Game studios come and game studios go. Some make a mark, like Looking Glass Studios, and are remembered for years past their expiry date. Others quietly close shop and are never heard from again. The few and the proud manage to hang on despite the changing times (and themselves) to stand out each year. Let’s take a look at the nominees for 2016’s developer of the year.
It’s easy to hate on Square Enix but the studio has made significant strides this year. Along with releasing Final Fantasy 15, which turned out to be pretty good, the development teams have been updating Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn with strong content on a consistent basis, making it one of the best MMOs out there. Add in games like World of Final Fantasy and I Am Setsuna and Square Enix hasn’t done too badly with RPG releases this year.
The mega success (and fun) of Overwatch wasn’t just a launch one-off – the development team has been releasing updates like new heroes, maps, events and cosmetics. Blizzard also took to reviving World of Warcraft with the stellar Legion expansion along with a bevy of post-launch updates. The company also made significant updates to Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void, Heroes of the Storm and even Diablo 3 (which will be receiving lots of new content next year).
The long-awaited Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End made an impact and immediately won over critics with its action, sleek presentation and memorable set-pieces. As a whole, Naughty Dog has been firing on all cylinders, releasing free multiplayer updates like new maps, modes and the upcoming Survival mode. The future is certainly bright for the studio with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and The Last of Us: Part 2 planned for the future.
Intelligent Systems has been a key player in Nintendo’s fortunes for a long time. This year was no different as it saw Fire Emblem Fates release in the West to stellar critical reception. Considering the work done on Fire Emblem Awakening in 2012-2013, this was to be expected but we got two great Fire Emblem titles – Birthright and Conquest – in the same year. And, Paper Mario: Colour Splash was also a thing that everyone didn’t hate. So there’s that.
Respawn Entertainment had a lot to live up to in Titanfall 2 and with the sequel, it delivered one of the greatest single-player campaigns ever and its most complete multiplayer experience yet. With the ability to unlock tons of different skins, play around with six new Titans, a variety of game modes and free maps on the way, Titanfall 2 definitely proved Respawn belongs.
For the third time running, Playground Games crafted an intricate, beautiful and highly involving open world racer. Forza Horizon 3 blew away our expectations, offering a range of vehicles to acquire and race along with other new features. Playground is currently working on two expansions for the game along with new cars releasing on a monthly basis.
Blizzard may lack innovation in some places but when it comes to polish and ensuring every mechanic is crafted to perfection, there are very few devs who can claim the same. Overwatch’s development team has shown a desire to listen to fans, present clear communication for its actions and offer compelling content all year round. As for World of Warcraft: Legion, it’s probably the finest expansion in years, revamping every aspect of PvP from the ground up, introducing a fun new story and lots of great quests without the meaningless grind that perpetuated Warlords of Draenor. Blizzard’s impact in 2016 can’t be denied and it’s our developer of the year as a result.
Note: GamingBolt’s Game of the Year categories, nominations and awards are selected via an internal nomination, voting and debate process. You can check the rest of categories and the respective winners here.