More highlights from our global games dev hotlist

DEVELOP 100: Profiles 31-40

This month we’ve published the 2011 edition of the Develop 100.

Sponsored by Gamecity: Hamburg and based on data compiled by Metacritic, the Develop 100 ranks the world’s games developers based on their critical reception.

Below you will find profiles of some of the best studios that made the top half of the list.

For all Develop 100 coverage, and more studio profiles, go here.

31. Game Freak

Studio’s 2010 Release
Pokémon HeartGold (DS)
Pokémon SoulSilver (DS)

Founded: 1989
Location: Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan

Also famous for:
Pokémon Diamond (DS)
Pokémon Pearl (DS)

Having created over 12 Pokémon games in 15 years, Game Freak continues to defy those who figured they’d have run out of wacky monster ideas by now.

2010 releases HeartGold and SoulSilver are remasters of 10-year-old editions Gold and Silver. Game director Shigeki Morimoto took care to balance fond memories with originality. Both critics and fans warmed to the games, which have surpassed ten million sales worldwide.

Pokémon remains one of Nintendo’s biggest assets in the battle for handheld supremacy, and Game Freak’s 66 employees are at its heart. Expect their 2011 Pokémon releases to crop up here next year, as well as news on 3DS Pokémon titles in the near future.

32. FreeStyleGames

Studio’s 2010 Releases
DJ Hero 2 (Wii)
DJ Hero 2 (360, PS3)

Founded: 2002
In-house (owned by Activision)
Location: Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK
@FSGStudio on Twitter

Also famous for:
DJ Hero (PS3)
DJ Hero (360)

Arriving at the tail end of the rhythm game boom, few people expected DJ Hero and its plastic turntables to disturb the charts, let alone win critical acclaim.

Nevertheless, this fresh, well crafted take on the rhythm genre reignited interest. And last year FreeStyle upped the ante yet again with DJ Hero 2, offering a broader soundtrack and new layers of gameplay depth. The Wii version is in fact Activision’s highest Metascore of 2010.

Activision purchased FreeStyle in 2008. The studio narrowly avoided worldwide layoffs by their parent company earlier this year. Along with Harmonix, FreeStyle has the adventurous spirit to continue evolving the rhythm genre at this crucial time.

33. Venan Entertainment

Studio’s 2010 Releases
Space Miner: Space Ore Bust (iOS)
Ninjatown: Trees of Doom! (iOS)

Founded: 2002
Location: Cromwell, Connecticut, USA
@VenanEnt on Twitter

Also famous for:
Ninjatown (DS)

Some of the companies in Develop 100 this year are entirely new to the mobile market – Venan has been at it for years.

Founded by long time friends Philip Taksen and Brandon Curiel, the studio has had a long relationship with EA. It made a name for itself with the BAFTA-nominated DS title Ninjatown and, more recently, its self-published iPhone games.

The goal with Ninjatown was to inject ‘sophistication and strategy’ into chaotic survival. Space Miner was awarded game of the year by Touch Arcade and EGM.

Venan released an HD version for iPad and freemium edition in late 2010. They are currently hard at work on a full sequel to Space Miner that we should learn more about very soon.

34. Treasure

Studio’s 2010 Release
Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies (Wii)

Founded: 1992
Location: Nakano, Tokyo, Japan

Also famous for:
Bangai-O Spirits (DS)
Bleach: Dark Souls (DS)

Treasure has been making games for multiple platforms for nearly 20 years. The studio was founded by Masato Maegawa, its current president, and other former employees of Konami.

Though Treasure’s headcount is unclear many of its original founders are still present, and their efforts can be seen across the studio’s lengthy portfolio. It has created a number of classic action games, including Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Slivergun and Ikaruga.

Arriving ten years after the Japan-only original, Sin and Punishment 2 impressed critics with its unceasing arcade action.

Digital distribution via Virtual Console has given many of Treasure’s early games a new lease of life. And this is set to continue as the studio explores opportunities on Xbox Live.

35. Indies Zero

Studio’s 2010 Release
America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking (DS)

Founded: 1997
Location: Musashino, Tokyo, Japan

Also famous for:
Retro Game Challenge (DS)
Electroplankton (DS)

Nintendo’s Touch! Generations line has opened the doors to an entirely new range of interactive experiences.

Indies Zero’s DS translation of cooking 300 top recipes demonstrates that innovative design and the patience to understand and implement flexibility for diverse audiences can make all the difference when bringing common tasks to digital media.

