Founded 2006 Origin Denmark Notable games Limbo
Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti spent several years toiling for mainstream developers before forming Playdead to bring the allegorical adventure Limbo to monochrome life. Key to that game’s success was its uncompromising attention to detail and deeply personal feel – values that Playdead will surely bring to its next release.
29. Eidos Montreal
Founded 2007 Origin Canada Notable games Deus Ex: Human Revolution
It usually takes a mature studio to make a game as assured as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and yet it was Eidos Montreal’s first release. This richly conceived continuation of Ion Storm’s cyberpunk opus gives us great hope for the studio’s next project, Thief 4, another sequel with impeccable, if creatively challenging, credentials.
With the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3’s ending, the loss of 400,000 Old Republic subscribers and the departure of its founders, 2012 was a dramatic year for the RPG specialist. BioWare is bruised and bloodied, but with a new Dragon Age and Mass Effect in development, it’s still a leader.
27. EA Canada
Founded 1983 Origin Canada Notable games FIFA, Skate, The Sims 3
EA’s largest studio continues to be its most reliable cash cow, with both the FIFA and Sims brands being farmed to within an inch of their lives. But they’re realised with such a commitment to consistent quality that you can hardly begrudge the approach.
26. Firaxis Games
Founded 1996 Origin US Notable games Sid Meier’s Civilization V, XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Having spent years crafting Civilization V to critical acclaim, Firaxis went on to release XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a remake of a classic that made sensitive and intelligent tweaks to superb effect. Firaxis is the kind of studio that’s seemingly never in a rush, and the games it makes exemplify that care.
25. 343 Industries
Founded 2007 Origin US Notable games Halo 4
Operating out of Bungie’s old office in Kirkland, Washington, 343 Industries did just what it needed to with Halo 4, creating an assured and reverential continuation of the series. The fact it achieved this from a standing start, forming the studio as it built the game, speaks well for a future in which 343 will surely be key to launching the next Xbox.
24. Gearbox Software
The Texas-based shooter specialist has carved out a characterful niche in a suffocating market, and yet always resists pigeonholing, offering witty schlock in Borderlands and historical tactics in Brothers In Arms. The jury’s out on Aliens: Colonial Marines and who knows what BIA: Furious 4 will bring, but such questions only highlight the studio’s knack for surprises.
By pushing emotion and aesthetics to the fore, Jenova Chen’s team has taken art games into the mainstream. The extraordinary Journey struck a powerful chord with its beautiful audio, visual and multiplayer design. Having finished a three-game contract with Sony, and with many of its core staff gone, the studio’s future is uncertain, but it’s still a beacon for the power of new ideas.
22. Terry Cavanagh
With the recent success of reflex masterpiece Super Hexagon, Cavanagh has shown that platformer VVVVVV was anything but a fluke. A frequent contributor to game jams and a passionate evangelist for other indies’ work, he’s an important proponent of the idea that games can be a form of self-expression. But if there’s a secret to his work that all should learn from, it’s that his games are never self-indulgent.
21. Double Fine Productions
Founded 2000 Origin US Notable games Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Happy Action Theater
Tim Schafer’s lovable studio remains a refuge for inventive and original design, even if the likes of Stacking, Iron Brigade and Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster also proved frustratingly underdeveloped. But with its public explorations of how a small studio with bright ideas can carve its own path in a turbulent industry, Double Fine has become an exemplar for a new model of development, a point pressed home by Double Fine Adventure’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign and inclusive ventures such as the recent Amnesia Fortnight Humble Bundle.
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