Microsoft has shared some very juicy information. Without sharing their source, they have disclosed the biggest publishers in video games.
They actually shared a specific table, that shows the distribution of each publisher to the PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo platforms respectively. You already saw that table above, but they have also elaborated in the finer details of their response to the CMA’s provisional findings.
Microsoft makes some clarifications to this diagram. It was based on global game sales data in 2021. Because of the nature of free-to-play games, they weren’t incorporated into it.
Now, here’s what Microsoft has to say, starting from page 15:
“PlayStation gamers buy games from a large range of publishers to play on their console. EA is the largest supplier of games to PlayStation, followed by Ubisoft and Take Two.
Sony itself is the fourth largest game publisher in the world and the fourth largest supplier to PlayStation. The fact that the blue band running from Sony to PlayStation is so wide is an indication of the extent to which Sony keeps its own published games almost entirely exclusive to PlayStation.
In fact, Sony has 286 games which are exclusive to PlayStation, including some of the most successful and popular titles such as God of War, Spider-Man and Last of Us.”
So that is a lot to take in. In spite of appearances, EA was the biggest publisher on PlayStation. Remember, this data isn’t based on the number of titles that EA brought to PlayStation, but the number of game sales instead.
We can guess on where EA gets that large a share of the PlayStation business too. EA’s sports games, FIFA 21 and Madden NFL 2021, probably went a big way towards guaranteeing they would get a lion’s share of sales, in and outside of America.
Also remember, this was the year EA released Battlefield 2042, the game that went up against Activision’s Call of Duty Vanguard. Both games were actually received poorly upon launch, but DICE took so long to fix the launch issues of Battlefield 2042 that they didn’t consider it fully fixed until this year.
It’s also notable that Ubisoft and Take-Two were aligned towards the second and third slots on PlayStation, respectively. Take-Two’s revenue from Grand Theft Auto Online may not have been fully accounted for here, but that’s potentially sales of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto V. This is possibly an indication of the evergreen nature of their titles.
As for Ubisoft, up until recently they really have been one of the more prolific third party publishers. It really isn’t no surprise that they fare so well.
Now, here’s what Activision has to say about itself, as well as a little bit about Nintendo:
“Activision is only the fifth largest game publisher. Activision is, therefore, smaller than a number of other game publishers such as EA and Take Two and smaller than Sony’s own publishing business. It has worldwide share of [REDACTED]% by revenue.
Nintendo is consistently the second largest publisher. In recent years, Activision has been either the third-placed or, in 2020, fourth-placed publisher (behind Sony), with Take-Two and Ubisoft following closely.”
About Nintendo, it may not seem like it but they are a surprisingly prolific publisher. Remember that Nintendo only publishes the console games in this sales data on their own platforms, and right now, it’s only one platform, the Nintendo Switch.
If you were wondering, 2021 did also see a lot of releases from Nintendo, including new versions of Pokemon Snap and Mario Golf, rereleases of Super Mario 3D World and Skyward Sword, Miitopia, Metroid Dread, and even that DC SuperHero Girls game.
Meanwhile, Activision’s characterization of themselves as behind EA and Nintendo, may be partly intended to make themselves look smaller, but is also illuminating in general.
We may think of Activision as a giant conglomerate for attaching the names of Blizzard and King, the other companies they merged with. However, EA also played that merger and acquisition game very hard.
The finer details on this are different, of course. EA shut down some of those companies, but most of them were just completely absorbed into EA’s bigger structure. Regardless, EA continues to acquire studios and other companies. Their latest big acquisitions are mobile developer Glu Mobile, sim racing studio Codemasters, GameFly, and Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment.