31 video gaming companies that are innovating the industry

From pick-up-and-play casual mobile games to geocache hunting to bleeding-edge virtual reality, these innovative upstarts and trusted veterans are why video gaming continues to lap all entertainment competitors.
June 10, 2019
Updated: September 6, 2019
Written by Stephen Gossett

In the letter to shareholders heard ‘round the entertainment world, Netflix in January famously admitted that it competes with — and loses to — the popular video game Fortnite more than HBO. And while the gargantuan success of that Epic Games blockbuster surely remains an outlier, the subtext is unmistakable: In the knock-down, drag-out competition for users’ screen time, the video gaming industry is booming where yesterday’s entertainment forerunners are lagging, if not outright busting.

The American video game industry hit record revenue last year, racking up $43.4 billion — an 18 percent rise over the previous year, according to data released by the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group. Compare that to the film industry, where domestic box office will likely “continue stagnating” through at least 2022, and the music industry, which struggled with sharp decline for years and is only recently showing signs of rebounding.

Poised to become a $300 billion worldwide business by 2025, the gaming industry owes some of that success to its adaptation of tech breakthroughs and its discovery of new business strategies—both of which are also generated internally.

Gaming Companies With $100M+ Funding

  • Activision Blizzard
  • Big Fish Games (Acquired)
  • Bungie (Acquired)
  • DoubleDown Interactive (Acquired)
  • Electronic Arts
  • Epic Games
  • Jam City
  • PopCap Games (Acquired)
  • Scopely
  • Twitch (Acquired)

According to Ed Thomas, an analyst at GlobalData, gaming is "in the throes of a huge transformation from a product-oriented business to an as-a-service model. At the same time, new technologies like 5G, cloud and virtual reality will usher in a new phase of innovation, while new business models like support for in-game micropayments are already changing the economics of gaming."

Want some anecdotal evidence? Try getting between a friend and their current round of PUBG Mobile or Minecraft or the un-killable Candy Crush Saga.

All three of those titles have one thing in common: They’re mobile games designed for casual play—even if they are deceptively addictive. Pick up, play, put down, repeat as necessary. That kind of approachability has put mobile in the driver's seat. Even though so many mobile games are free-to-play or micropay, mobile gaming collectively outpaced revenue of console and PC gaming in 2018.

At the same time, these remain the salad days of hardcore gaming, as console makers inch toward the cross-play future, PC game-makers build their own “mini-platforms” and even inveterate eight-bit nostalgists are afforded plenty of room at the screen.

 

To get an idea of who's doing what in an industry that seems to be in perpetual flux, check out these 31 gaming industry innovators.

Electronic Arts Video Gaming Company
Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts

Location: Redwood City, Calif.

What it does: One of the industry’s true powerhouses, EA is proof that quality and quantity need not be mutually exclusive. The venerable outfit released a dozen distinct titles in 2018, almost all of which racked up critical accolades. (EA averaged a 77.5 Metascore last year.) The EA Sports division is responsible for some of the most iconic sports-games franchises, including FIFA, Madden NFL and NBA Live; EA’s classic non-sports series range from The Sims to Medal of Honor; and its Mobile subsidiary does a reliably good job of putting those hits in your pocket. Truth be told, if EA had done nothing more than create and distribute Skate or Die!, nostalgia points alone would merit it mention.

 

Take Two Interactive Video Gaming Company
Take-Two Interactive

Take-Two Interactive

Location: New York City

What it does: A 25-year veteran, this major player is one of the most recognizable names in gaming. Its two divisions, Rockstar Games and 2K, are responsible for some certified cultural phenomena, including the former’s infamous Grand Theft Auto and the latter’s NBA 2K. Recent blockbuster Red Dead Redemption 2 is emblematic of the company’s rigorous attention to graphic and motion detail.

 

Naughty Dog Video Gaming Company
Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog

Location: Santa Monica, Calif.

What it does: Naughty Dog started in a garage in the late 1980s and eventually grew to become one of the premier American gaming companies, thanks to watershed series like Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and Uncharted. The company emphasizes cross-studio collaboration between programmers, developers and designers, retaining an indie-style culture while producing award-winning blue chip titles.

