Blizzard conquers Develop 100

Annual list of world's most bankable development houses topped by the WOW machine; Nintendo bumped into second place.

UK trade magazine Develop has published its annual list of the most bankable game studios. The chart is based on UK, US, and Japanese sales figures, as well as more nebulous benchmarks such as their impact on nonretail channels, critical acclaim, and general industry standing.

Last year's chart--the last to be based purely on retail sales--saw Nintendo oust EA Canada from the top of the chart as the overwhelming success of Nintendo's first-party games pushed EA's sports franchises out of the limelight. This year, it's the resurgent Japanese giant's turn to be pushed aside by American behemoth Blizzard Entertainment.

The Californian studio--estimated to employ 2,700 people across the globe, primarily in customer service--was called out for generating $100 million (£66.1million) every single month from World of Warcraft. The company also released the fastest-selling PC game of all time in the form of the MMOG's second expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard delivered $1.34 billion to the coffers of its megalithic parent, Activision Blizzard, during the course of 2008.

Nintendo came in second, in no small part thanks to the success of evergreen games Mario Kart DS, Brain Training, Nintendogs, and New Super Mario Bros, which all sold in excess of four million copies in 2008, despite all but one of them having been originally released in early 2005. Also called out were the successes of Mario Kart Wii (13 million copies sold in 2008), Wii Fit (10 million copies sold), and Wii Play (8 million copies in the US alone, topping the annual Wii software chart in the process).

Rockstar North, whose third-place position bumped 2007 winner EA Canada into fourth place, was the UK's standard-bearer thanks to the massive success of GTAIV. Traveller's Tales, maker of the Lego-based games, and Little Big Planet developer Media Molecule also made it into the top 20. Lionhead snuck into the chart at number 22 thanks to the success of Fable 2.

There are other interesting rivalries reflected in the Develop chart positions. Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics is ranked above Square Enix--despite Square's recent buyout of Eidos, which publishes the Tomb Raider franchise. Then there's the placing of Neversoft 10 places above Harmonix; the two rival Guitar Hero/Rock Band studios were placed at 15 and 26, respectively.

Treyarch's place one slot above Infinity Ward may cause some ripples of dissent among Call of Duty fans, but it makes sense financially due to the success of Call of Duty: World at War during 2008, and the moderate success of movie tie-in Quantum of Solace.

American studios led the way overall, with 29 entries in the top 100; 25 of the top 100 were British, 23 were Japanese, 14 Canadian, two South Korean (Nexon and NCsoft), two French (Ubisoft Paris and Gameloft), and for the first time, two Australian studios (Krome and Blue Tongue) made the list. The list was rounded off by single entries for Sweden (EA DICE), Germany (Crytek), Iceland (CCP), and Norway (Funcom).

The full chart can be seen on the Develop 100 site.

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