The year-end push keeps going!
On this Final Friday of 2022, I’ll recap the most impressive and relevant companies across the games industry.
This will cover larger companies, whether they are publicly-traded, subsidiaries or owned independently. (My next article will delve into the year’s premier indie studios and smaller development squads.)
It’s mainly meant as a celebration to the thousands of talented folks that work at these places and make the industry what it is. While 2022 wasn’t as busy on the release calendar at the AAA and mid-tier level, there were plenty of stand-outs that launched games or revealed upcoming projects.
Without further ado, from hardware manufacturers to software developers, here they are in alphabetical order!
First up is really the easiest pick of the bunch. Over the past decade, FromSoftware has established itself as the premier studio for crafting challenging role-playing experiences with incredible art direction, creepy vibes and fantastic lore. The Japanese developer, spearheaded by mastermind designer Hidetaka Miyazaki, has effectively created a genre with its Dark Souls series and boasts modern classics like Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Launching in February 2022, its latest masterpiece Elden Ring sprung the soulslike from a gaming genre to cultural touchstone. The open-world approach transformed the traditional model into something special, dominating social media for months and earning it Game of the Year honors at The Game Awards among other outlets. The game’s setting, The Lands Between, has become a legendary stomping ground for long-time fans and new players alike. Elden Ring sold a staggering 12 million copies in less than a month, the team’s fastest-selling title ever across its 35+ year history. It’s well on its way past 17 million and could pass the 20 million milestone in the new year.
Speaking of 2023, FromSoftware plans to return to one of its beloved, dormant franchises in Armored Core after revealing Armored Core VI: Rubicon of Fire earlier this month. There’s also rumblings of a potential Elden Ring expansion upcoming. Based on the way its history has shaped up, and how incredible 2022 was for the studio, it will undoubtedly continue to set standards of game design moving into the future.
The folks behind Marvel Entertainment, one of the world’s biggest media houses, have made a concerted effort to expand more into the games industry during recent years. Especially more mainline, premium releases. From the likes of Marvel’s: Spider-Man in 2018 to 2020’s Marvel’s Avengers, Marvel Games has shown a dedication to fitting studios with the right properties to produce titles on both traditional and mobile platforms. This effort ramped up in the last few months, boasting critical successes and generating optimism around future announcements.
There was no more important launch in perhaps the company’s history than Marvel Snap, the mobile deck-building phenomenon that hit market in October. Its ingenious mechanical simplicity, exceptional card artwork and non-invasive monetization appealed to casual and core fans, even those without close ties to the cinematic universe. During its first month, Marvel Snap secured $10 million in revenue on 12 million downloads and earned Best Mobile Game at The Game Awards.
The team coordinated additional launches in the back half of 2022. This included Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PC in November and December’s Marvel’s Midnight Suns, a blend of tactical gameplay, card mechanics and relationship-building which catapulted it to overwhelming critical praise. Marvel Games also revealed upcoming projects alongside Skydance Media and Amy Hennig for a mysterious Black Panther/Captain America team-up, plus a collaboration with Motive Studios on an Iron Man action-adventure title. It’s reassuring to see the direction of Marvel Games and its clever licensing deals, which have and will continue to pay big dividends.
I briefly wrote about the next company on my list during my biggest trends of 2022 article, where I recapped the industry’s recent unionization efforts. Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard based out of Wisconsin, saw certain employees lead the charge for workers’ rights in 2022 while simultaneously coordinating the follow-up to Call of Duty’s massively popular Warzone mode. Both of these accomplishments firmly land it among the year’s most exceptional, and impactful, triple-A studios.
Back in late 2021, Quality Assurance (QA) team members at Raven Software organized a strike after fellow teammates were fired. During January, these folks formed the Game Workers Alliance (GWA) in order to get a seat at the table in company dealings. Demands of the GWA included better timeline management, less crunch and more opportunities for underrepresented groups. In a historic May vote, an overwhelming majority of GWA members voted to unionize and were subsequently recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This marked the second successful union in North America and the first at a major American games publisher.