 

activision blizzard video gaming company
Activision Blizzard Entertainment

Activision Blizzard Entertainment

Location: Santa Monica, Calif.

What it does: Most famous perhaps for massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft, Activision Blizzard also scores highly in digital collectible card games (Hearthstone), first-person shooters (Overwatch) and other genres. They’re also celebrated for some of the most memorable April Fools’ Day pranks in the industry and—get this—handing out steins, shields, swords and helms as service awards.

 

illfonic video gaming company
Illfonic

IIIFonic

Location: Golden, Colo., and Tacoma, Wash.

What it does: Co-founded by music industry veterans, including neo-soul favorite Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné!, IllFonic has grown into a leading indie game developer, making its name on tactical titles like Armored Warfare and horror survival games like Friday the 13th: The Game. The company takes strides to maintain an independent spirit even as it continues to grow, and it carefully plans projects with an eye toward the long term, according to top brass.

 

jam city video gaming company
Jam City

Jam City

Location: Culver City, Calif.

What it does: Befitting its location at the movie mecca of Culver City, Jam City has produced game adaptations of massively popular tentpole franchises, including Harry Potter and Marvel Avengers titles. They also recently inked a multi-year deal with Disney to develop games that will feature Pixar and Disney characters. The developer — which counts the creators of MySpace and a former 20th Century Fox executive among its co-founders — has proven to be a major leader, particularly in the free-to-play social and mobile categories.

 

scopely video gaming company
Scopely

Scopely

Location: Culver City, Calif.

What it does: Another leading mobile-gaming company with strong ties to Hollywood, Scopely works with in-house developers and external studios from around the world. The fast-growing company, which is responsible for hits like Star Trek Fleet Command and Looney Tunes World of Mayhem, prides itself for its diversity of approaches, moving beyond casual gaming into role-playing and strategy games.

 

backflip studios video gaming company
backflip studios

Backflip Studios

Location: Boulder, Colo.

What it does: This Hasbro-owned developer specializes in approachable, family-friendly, free-to-play mobile fare, most notably their much-loved multi-toucher Paper Toss. Backflip Studios' deal with Hasbro means plenty of opportunity to grow popular titles like Transformers into the next casually addictive hit.

 

doubledown interactive video gaming company
DoubleDown Interactive

DoubleDown Interactive

Location: Seattle, Washington

What it does: DoubleDown Interactive makes classic casino games—everything from blackjack and slots to poker and roulette—for social and mobile platforms. The International District-based company is all in on employee perks, too, including on-site massage therapy and trips to Mariners games.

 

playq video gaming company
PlayQ

PlayQ

Location: Santa Monica, Calif.

What it does: This on-the-rise mobile gaming developer prioritizes easy-to-grasp gameplay, colorful graphics, fit-for-all-ages narratives and just-so degrees of familiarity—think puzzles and platforms. 

 

groundspeak video gaming company
Groundspeak

Groundspeak

Location: Seattle

What it does: Years before the great Pokémon GO scare of 2016, this geocaching pioneer was already getting gamers outside and GPS-scavenging for treasure. Groundspeak has also nurtured a robust network of forums, events and even environmental outreach, encouraging responsible play.

 

her interactive video gaming company
Her Interactive

Her Interactive

Location: Bellevue, Wash.

What it does: Led by their ever-popular and evergreen Nancy Drew series that has connected across multiple generations, Her Interactive makes games for girls with budding inner sleuths. Her helped shatter the canard that computer games were just for boys, and has carried the loyalty it's developed over the decades into the contemporary gaming environment, expanding beyond the desktop.

 

aftershock video gaming company
Aftershock

Aftershock

Location: Los Angeles

What it does: Not to be confused with the boutique-laptop manufacturers of the same name, Aftershock brings some of its parent company’s most enviable IP to the gaming world — including the turn-based strategy hit Marvel Strike Force. Upcoming titles will take place in the Avatar and Alien universes, with the former emphasizing strategy and tactics and the latter taking shape as a shooter.