Zero’s interactive cookbook garnered high scores from the likes of Worth Playing and IGN. The studio employs 28 staff and works primarily with Nintendo, Square Enix and Namco Bandai. Other notable releases from the firm include Electroplankton and Oshare Majo: Love and Berry DS Collection, which has shipped 100m copies in Japan.

The studio is now focusing on software development for the Nintendo 3DS.

36. Good-Feel

Studio’s 2010 Release
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)

Founded: 2005
Location: Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

Also famous for:
Looksley’s Line Up (DSiWare)
Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii)

Kirby was the bright spark of a dwindling release list for the Wii last year.

Good-Feel (with the help of Hal Laboratory) were entrusted with bringing back the esoteric Nintendo character in his first original home console game since 2003. What captured the imagination was its beautiful fabric world that quite literally folds, crinkles and unravels before your eyes.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the highest rated game in the series’ history, and sales have so far passed 1.38m copies worldwide.

Good-Feel, staffed by 64 people across two Japanese studios, is a trusted Nintendo developer who has also made Wario Land: Shake It! and educational DS titles. Kirby’s positive reception will almost certainly raise its profile.

37. Nex Entertainment

Studio’s 2010 Release
Bayonetta (PS3)

Founded: 1992
Location: Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan

Also famous for:
Time Crisis 4 (PS3)
Children of Mana (DS)

While it isn’t known for any original titles, Nex has been a staple contractor in the Japanese industry for many years now. And with 173 development staff it’s easy to see why it’s happy to lend a hand.

Originally known as GAU Entertainment and then NexTech, the company was purchased by Sega in 1997, only to split in late 2003. Key clients include Sega, Capcom, Namco, Taito, Atlus and Square Enix.

Recently, it worked on Time Crisis: Razing Storm and the controversial PS3 port of Bayonetta, which was criticised for performance issues. Despite its rough edges, Nex’s acceptable adaptation of Platinum Games’ 2010 masterpiece has secured it this spot in Develop 100.

38. Kairosoft

Studio’s 2010 Release
Game Dev Story (iOS)

Founded: 1996
Location: Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
@Kairosoftx on Twitter

Game Dev Story is the game that became an instant internet sensation, and launched Japanese developer Kairosoft into the limelight last October.

The company, home to about seven employees, has been making simulation games since 1996, but only recently began adapting games for release outside Japan. The mobile version of Game Dev Story is actually an enhanced port of a ‘90s PC game, and a port of the sequel is already confirmed.

In February this year the firm released Hot Springs Story to wide praise.

Sitting on a back catalogue of tantalising scenarios, from space exploration and restaurant management to high schools and video game retailing, Kairosoft is poised to fill a lot of simulation niches.

39. Grumpyface Studios

Studio’s 2010 Release
Wispin (iOS)

Founded: 2010
Location: Portland, Oregon, US
@Grumpyface on Twitter

Grumpyface’s debut release, Wispin, is a colour matching arcade game for iPhone. Favourable reviews from critics, like GameZebo, Touch Arcade and Pocket Gamer, and positive word-of-mouth helped bubble the game up to the top 10 paid-for games on US iTunes download charts.

Wispin is another game that was born from an entirely digital collaboration process. Studio head and ideas man Chris Graham, a 3D artist who previously worked in architectural visualisation and the casino industry, and programmer Edgar Bocanegra cooperated from different US States on the project.

Grumpyface released a host of free updates for their debut hit, and launched an enhanced iPad version in March. Graham says they have big plans for this year, too.

40. YoYo Games

Studio’s 2010 Release
They Need to be Fed (iOS)

Founded: 2007
Location: Dundee, Scotland, UK
@YoYoGamemaker on Twitter

YoYo Games isn’t just a development studio; it’s a partnership created for the purpose of getting the most out of the Game Maker development suite and sustaining a community for its users.

The company is headed by Sandy Duncan, former vice president of Xbox Europe, and supported by computer science tutor and Game Maker creator Mark Overmars.

They Need to be Fed won the fifth YoYo Games competition and was created by Jesse Venbrux, a long time user of the suite.

Games created using Game Maker are hosted free on YoYo Games’ portal.

The next version of Game Maker is 9.0, which will likely support HTML5.

So far users have only been able to release games on iOS, but they will soon be able to port their games to Mac, PSP and Android.

The Develop 100, produced in association with Metacritic and sponsored by gamecity:Hamburg was published on June 3rd, with Develop magazine’s June edition and MCV’s June 3rd edition.

Click here for a microsite with a list of the 100 and embedded digital edition of the book

Click here for a directory of all the content is posting from the book, including analysis commentary and much more

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