When you think about the games you love today, or the ones you read about the most, it’s remarkable how few developers we ever really consider or talk about. For the most part, the headline game developers tend to be headquartered in the United States (typically on the West Coast, as with Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, and Valve Corp.); in Canada (most notably various facets of Ubisoft); and now, in the age of mobile gaming, in scattered European towns where indie app developers are hitting it big (like Supercell of Clash Of Clans fame, or Year Walk developer Simogo in Sweden). And of course, we still tune in for the latest updates from Nintendo, which is based in Japan even if its American branch is also quite active these days.
Those companies and a handful of others from the same regions account for a vast portion of today’s most popular and prominent games. However, in this piece we’re going to look instead at the UK – a region that seems almost mysteriously overlooked by many when it comes to game development. You may not have realized it, but the following developers have had a massive impact on all different genres of modern gaming….
Rockstar is one of the biggest names in video games today thanks primarily to its work on the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series. And Rockstar’s core headquarters is in New York City. However, many may not realize that it’s actually the Rockstar North studio in Edinburgh, Scotland that’s responsible for some of the best titles in these series. In addition to several lesser-known games, Rockstar North developed the first three Grand Theft Auto games when it was still DMA Design; it has also handled all subsequent GTA games, Red Dead Redemption, and Red Dead Redemption II, since becoming Rockstar North.
Rocksteady Studios is actually a Warner Bros. company, but is headquartered in London, England, from which it has produced one of the most influential action-adventure game series in modern history. This is the Batman: Arkham series, which now spans four titles (including Batman: Arkham VR) from 2007-2016. Hints of the next game have been tricking out of late as well, so we could see more from Rocksteady soon. Even at this point though, Rocksteady has really set the tone for everything from general action-adventure games to superhero adaptations specifically.
Rare is actually one of the most fascinating development companies in existence these days due to the variety of games it’s put out from its Twycross, England studio. The company gained fame through ‘90s platforms like Donkey Kong, Conker, and Banjo-Kazooie; it went on to produce GoldenEye 007, not the first first-person shooter game, but likely the most influential; and most recently it produced Sea Of Thieves, a wildly ambitious game that disappointed some but still may have set the bar higher for a certain type of open-world simulation on a modern console. Rare just seems to make an impact no matter what it does.
King may not really belong to any one location. It originated in Sweden and was purchased by Activision Blizzard (for about $6 billion). However, there is a London studio at least partially responsible for the mobile game Candy Crush Saga and its subsequent spinoffs, which have been among the most popular, lucrative, and influential mobile games of the last 10 years.
Depending on your relationship with digital casino gaming, Playtech is likely either very familiar or completely unknown to you. In the UK though, digital casino gaming is far more prominent. In particular, a selection of high-quality slot sites is available to players, with each one offering a wide variety of titles that – these days – are more like full, animated video games than just slot reels. A handful of companies design most of these games, but the UK-based Playtech has many of the best. Its titles, from a mythology-inspired “Age Of The Gods” series, to games based on films like Gladiator, Man Of Steel, and Green Lantern, have set the tone not just for UK slot sites but for digital casino games around the world – making Playtech ultimately one of the more influential developers working today.
Traveller’s Tales, which is now formally known as TT Games, was designing games for a younger audience back in the 1990s. However, it took off as a more mainstream development studio in 2005, when it released LEGO Star Wars. TT Games has since been responsible for a sprawling genre’s worth of LEGO video games, and one could argue that the subsequent LEGO animated films might never have happened had those games not been such hits. For developing this niche gaming empire and making so many more games based on major heroes and franchises popular, TT Games is undeniably a major influencer in the modern industry.
Fireproof Games is somewhat small compared to most of the names above, but we’re listing it here because it’s one of a handful of companies really pushing the boundaries of what mobile gaming can become. The studio’s The Room series has produced several beloved games with some of the best graphics and most engaging gameplay in the mobile medium. And with a VR version of these games coming out next, Fireproof is continuing to innovate. In fact, this looks to be a more immersive experience than most of what we’ve seen in the VR category to date.
For some, of course, it doesn’t really matter where a game comes from so long as it’s entertaining. But in any look at the state of the modern industry it’s important not to get too caught up with a handful of big players in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. These UK developers deserve their due as well, and have played a huge role in shaping today’s video game landscape.