all digitally distributed video games are bought off Steam.
4. Sega AM2
Years active: 1983-present
Known for: Space Harrier, Hang-On, Out Run, Afterburner, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop, Daytona USA and Shenmue.
Nobody made better coin-operated games than Sega, and when it came to their biggest arcade hits they were always the responsibility of AM2. During the 80's and 90's AM2, lead by the legendary Yu Suzuki, were an unstoppable force, one that found a knack for making games people just wanted to spend all their pocket money playing. Games like Space Harrier, Hang-On, Out Run and Afterburner are some of the best examples of Sega's prowess during the 2D era, while revolutionary 3D titles such as Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop and Daytona USA were big shining lights during the company's downfall. But since the mid 90s, or more specifically the release of the PlayStation, the demand for arcades has diminished. As time has passed AM2 became less relevant in the gaming world, and Sega started to give them less of a staring role. Their last great games included the likes of Daytona USA 2001, the follow up to the original arcade and Saturn hit, the brilliant Virtua Fighter 4 and Shenmue, a series that still to this day isn't complete. Shenmue gained notoriety for the fact that it was the most expensive video game ever made when it was released in 2000, costing Sega in excess of $70 million to plan, develop and manufacture. The title used highly advanced and sophisticated game mechanics. It was the first game to have an internal clock that dictated at which times certain events could be activated (a mechanic labelled Time Control), and included the first example of randomised weather patterns in a video game (a technology named Magic Weather). Each and every NPC the player could interact with was also fully voiced, and each had his or her own scripted daily activities. It was one of the most realistic video games ever made and gave a huge amount of freedom to the player. But because it cost so much it is reported that it would have had to sell two copies for each individual Dreamcast unit to turn a profit. In the end, although it was one of the best selling Dreamcast games, selling 1.3 million units, it was a commercial failure.
3. Rare Ltd.
Years active: 1985-present
Known for: Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, Blast Corps, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and Star Fox Adventures.
What I am going to say next I can safely say with the up most confidence. Rare is the greatest developer to ever emerge from either Europe or North America. I know it's a bold claim, especially when they are competing against the likes of Valve, BioWare, and Rockstar, but I genuinely believe they are. And I wouldnt say so without anything to reinforce my point. Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark and Conkers Bad Fur Day - all these names have gone down in history as some of the industries most fondly remembered titles. During the late 80's and 90's Rare were all but untouchable. As a second-party Nintendo developer they consistently released titles that at times even challenged the brilliance of Nintendos revered EAD. Banjo-Kazooie, released in 1998, built upon the foundations of Super Mario 64 and in the minds of many surpassed it, while GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark reinforced their reputation as the kings of console first-person shooters. Their work on the SNES with Donkey Kong Country, taking on one of Nintendo's own franchises, is still highly praised today, while their arcade hit Killer Instinct took the best elements of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and mixed them together. And can anyone ever forget the likes of Conker's Bad Fur Day, Jet Force Gemini or Blast Corps? It's just such a shame that for the past decade Rare have been a shadow of their former selves. In 2002 Nintendo sold their 49% stake in Rare to Microsoft for $375 million, the biggest amount ever paid at the time for a video game company, after Rare's top brass had already negotiated the sale of their 51%. Microsoft fans would have expected a lot, and Nintendo fans were certainly sad to see them go, but the sale has proven to be the biggest mistake the people in charge of Rare ever made. Since the sale the drop in quality has been clear to all, and many of their main staff, including founders and brothers, Tim and Chris Stamper, have left for pastures green. Many of the departed staff members have specifically pointed to Microsoft as the main reason for the downfall of the company. Looking at Rare today, it's a case of what if. What if Nintendo never sold their ownership? What if Microsoft gave them more freedom? It makes me feel sad really. It should make all their fans feel sad. Its not nice to see a company you love get ripped to shreds. And for me the Rare of today have suffered a fate far worse than death, as they still exist, but I dont care in the slightest.
Years active: 1983-2003 (merged with Enix to form Square Enix)
Known for: Final Fantasy, Mana, SaGa, Front Mission, Chrono, Parasite Eve, Xenogears, Brave Fencer Musashi, Vagrant Story, and Kingdom Hearts.
Although now technically defunct, during their existence SquareSoft were the ultimate creators of role-playing games. Spearheading their dominance of the genre was none other than Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. During his time at Square he was instrumental in their rise, touching pretty much every game the company released in some way. Final Fantasy, while not the start of Japanese RPGs, is certainly the most popular and critically acclaimed name in the genre, and Chrono Trigger is seen as the greatest role-playing video game of all time in the eyes of many. Even the likes of Secret of Mana, Chrono Cross, Parasite Eve, SaGa, Front Mission, Brave Fencer Musashi, Vagrant Story and Xenogears, IPs created by other Square employees, got some of the Sakaguchi treatment. In many ways he didn't just work for Square, he was Square. But because of the huge commercial failure of his feature film, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and because of the sheer amount of debt it landed on Square, he left the company in 2001. Since then the company has gone on to merge with their former rival Enix to form Square Enix. But since the merger the company has been only a shadow of its former self and has seen many of its employees leave to start companies of their own.
1. Nintendo EAD
Entertainment Analysis and Development
Years active: 1983-present
Known for: Super Mario, Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Star Fox, Wave Race, Animal Crossing, Pikmin, Nintendogs and Wii Series.
No other company has had an impact on our industry quite like Nintendo. Boasting some of the industries most recognisable figures the company has been responsible for most of the biggest franchises in the business. And none of their studios has had as much of an impact as their formidable EAD division. EAD are responsible for the development and creation of franchises such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, Star Fox, Pikmin and Nintendogs, to name but a few. And the calibre of their games is unquestionable. While Donkey Kong was seen as the birth of the platform genre, Super Mario Bros. brought it to the masses and perfected the formula. The Legend of Zelda was the first example of a massive, open world game where the player had complete freedom to do what they pleased. And Star Fox, thanks to its Super FX chip, was the first experience many console gamers had of 3D gaming. Many of their games revolutionised the way games were made and played. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, their most acclaimed game, introduced many concepts to 3D gaming that are still widely used today, and Super Mario 64, which laid the main groundwork for 3D gaming in general, was also the first example of a game in which the player had control over the in-game camera and fluid movement thanks to the analogue stick. Over the course of the last six years Nintendo has also introduced motion controls to the masses and expanded the scope of gaming with the Wii. Games such as Wii Sports are even more examples of Nintendos constant evolution of game playing ideas. Playing Nintendo's titles reminds us all of why we started playing games in the first place. And you can expect Nintendo EAD to carry on crafting magical game experiences for many more years to come.
It's funny how a lot of people hate Capcom because of the Mega Man Legends 3 fiasco, yet I think they still make great games.
I agree with this list :)