Metacritic spends its days and nights gathering together every review score under the sun, amalgamating them into single scores to help people decide what games they should get (and to help publishers decide who gets bonuses, unfortunately). Then, the site takes all those scores and boils them down and ranks each publisher. The results are out for 2016, and Electronic Arts is sitting on top.
Electronic Arts eked out a win over Square Enix as the top publisher for the year with an average Metascore of 79.7, up almost 8 points from last year. 79 percent of the company’s releases were positively reviewed, and Titanfall 2 was the publisher’s best-liked game with a Metascore of 89.
Square Enix was right behind them. Previously, Square Enix had been considered a mid-sized publisher, but they released 17 more games in 2016 and, as Metacritic notes, only saw their metascore drop by .2 points in the process. That’s a small change for such a big increase in games released.
Nintendo, Sony, and XSEED round out the top five. Sony’s spot at #4 shows how a few bad games can tank an overall rating here. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the first game on the list to break a Metascore of 90, but a plethora of strictly-okay VR games and the disappointment called No Man’s Sky pushed them down the list.
Among mid-size publishers, the top honors go to Paradox Interactive, Sega, Microsoft Game Studios, Take-Two Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive.
The presence of XSEED as a major publisher and Microsoft and Take-Two as mid-size is enough to raise an eyebrow, but MetaCritic’s rankings are based purely on how many games a publisher releases, and now how many people they employ or how much money they make.
By the numbers
A list like this can be taken with somewhat of a grain of salt. Each single review of a game is subjective, and some of Metacritic’s interpretations of review scores is subjective as well. Not only that, but what one site means by 70 percent can be totally different from what another site suggests. A list like this can’t account for a company like Rockstar releasing a gigantic blockbuster every few years, either.
However, these amalgamated scores do a good job of showing which publishers are consistently good. Square Enix expanded their offerings this year and released a huge list of solid, fun games, and EA can be depended on to release stuff that people generally enjoy – even though they have the occasional stinker. The EA Sports arm does a lot to bolster that score, for sure, and the excellent performance of Battlefield 1 didn’t hurt, either. It also shows us how launching new hardware like PlayStation VR can be a drain on a publisher – even one as big as Sony.
Perhaps the thing to watch most on the list is the change from the previous year. Electronic Arts, Square Enix, and Nintendo both saw their average Metascores jump substantially, which is notable especially for big publishers who release a bunch of games. The quality is raising across the board for them, rather than them having one or two big hits or misses to throw things off.
I don’t know that anyone should be using this list to make any purchasing or business decisions, we know exactly who to keep an eye on for the coming year.