Is anyone else tired going to their favorite gaming news site and seeing yet another headline about a prominent developer shutting their doors and another publisher bailing on the industry (like Disney Interactive did last year)?
Reading stories about talented individuals losing their jobs gets old. So how about changing the narrative away from company closures and instead discussing the new kids on the block? There are plenty of new, exciting players in the industry who are developing, producing, funding and publishing a variety of compelling games that deserve whatever attention my little blog can give.
Quick background: While seemingly everybody and their brother were shutting down, a lot changes were going on in the games industry. You would have to have been living under a rock the past five-ish years to not have noticed some of these significant shifts: The rise of independent development, the rise of digital distribution and of course crowd-funding. These three components (with various other factors) have made it possible for a new generation of video game publishers to open their doors and replace the “mid-tier” companies, such as THQ, that were lost during the transition to modern HD development.
I would like to highlight several of these newer video game publishers and the exciting, diverse and highly creative titles that they will be bringing to market over the next few years.
The Polish-based Techland are best known as the creators of Dying Light, Dead Island and Call of Juarez. Following the surprise, significant success of Dying Light in 2015, Techland announced the following year that they were going to start publishing games themselves. As a publisher they have thus far released the farming simulator Pure Farming 2017 and the classic RPG spiritual successor to Planetscape: Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera. At the moment they do not have any other games confirmed but we do know they plan to publish multiple games a year and have two Triple-A games of their own in development. Techland’s evolution as both a developer and publisher is a major factor in the rise of the industry in Eastern Europe over the past few years.
The Swedish-based Starbreeze Studios are best known for being the parent company of Overkill Software, creators of the hit co-op shooters Payday: The Heist and Payday 2. In 2015 they announced that they would begin publishing games themselves and even confirmed that they were developing a virtual-reality headset currently code named Project StarVR. Their first notable published title was the competitive horror/survival game Dead By Daylight, released on Steam in 2016 and coming soon to consoles. They have several other compelling titles on the way including the cult classic sequel, Psychonauts 2, and the co-op shooter, Raid: World War II. Their catalog is a compelling mix of smaller scale projects for mobile and pc as well as more traditional retail releases. They have already become a major fixture at industry events such as PAX and E3 and I expect we will be seeing a lot of exciting things from them for years to come.
Annapurna, and their creepy logo, have been involved with film production for most of their existence. However mere months ago in December 2016, the California-based company announced they would begin publishing creative and artistic video games. They certainly seem prepared to make a splash in this industry seeing how this division is headed up by former members of Sony Santa Monica’s external development division; the group involved with indie classics such as Journey and The Unfinished Swan. Their current slate of games includes the next title from The Unfinished Swan creators, Giant Sparrow, What Remains of Edith Finch as well as the unique and gorgeous Gorogoa and hunger-inducing Donut County. With their titles receiving plenty of early positive buzz, Annapurna seems poised to become a champion of artistic creativity in an industry already rich with it.
Already one of the largest wholly independent game developers in the world, Texas studio Gearbox Software announced their publishing arm in December 2016. The folks that brought us the blockbuster shooter franchise Borderlands as well as Battleborn and Brothers in Arms will be releasing their first published retail title, first person shooter Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, in April. They also published strategy game Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak on PC in 2016 shortly after acquiring the rights to the property. With Borderlands 3 in production, a new development office in Quebec and a full proper publishing label, the future is looking more than a little bright for Gearbox.
Double Fine was founded by legendary game designer, Tim Schafer and has produced more than a few cult hits over the years, including Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. Their more recent work includes the crowd-funding pioneer, Broke Age, along with smaller titles such as Costume Quest. A couple of years ago they low-key got involved with publishing charming indie projects from other quirky developers. Their upcoming titles includes the console port of multiplayer beat-em-up Gang Beasts, co-op adventure game Knights and Bikes and the trippy as hell, I’m not sure what it is, GNOG. In my view, Double Fine should serve as an example for other more mid-sized developers. Rather than punching above their weight or giving in to developing titles that don’t particularly interest them, they turned toward crowd-funding and establishing a varied portfolio of in-house original projects, remasters and the publishing of compelling indie titles for sustained success.
England-based developer Hello Games has made plenty of headlines over the past couple of years courtesy of their highly ambitious, successful and controversial space exploration game, No Man’s Sky. Despite the game’s mixed reception, Hello Games isn’t simply taking the mountains of cash they earned and calling it a day. Mere days ago at Game Developers Conference 2017, Hello Games founder and No Man’s Sky director Sean Murray announced their new publishing label, Hello Labs. They plan to fund and support one to two projects at a time that focus on experimental or procedural generation technology. While no games were announced alongside the label, one is confirmed to already be in development. Life post No Man’s Sky was in question for months but things seem to be looking up for Hello Games.
Okie dokie. Obviously I couldn’t include every notable new publisher to emerge in the past several years, but I wanted to recognize at least a few of them. I hope you enjoyed this write-up and I hope you take the time to explore their games in greater detail than I did here. There’s a lot of great and unique titles on the way from these guys and I wish each and every one success!