 

insomniac games
Insomniac Games

Insomniac Games

Location: Burbank, Calif.

What it does: The creative force behind Spider-Man, one of the industry’s true recent mega-successes, Insomniac Games dates back 25 years. Having earned its name on Playstation exclusives like Ratchet & Clank and Spyro the Dragon, it's of the true major American players in gaming.

 

gearbox software video gaming company
Gearbox Software

Gearbox Software

Location: Frisco, Texas

What it does: After leveraging success from Half-Life expansion packs into their own hit franchises Brothers in Arms and Borderlands, Gearbox has not only navigated the ever-shifting waters of the gaming industry for 20-plus years, they’ve remained forward-thinking. Case in point: the impressively complex 2016 first-person shooter Battleborn.

 

N3TWORK
N3TWORK

N3TWORK

Location: San Francisco

What it does: Co-founded by Neil Young (the game designer and entrepreneur of We Farm fame, not the cantankerous rocker), N3TWORK did gangbusters business on its own with Legendary: Game of Heroes, then parlayed those winnings into an ambitious new arena: allowing third-party developers access to the studio’s best practices in applications ranging from ad creative development to continued campaign optimization—a sign that a company's hunting for innovative business models.

 

popcap games video gaming company
PopCap Games

PopCap Games

Location: Seattle

What it does: Famous in the casual games market, PopCap made its mark with the once-ubiquitous tile-matching Bejeweled series — which, according to its makers, once racked up a sale every 4.3 seconds and has sold in excess of 50 million units. After a post-Plants vs. Zombies acquisition by EA, the developer (which began inside a modest Seattle apartment) remains focused on breezy, grab-and-play fun.

 

twitch video gaming company
Twitch

Twitch

Location: Seattle

What it does: It's not a gaming company per se, but few outfits are as inextricable from the gaming landscape as streaming platform Twitch. The go-to broadcasting choice for the e-sports community and other gamers, the video platform-meets-social community was acquired by Amazon in 2014 and (per the company) attracts more than 10 million monthly visitors.

 

bethesda softworks video gaming company
Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Softworks

Location: Rockville, Md.

What it does: This three-decade-plus-old powerhouse became a household name on the strength of pioneering RPG series The Elder Scrolls, which boasts worlds so intricate that they necessitated the creation of a “loremaster” job role. The company has expanded into just about every other genre since then, including sports games, strategy games, shooters and beyond.

 

valve corporation video gaming company
Valve Corporation

Valve Corporation

Location: Bellevue, Wash.

What it does: Founded more than 20 years ago by a pair of former Microsoft employees, Valve catapulted to acclaim and popularity with its very first title, the first-person shooter turning point Half-Life. In recent years, it has looked forward to hardware, particularly virtual reality. The team’s early VR breakthroughs infamously helped prompt Mark Zuckerberg to buy into the VR game, while Valve’s own upcoming Valve Index VR kit is scheduled for a much anticipated release this summer.

 

obsidian entertainment video gaming company
Obsidian Entertainment

Obsidian Entertainment

Location: Irvine, Calif.

What it does: The age of sequels surely extends to the gaming world, and these RPG specialists—launched in 2003 by a team of ex-Black Isle employees—built their name on a couple of better-than-the-original follow-ups: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and Neverwinter Nights 2. Meanwhile, the well-known crowdfunding success for Pillars of Eternity revealed that Obsidian is adept at maneuvering the long falls that can be endemic to the quicksilver gaming industry.

 

id software video gaming company
iD Software

id Software

Location: Richardson, Texas

What it does: Even the most casual gamers are likely familiar with legacy id titles like Wolfenstein 3D (perhaps the ne plus ultra of RPG), DOOM (which helped usher in the modern multiplayer model) and QUAKE—all of which revolutionized what a PC game could be. The company also pioneered the shareware distribution model. 

 

epic games video gaming company
Epic Games

Epic Games

Location: Potomac, Md.

What it does: As the monoculture continues to fragment, we may never see another Pac-Man-style capital-P phenomenon, but the long-tail success of Fortnite has come awfully close. Separate from that mammoth success, Epic Games—which dates back well beyond the internet era—is looking toward the future with projects like Unreal Engine, a product development suite that includes hyper-realistic design renderings that also have automotive applications—hence the company’s recent Detroit expansion.

 

bungie video gaming company
Bungie

Bungie

Location: Bellevue, Wash.

What it does: Bungie has grown from self-described “creepy one bedroom apartment” origins to become worthy of a famous scoop-up by Microsoft. The major tech company acquired the company in 2000 and launched the Xbox console with the studio’s mega-hit Halo: Combat Evolved. In the span of just a few years, Bungie left Microsoft, then split from a subsequent Activision partnership and returned to its independent roots. 

 

warner bros interactive entertainment video gaming company
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Location: Burbank, Calif.

What it does: Holding some of the most prime IP this side of Marvel under its umbrella has proven a sound business strategy for this major entertainment company. The game division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc. operates hit franchises like Mortal Kombat, which is headed up by Chicago-based subsidiary NetherRealm Studios, and Batman: Arkham, which was launched by London-based wing Rocksteady Studios. Expect upcoming Harry Potter and Game of Thrones titles to carry on the conquest.

 

big fish games video gaming company
Big Fish Games

Big Fish Games

Location: Seattle

What it does: Big Fish works the desktop game market, but it's known primarily as a purveyor of fun, low-stakes social/mobile distractions of the so-called “easy to play, hard to master” variety. Think beat-the-clock, puzzle, hidden object and tile-match games—like the plenty popular Gummy Drop!, which got a Toy Story spin in May.

 

raven software video gaming company
Raven Software

Raven Software

Location: Madison, Wis.

What it does: According to its website, Raven Software’s decision to stay rooted in the gaming-industry flyover country of Wisconsin was a conscious choice — one that comes with notable cost-of-living and community perks. As for its game portfolio, highlights include Heretic/Hexen and Soldier of Fortune. And in recent years, it has notably lent assistance to fellow Activision partners Treyarch and Infinity Ward on Call of Duty entries.

 

infinity ward video gaming company
Infinity Ward

Infinity Ward

Location: Woodland Hills, Calif.

What it does: The developer and its marquee series, Call of Duty, remain key revenue generators, now as an Activision subsidiary. The company was launched back in 2002 by a 2015, Inc. breakaway team that had previously worked on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. More recently, they appear to be breaking further into cross-platform-play territory.

 

arenanet video gaming company
ArenaNet

ArenaNet

Location: Bellevue, Wash.

What it does: Started by a trio of former Blizzard programmers, this long-running outfit is known for massively-multiplayer-online successes like Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. It's also known for incorporating the increasingly popular episodic-update model. 

 

santa monica studio video gaming company
santa monica studio

Santa Monica Studio

Location: Santa Monica, Calif.

What it does: Two decades into the gaming game, this venerable studio still looks like a visionary. Cases in point: the most recent God of War Playstation-exclusive juggernaut, which amassed seemingly endless Game of the Year hardware and surpassed $10 million in sales; and the internally produced documentary Raising Kratos, about the tolls of game development.

 

flowplay video gaming company
FlowPlay

FlowPlay

Location: Seattle

What it does: Working both the consumer market and B2B, FlowPlay’s focus is squarely on immersive community-building games. Vegas World goes the casino route, with nearly 50 casino-style games under one “roof, and ourWorld sports hundreds of games-within-a-world, all designed with a teen-girl audience in mind.

 

devolver digital video gaming company
Devolver Digital

Devolver Digital

Location: Austin

What it does: This publisher seeks out and shines a light on games from all over the planet, usually ones with a firmly offbeat sensibility. Examples range from a Swedish-made “violent ballet about friendship, imagination, and one man’s struggle to obliterate anyone in his path at the behest of a sentient banana,” to a turn-based adventure from a scrappy Polish indie about growing and selling weed. 

Images via Shutterstock, social media and company websites

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