Sickeningly Rich Men

By Alec Meer on April 10th, 2008 at 10:59 pm.

HIS HAT IS CALLED HELM

So the fourth annual Develop 100 results are in, which means we now know which developers are currently wearing the most towering money-hats, based on UK retail in 2007. Multi-format types are busy cooing tediously about Nintendo’s place at the top of the list, but it’s all a little different if you squint at the roster through PC-tinted spectacles.

Infinity Ward and Maxis sitting pretty in the top ten is all very obvious – though, much as I liked it, Call of Duty 4′s continuing omnipresence has me worried about the inevitable plague of indistinguishable modern combaty shooters we’re gonna see in droves over the next year or two – but what really caught my eye was Rebellion, at number 16 with $20m of happy. In fact, they’re the number 1 European independent European studio in the Develop 100.

Now, in my confused, backwards head, Rebellion were still the plucky PC-centric Brit studio who made my beloved Aliens Versus Predator, and then fucked themselves right up with that abominable Judge Dredd game. Rogue Trooper was a surprise return to form, the sort of 75-80%-scoring game that proves exactly why 75-80% means fun, not failure (now there’s a game for a Retro piece), while, despite being fairly well-received, Sniper Elite seemed to sink without trace upon release.

Last I heard of them, they’d made a universally-reviled AvP game for PSP. And yet there they are, 2007′s 16th highest-earning developer. And it’s all down, apparently, to handheld versions of The Simpsons, Harry Potter and Star Wars Battlefront. Well, congratulations, chaps. It’s just… I’ve been secretly hoping for years that Rebellion would strike back with some awesome new PC game that finally followed up on AvP’s greatness. If they’re doing this well from milking the license cashcow, I can’t see that happening. Perhaps, though, they can spend their $20m on something incredible.

Sports Interactive are the next big PC-centric name, at 23, still doing ever so well by combining football and numbers for people who like football and numbers. 2K Boston/Australia, formerly Irrational, lurk at 42 with $9m, so Bioshock apparently earned just a 1/4 of what Call of Duty 4 did. With Halo 3 also receiving a light beating by COD4′s hand, sci-fi certainly doesn’t seem to be flavour of the month anymore.

Epic, Blizzard and Bethesda follow in no short order, and ooh, there’s Valve at 58, with $6.8m. Of course, this list only reflects olde worlde retail, so Valve would be much higher up were Steam sales of The Orange Box included. Same goes for Blizzard’s relatively low placing, at 47 – a few hundred thousand UK WoW subscriptions would surely push them all the way to the top. Hence, the whole list, for all its curiosity value, isn’t a terribly meaningful picture of videogaming in 2007.

Anyway, The Creative Assembly are doing pretty well at 72 and Relic are in at 89, but otherwise I can’t see a lot more that are particularly PC in there, unless you include the thousand different EA and Ubisoft sub-studios. Enough aimless wiffle, anyway – read the full list here.

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25 Comments »

  1. Mike says:

    Relic’s relatively small cashpot is a bit surprising.

  2. Acosta says:

    Really interesting. Have you seen the Top 100 selling games from March 2007 to March 2008 in USA/Western Europe? There is only one PC exclusive there (hint, is not World of Warcraft related).

    Edit: Sorry, tried to link it (www.next-gen.biz) but seems I’m doing something wrong with the html code.

  3. azwipe says:

    Rogue Trooper was, indeed, loads of fun. maybe not underrated, but definitely underdiscussed.

  4. Heliocentricity says:

    so many bloody UK companies, i so often hear of UK devs i loved the games of going under, looks like pleanty make it.

    but the amounts? Gross or net? Spending lots of money to make slightly more isnt epic win.

  5. RobotLiberationArmy says:

    “this list only reflects olde worlde retail”

    If so, why the hell we should care? I don’t buy many PC games retail anymore, nor do any of my friends (at least, the ones who buy PC games) nor do a lot of people I see on the internet.

    I realize retail PC sales are still important, but digital distribution is so prevalent at this point that any statistics that don’t take them into account can’t tell us much about the PC market as a whole.

  6. Acosta says:

    RobotLiberationArmy: How do we know how “prevalent” digital distribution is if Valve, Stardock and the rest of services refuse to make public their numbers?

  7. Ging says:

    Myself and most of my friends still purchase from retail channels (admittedly, generally from online retailers like amazon rather than ye olde bricke and mortar) – I also imagine that a lot of games are sold in shops to people who don’t trust or don’t understand digital distribution.

  8. Nick says:

    Guess CoD4 did okay despite all the QQing over piracy.

  9. Stijn says:

    Rebellion #1 European Studio? What’s Ubisoft France doing there at #11 then? ;)

  10. Doug F says:

    I was scratching my head at HB Studios coming in only 2 places behind Blizzard, until I actually read this post and realized it was only for UK retail sales. In that context, a little developer on the coast of Nova Scotia in a town whose last big product was sailing ships matching up against the big boys makes a lot more sense. The fact that their main games have been the EA Sports Rugby and Cricket franchises probably places them higher than they would be on a similar NA chart.

