Develop, a super industry publication that focuses mainly on development topics and inside baseball, has just released its annual “Develop 100” article, a listing that ranks the top 100 game developers of the year. Normally, we wouldn’t cover this kind of thing, but 2011’s list is remarkable in that it ranks several smartphone-focused studios at the tiptop of the gargantuan list brimming with behemoth houses with hundreds of staffers.
If you take a gander, you’ll see that 2D Boy, the creator of World of Goo [$2.99 / HD], is sitting at number two. Zepto Lab, the creator of Cut the Rope [$.99 / HD] sits at number three just below God of War developers SCE Santa Monica, while Media Vision, The Coding Monkeys, 1337 Game Design, and Rockstar Leeds round out the rest of the top ten. Respectively, these houses built Chaos Rings [$12.99 / HD], Carcassonne [$9.99], Dark Nebula [$.99], and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars [$9.99 / HD].
Nintendo grabbed the number one position, if you’re wondering.
That’s a lot of surprises in just the top ten, so I did a little digging. The digital version of the list notes that, for the first time, Develop is using Metacritic data “for the backbone” of the rankings, which means that numbers at the end of reviews and not sales are dictating the listings.
If that sounds weird to you, we’re on the same page. Smartphone press and popular enthusiast games press are two different beasts and their respective games are wildly different in terms of scale, depth, complexity, mechanics, and markets. Also, Metacritic used in this way isn't the best measure of quality, either -- niche games tend to only be reviewed by niche reviewers.
But anyway, at the end of the day here, we’ve got a listing that is composed of 50 or so iPad and iPod Touch developers included with studios like Rockstar North. I think that’s neat, though I’m not sure the metrics used here is something I can get behind.