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Bethesda is Metacritic's top-ranked major publisher for 2017

Review aggregate site Metacritic has published its 2017 list of game publisher rankings, a rundown of the year's top publishers based on average Metascores, weighted by the percentage of released that fall into great, good, and bad rating categories. This year's top "major" publisher is Bethesda Softworks, with an overall Metascore of 79.9 across 12 "distinct titles," enough to move it up from the mid-sized publisher rankings it led two years ago. 

"The publisher increased its Metascore average by more than six points compared to its 2016 slate thanks to a well-received new entry in the Wolfenstein franchise, a reboot of Prey, a strong Evil Within sequel, and various releases in the Elder Scrolls series," Metacritic wrote. "In all, 91 percent of the company's 2017 products were positively reviewed—the best rate for any publisher." 

The top major publishers, and their average Metascores, shake out like this:

  • Bethesda – 79.9 
  • Nintendo – 78.0
  • Sega – 75.5
  • Activision-Blizzard – 75.7
  • Capcom – 76.6
  • Ubisoft – 75.4
  • Sony – 74.9
  • Square Enix – 73.6
  • Bandai Namco – 73.0
  • Koei Tecmo – 69.7
  • NIS America – 68.2
  • Telltale Games – 70.9

You will no doubt notice that rankings and average Metascores don't align quite perfectly. This is because the rankings are point-based, and the hallmark of excellence, as the saying goes, is consistency. So while Bethesda didn't have any "great" games (Metascore of 90 or higher with a minimum of seven reviews), 91 percent of its total qualified as "good," with a Metascore of at least 75. Second-place finisher Nintendo had three "great" games, but only 72 percent ranked as "good," and with a slightly lower overall Metascore.

Here are the top 15 mid-size publisher rankings for the year, determined using the same methodology:

  • Nicalis – 79.8
  • Paradox Interactive – 80.6
  • Devolver Digital – 76.5
  • Warner Bros. Interactive – 73.7
  • Electronic Arts – 73.2
  • Daedalic Entertainment – 73.0
  • Plug In Digital – 75.3
  • Hamster – 73.6
  • Take-Two Interactive – 72.8
  • Adult Swim – 71.0
  • XSEED Games – 73.0
  • Microsoft Game Studios – 72.0
  • Headup Games – 68.2
  • Aksys Games – 71.0
  • THQ Nordic – 68.2

The next obvious question: How is NIS America a "major publisher" while EA (and WBIE, Take-Two, and Microsoft) is mid-sized? It's all about the number of games released.

"EA normally lands in our major publishers list (a year ago, in fact, it ranked #1 on that list), but a decreased release slate in 2017 led to a demotion to our mid-size publishers chart," Metacritic explained. "Speaking of decreases, EA's Metascore average fell precipitously last year, and the publisher's rate of critically approved games plunged from 79 percent to just 48 percent. (Metacritic users, meanwhile, trashed almost all of EA's releases.) The company's many 2017 disappointments included Need for Speed Payback and Star Wars Battlefront II. EA's best game last year? FIFA 18."

The same holds true for Take-Two, whose release slate was "small and more lackluster" than it was in 2016: Its biggest highlight of the year was the XCOM 2 expansion War of the Chosen.