  11. RobotLiberationArmy says:

    Acosta:
    We don’t, but considering what we do know (word of mouth, massive number of Steam subscribers) I’d say that it’s certainly enough to matter.

    Again, I know retail sales are important, probably more important, but these kinds of lists still don’t mean all that much until they can take digital sales into account.

  12. Acosta says:

    RobotLiberationArmy:

    Personally, I need more than that. Word of mouth is hardly reliable for this, and Steam is installed in many computers because everyone loves Valve game and they require it to work or play online, but just being in many computers doesn’t mean people are actually buying new games with it (probably that channel offers a good sale boost for games like Audiosurf or Darwinia, but I’m skeptical about sales of new games with a retailer presence and same price than the boxed edition, like Soulstorm, Bioshock, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and so).

    Sure, your point is completely valid, but mine is that these lists send a powerful message to the industry and to the people who manage the money for new projects, and one of the messages here is: “PC gaming is not being relevant at retailers”. You can bet these lists mean a lot for them.

  13. Alarik says:

    True, some numbers from Steam would certainly be interesting. Personally I am buying only really hot games during launch/prelaunch on Steam (Orange Box, BioShock) in case I don’t care about collector’s edition, and then some cheap old or indie games which are more difficult to obtain in retail (SiN Episodes, Shadowgrounds, Hexen, etc.).

    And of course I am buying Steam releases of games with obnoxious copy protection system (because I don’t want to play with CD/DVD in drive, ever).

    I would like to see some improvements in Steam client though – for example to have more control – over downloading (start, stop, speed, how much MBs is necessary to download, how much is remaining) or launching.

  14. SwiftRanger says:

    @Acosta; the Next-Gen article also doesn’t include digital distribution and even then their numbers don’t seem that correct, it’s like they’re relying on NPD and just guessing for the Europe stats. If EA, CD Projekt already announced a few months back that Crysis and The Witcher sold more than 1 million and 600k copies respectively then where are those titles in that top (don’t tell me those were all online sales because that’s bogus)? That Orange Box sales number (1.1 million for all formats) seems a bit odd too if you know that Valve said a month ago they already passed 1.5 million copies on consoles alone and that the PC version did much better than that.

  15. CdrJameson says:

    > Rebellion #1 European Studio? What’s Ubisoft France doing there at #11 then?

    Not even UK #1. See: Traveller’s Tales, no 10.

    They’re the #1 UK Independent Studio, if you look at the small print on their massive double page advert right at the front of the supplement.

  16. Alec Meer says:

    Yeah, my bad.

  17. UncleLou says:

    Really interesting. Have you seen the Top 100 selling games from March 2007 to March 2008 in USA/Western Europe? There is only one PC exclusive there (hint, is not World of Warcraft related).

    I saw this list the other day and wondered how credible it is – there are games in there with far lower numbers than what some PC exclusives like Crysis or The Witcher sold (from what we know).

  18. Alex Hopkinson says:

    I don’t know if things actually work this way but I like to think that the squillions Rebellion are earning on these licensed games are being used to fund their awesome, ever increasing, line of 2000AD trade paperbacks. My shelves may hate the 9 huge volumes of black & white Judge Dredd reprints, and so on, but I loves it (and who cares what talking shelving units say anyway!).

  19. Jeff says:

    Traveller’s Tales Games is listed at number 10 as a British company. Why isn’t that the number 1 independent European developer?

    EDIT:

    Bought by Warner Bros Entertainment Interactive back in November 2007. Answered my own question.

    They paid an undisclosed sum in excess of £80MM, so it’s only going to take them a few years to make that back @ £27MM p.a. (assuming that is net)

  20. Chris Evans says:

    Wahoo! Great to see SI Games up there, and generally good to see so many UK based devs in there too.

    Just a shame it doesn’t take into account digi distribution though, kind of missing a big chunk of data.

  21. Max says:

    Nintendo! ^_______^

  22. Paul Moloney says:

    “Hence, the whole list, for all its curiosity value, isn’t a terribly meaningful picture of videogaming in 2007.”

    Absolutely. I can’t remember the last time I bought a game in a shop; most of my purchases are through play.com and Steam. Surveys like this just give a completely skewed view of the PC gaming industry, with is then picked up on by the “PC gaming is dying” crowd.

    P.

  23. Wroth says:

    Is that Dr Manhatten?

  24. Nick says:

    No it’s a Rogue Trooper.

  25. Matt says:

    It is THE Rogue Trooper!

    I bought this game on a whim some time ago, because I used to get the 2000AD annuals at Christmas when I was younger and because it was half price on Steam.

    It was a fun little game though I found myself wishing it had been a lot deeper. The controls were fun though, as was the sentient gun you could place and leave to fire at people and the holographic image you could project. It is a shame the game wasn’t a bit longer, or perhaps bigger is a better term. It seemed to aim to be a fairly simple game and never really took advantage of the fun simple control system. Still the comic it is from was always pretty simplistic too. I found myself wishing they had been a bit more ambitious with the game though.