2008 List of MMO Publishers

I recently needed a reference-list of world-wide MMO publishers … and I couldn’t find anyone who was maintaining a list of them. So here’s one I put together, and hopefully next time someone needs a list they have a chance of finding one. I’ll also include approx how many MMO games they’ve published, which country they’re based in, and … whether they publish 3rd-party games (i.e. if you’re a developer, is it worth talking to them about a publishing contract?)

The List

(notes on inclusion criteria and some frivolous thoughts at the bottom)

* = they’ve published 3rd party games
? = I’m not sure if they’ve published 3rd party games, but I think they have

? Publisher name # titles Country
* Acclaim 3 USA
* Activision/Vivendi (inc. Blizzard) 3 USA
* Codemasters 2 UK
? Disney 4 USA
EA 2 USA
Funcom 2 Norway
* Gala-Net (gPotato) 5 Japan
? Giant Interactive Group 4 PRC
* GungHo (Gravity) 5 Japan (SK)
* HanbitSoft 2 SK
* Infocomm Asia Holdings 3 Singapore
InterZone 1 USA
Jagex 1 UK
Joymax 1 SK
Kreeda 1 India
* mGame / NetGame 5 SK
* Microsoft 1 USA
* NCsoft 5+ SK
* Nexon 5 SK
* NetDragon 5 PRC
NHN 5+ SK
Outspark 3 USA
* Sega 1 Japan
* Shanda 5+ PRC
? Sony Online Entertainment 5+ USA
Square Enix 1 Japan
* The9 2 PRC
* WebZen 5 SK
Yedang Online 4 SK
* YNK 3 SK

Conclusions

It’s dominated by South Korea and the USA, with the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the UK bringing up the rear.

If you want to start a successful MMO company in South Korea, make sure the name of the company begins with the letter “N”. You will be very, very rich. If you want to do the same in Japan, make sure it starts with “G”, or for USA/Europe, go for as early in the alphabet as you can manage – “B” is good but “A” is better. But don’t worry – if you make the mistake of having a parent company whose name starts with something truly hopeless, like “V”, then hope is not lost, you can get them to merge with an “A” company and all will be well.

There is practically nothing from India (who don’t seem yet to have started anything successful in the computer games space, although I’ve heard of many attempts come and go, despite their huge pool of IT/programming workers).

There is also nothing from Taiwan, Malaysia, etc and only one from Singapore (although that is a very BIG one from Singapore). There were a bunch of “operators” from those countries who didn’t make the list because they’ve never published anything themselves. Looking at the pattern in China, that’s possibly just the natural precursor to doing real publishing. Certainly, it makes financial and operational sense to grow your company and ramp up your corporate experience by running other people’s games for a few years and learning the ropes.

Criteria – Games

  • Must be an MMO, or an online-only game that’s pushed as an MMO (e.g. KartRider)
  • Must have been published (i.e. launch/gold – NOT beta)
  • Must achieve “substantial” subscriber figures (e.g. 10k or so minimum) or “huge” free active players (e.g. 100k or so minimum)
  • I had to know the game already, or be able to find evidence of its existence and verifiable info on who published it (I have probably missed some)
  • Games that were published but later cancelled ARE included if they were around for a significant period of time (e.g. minimum of 2 years)

Criteria – Publishers

  • Must have at least one game (under the above criteria)
  • Must have published more than one game – not necessarily MMO
  • Must be the company that paid for the original development / signed original publishing deal (“MMO operators” and “Localization (re-publishing)” deals do NOT count)

So, for instance, Jagex is in the list (self-published Runescape, then published a whole stack of minigames as FunOrb), but CCP is not (self-published EVE Online, but have never published any other games before or since).

Equally, Codemasters is in the list with just 2 published games (Dungeons & Dragons Online, and Lord of the Rings Online), because the other games they claim to have “published” were asian games that had been published previously and which Codemasters just paid a license fee to operate in US/Europe/wherever.

The omission of pure Operators and ISP’s is deliberate. Partly because the former tend to be or become the latter, and the latter are a very very different beast from an MMO publisher (at least for the time being; in 10 years time that probably won’t be the case). But also because – in practice – there is one small yet crucial difference between Operator and Publisher: Risk. Operators have no product-risk (they know the game is complete) and almost no market-risk (they know the product sells), and can focus all their efforts on reducing operational-risk (which is reduced because the REAL publisher can advise them on what to do).

I have probably made mistakes. Let me know, and give me some verifiable evidence, and I’ll correct them.

Confusions

GungHo and Gravity – Gravity is a South Korean publisher. But they appear to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of GungHo – which is a Japanese conglomerate. So I’ve included them under both names and both countries. I think that’s fair. Maybe.

gameNGame (http://gamengame.com) briefly confused me into thinking it was another publisher. Not quite:

About gameNgame.com
gameNgame.com is a free online game service provided by the Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency (KIPA). The site is a one-stop portal to sample the latest Korea-made beta games and related information, all free. Upon finalizing each beta program, gameNgame.com’s listed games will become available as the fee-based services in North America. From the site, North American online gamers can also visit each of the four game company’s web site to learn more about how to participate in upcoming promotional events and tournaments and how to earn a chance to win great prizes.

9 thoughts on “2008 List of MMO Publishers

  1. Joe Ludwig

    SOE has distributed games by independent developers (Pirates, Vanguard), but I can’t think of any cases where they actually paid the bills for development. They HAVE published single player PS2 games that they paid for, but those weren’t MMOs.

    If you count Vanguard and Pirates, SOE has 7 games. If you count The Matrix Online, it goes to 8.

  2. Mark Baker

    I know that EA publishes third party games via “EA Partners” but I don’t think they have done that for an MMO game as yet – or if they ever would.

  3. free mmorpg

    Not just different geo pub agreements, sometimes the same MMORPG company licenses their game TWICE in the SAME REGION! There are TWO north American publishers for Nostale and I think THREE for Luminary!

  4. aileen

    Hi, thanks for compiling this list. Very helpful.

    I realize this list is outdated by now so I should probably first ask if there’s a more recent one? I could think of a few more publishers to add.

  5. Ricarda Stotko

    I’m sure there is a digital distributor list on wikipedia, if not – although its dated now – great list, helped me with further research for my website. Thanks.

    Again, great article.
    – Owner of MMORPG TOP 10

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