It is near-impossible to take an accurate snapshot of an industry gripped by the digital and mobile games boom, but this year’s Develop 100 bears the marks of a revolution sweeping the sector at rapid pace.
The annual list of the world’s 100 best studios – which you can read in full here – rates developers solely on their 2010 Metacritic performance. Of those one hundred studios, more than fifty create games specifically for Apple devices such as iPhone and iPad. Nearly eighty are independent.
The industry can hardly spare a moment to pause, so luckily only a cursory glance at the full Develop 100 list is required to see how rapidly the craft is transforming.
In the Develop 100’s top ten – traditionally the territory of the world’s biggest triple-A devs – six iOS games stand.
Californians 2D Boy take second place for the iPad title World of Goo HD, while the iPhone game Cut the Rope pushes Russian indies Zepto Lab to third.
Tokyo’s Media Vision takes sixth with Chaos Rings, just ahead of Swedish indies 1337 Game Design, of Dark Nebula fame.
If game development is “drowning”, as claimed by the CEO of first-place winner Nintendo, then at least the water seems fine.
Of course, the long-term sustainability of the social, mobile and indie business models is far from certain. What has been made unequivocal, however, is that developers who aren’t told what to do can build something far more interesting than a publisher’s best shots at success.
Some would say that triple-A game development has entered the long goodbye. It’s difficult to place bets on such a claim when the demand for big budget games is as strong as it ever was.
But make no mistake; the giants of the industry are now battling with a vast group of respected indie groups and bedroom coders.
Develop 100 is for the first time including digital content from platforms such as Steam, XBLA, PSN and WiiWare. That has opened the floogates for the likes of Playdead (Limbo, 13th), Team Meat (Super Meat Boy, 21st) Curve Studios (Fluidity, 41st), and Hello Games (Joe Danger, 46th).
If war is the locomotive of change, then the same principal can be said of the games business.
SNES versus MegaDrive, PlayStation versus N64, Xbox 360 versus PS3 – these were the battles which pushed games hardware and technology forward.
The war for your attention, wherever you are, now appears to be the new battleground.