Alongside all of this, Raven Software coordinated a massive revamping of Call of Duty’s free-to-play Warzone 2.0, one of console and PC gaming’s most popular battle royales. The team shipped the new mode on November 16th. Raven Software’s importance in the AAA space can’t be understated, and the icing on the cake is that Microsoft’s Head of Gaming Phil Spencer said the company would recognize the union if its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard takes place. In the broader workers’ rights push across games, Raven’s brave and committed QA workers were at the forefront.
The most prolific first-party in gaming had another stellar year in 2022, shipping several major titles, pushing towards accessibility and securing multiple acquisitions that will bolster output for decades to come. PlayStation Studios, a worldwide conglomerate of Sony’s premier development teams, was responsible for new launches in a variety of franchises, including at least a couple Game of the Year contenders. Without the incredible effort of its employees, the year’s release calendar would have been barren.
To show the sheer level of output in 2022, here’s a list of the new titles moved by its various teams: Horizon Forbidden West, MLB The Show 22, Gran Turismo 7 and God of War: Ragnarok. Then there’s reissues or ports like The Last of Us Part 1 (even if more remaster than remake), Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PC. The likes of Santa Monica Studio and Guerilla Games created the year’s most epic experiences, showcasing amazing graphics, narrative prowess and animation chops. As the unsung hero, Sony San Diego’s annual MLB The Show baseball games are as consistent as they come. Gran Turismo 7 from Polyphony Digital was praised by critics as one of this generation’s best racing sims.
Not only that, Sony’s talented teams focused more on accessibility and inclusivity, an important movement that allows more gamers to enjoy PlayStation titles. Then there’s acquisitions that finalized in 2022 like Bungie and Savage Game Studios. The former is a significant piece of Sony’s goal to move into live services while the latter will bolster its newly-formed mobile division. PlayStation Studios is the reason to own a PlayStation 5, and its team members lived up to exceedingly high standards yet again.
Intriguingly, the reason I’ve concluded this list with Valve is not because of its industry-leading Steam platform. I will say the digital distribution continues to be the best place to own, organize and play PC titles, even as competitors like Epic Games push more into that segment of the market. Steam attracts a massive population of gamers, passing a major milestone this year in 30 million concurrent users during a weekend in October. This figure was roughly 27 million in late 2021, illustrating its illustrious appeal over the past 12 months.
The reason is simple: The Steam Deck. Until now, Valve had a tricky history with hardware. From Steam Machines to Steam Link, its devices garnered mixed reviews and minimal usage. It wasn’t until this February that Valve nailed a hardware design that truly revolutionized hardcore gaming. The Steam Deck handheld is Valve’s single best manufactured product to date, and the greatest hardware triumph of 2022. It’s flexible, easy to use and way more comfortable than it has any right to be. It allows access to one’s Steam Library, showcases a myriad of “Deck Verified” games plus can be used to access services like Xbox’s cloud offering. What I love the most is how the company actively supports people tinkering with it. It’s effectively a Linux-based PC in the palm of one’s hand, and I think the ideal place to play indies.
Even as a first iteration, it’s an essential part of how many people played this past year. Sure, there are drawbacks. Battery life isn’t great. Its price isn’t as attractive as something like Nintendo’s Switch. It can’t play my beloved Destiny natively (though that’s more on Bungie than Valve, I’d say). Still, signs point to 1 million units shipped in its first six months, which is a solid sales result considering how slowly it shipped. The Steam Deck is a more niche, premium product that single-handedly advanced the industry, and was by far my favorite piece of tech this year.
Thus concludes the awards for 2022’s most impressive gaming companies. Congrats to everyone that worked hard at these firms to produce some of gaming’s most memorable experiences and products. And thanks all for reading! Check back to the 2022 Year-in-Review megapost for all my year-end articles.
Sources: Company Investor & Media Sites, Game Workers Alliance, GamingonLinux, MobileGamer.Biz, Steam DB.