Every year publishers vie for the attention of consumers. They are able to do this through many ways, such as spending money on marketing, or releasing quality games that travel through organic word of mouth. Ultimately, every company is competing for the almighty dollar.
This year we saw many publishers have stellar years. All three of the console manufacturers made a great case for owning every piece of hardware, and several third party publishers were just as impressive. This award wasn’t decided by quality or quantity as each of the publishers that were nominated had plenty of both.
While Sony barely showed the PlayStation Vita any love in 2015, they were absolutely smitten with the PlayStation 4. While they lacked big names, they were able to provide PS4 owners with a fantastic year of gaming that featured surprise hits like Until Dawn. It’s rare to see a new IP catch on rapidly, but that’s exactly what happened with the Supermassive Games developed horror title. Fans were also treated to Bloodborne early on in the year.
While big series such as God of War and Uncharted didn’t see new installments, Sony made sure to whet fans’ appetite with remastered versions of PlayStation 3 titles. Other Sony published ports included a new version of Ultra Street Fighter IV, and Beyond: Two Souls.
On the downloadable front, the publisher impressed with several sequels. Driveclub Bikes is an expansion that is better than the base game, and Fat Princess Adventures is a fun twist on an established series. It wasn’t all iterative games, though, as the developer also published some interesting titles such as the cooperative based Helldivers and the narrative-driven Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
Sadly, for the Japanese powerhouse there were some notable missteps such as The Order: 1886, and a buggy (at launch) version of Ultra Street Fighter IV.
While Microsoft Studios didn’t put out many games this year, the ones they did were of a high quality. From snagging Rise of the Tomb Raider as a timed exclusive to putting out new original games such as Screamride, Xbox fans had a lot to enjoy in 2015.
The North American publisher also saw new entries in two of its biggest series as both Forza and Halo received a numeric sequel. While there was plenty of fun to be had in their brand new titles, the publisher published two mediocre remasters in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and State of Decay: Year-One Edition. Both titles had their fair share of issues, and didn’t fully take advantage of the added power of the Xbox One.
Two of the year’s most delightful games came from Microsoft as Ori and the Blind Forest and Rare Replay both came out in 2015. Ori was able to dazzle fans with gorgeous visuals and tight gameplay, as Rare Replay was a nostalgic wonderland for gamers.
Nintendo always has to have a strong year as they are the primary developer for both of its systems, and the Japanese hardware manufacturer had a successful 2015. Big releases such as Super Mario Maker, and Splatoon were able to keep the Wii U in the headlines throughout the year. While neither title were big enough successes to fully reinvigorate the struggling system, they at least stopped it from bleeding out.
Nintendo also had handheld success with Legend of Zelda titles such as Majora’s Mask 3D and Tri Force Heroes. They also brought the Level-5 developed Yo-Kai Watch to North America. The RPG is a huge hit in Japan, and Nintendo hopes to see the series thrive in North America as well.
That said, Nintendo also ended up publishing some of the worst games of the year. Gamers saw the release of not one, but two mediocre Animal Crossing games, and Nintendo had its name on the box of Devil’s Third.
While it may have not been the best year in recent history for EA, the mega-publisher still managed to put out some of the biggest games of 2015. Star Wars Battlefront may have not been the in-depth shooter that some were hoping for, but it does succeed in being a fun, accessible game. The same goes for the FMV-laden reboot of Need for Speed.
The publisher’s sports output was also a huge part of their year, as they launched Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, and new installments of FIFA, Madden, and NBA Live. Well, maybe we shouldn’t talk about NBA Live. There were also mobile hits such as Minions Paradise and Peggle Blast.
While the quality wasn’t quite enough for EA to take top honors, it was nonetheless another impressive year for the studio.
No publisher had a better year in 2015 than Devolver Digital. Boasting both quantity and quality, the indie publisher was able to release highly anticipated sequels like Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and launch surprise hits such as Downwell.
Perhaps what is most impressive is that despite releasing over 10 games this year, Devolver Digital didn’t put out a single bad one. The gamer-friendly publisher has a great eye for what makes a great game, and their track record is practically flawless.
We’ve been playing games put out by Devolver Digital all year long, and we’ll continue to play hits like Titan Souls and Ronin well into 2016. While it will be hard for Fork Parker and company to top their 2015 output, they are surely up for the task.