I find it interesting that Japan totally dominated video game development for over twenty years, but now Japanese game developers have fallen behind the West. Ever since the turn of the century, video games have become so popular that they're now developed in nearly every country on the planet. As a result, video game development is a cutthroat business, and no developer is completely safe even if they have a record of making successful titles. Here's my list of 10 of the best American video game developers that still exist today.
Naughty Dog (Founded in 1984)
Every gamer has heard of Naughty Dog thanks to the uber-popular Uncharted series as well as newer IPs like The Last of Us. However, few people know that this successful developer has been making games for over 30 years. Early titles include Keef the Thief and Way of the Warrior, but Naughty Dog gained notoriety on the PS2 with Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. Now they're so popular that most gamers can't wait to see what they come up with next.
Bethesda Game Studios (Founded in 1986)
Bethesda Game Studios didn't become well-known for its series of Terminator games in the early '90s, but they've been gaining popularity ever since they created The Elder Scrolls Arena in 1994. This popular RPG series spawned several excellent sequels, including Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. When the Fallout series is added to their list of accomplishments, the result is nothing short of a gaming juggernaut.
Activision Blizzard (Founded in 1991)
Blizzard Entertainment literally set the standard for MMOs with World of Warcraft, but this development studio has been going strong since well before WoW was created. Sure, they made some decent games in the '90s, but various series like Starcraft and Diablo really helped to set them apart from other developers. While I still mourn the loss of the canceled action game, Starcraft Ghost, Activision Blizzard has made up for it with subsequent games like Overwatch.
Insomniac Games (Founded in 1994)
Although they were never actually owned by Sony Entertainment, the first sixteen games that Insomniac Games released were PlayStation exclusives. I really enjoyed Spyro the Dragon, and I can't get enough of the Ratchet & Clank series, but I have mixed feelings about Resistance and Sunset Overdrive. However, I'm really looking forward to playing their upcoming Spider-man game that looks to revive the franchise with triple-A production. On a side note, Insomniac Games is the only gaming company to make the “50 Best Small & Medium Sized Companies to Work for in America” list according to Fortune.
Valve (Founded in 1996)
With several ground-breaking video games under their belt and the creation of the Steam distribution platform, Valve has cemented itself as one of the most important game companies in the world. In addition, Half-Life and Half-Life 2 raised the bar for FPSs so much that it took years for other game developers to catch up. Other series like Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Portal, and Left 4 Dead also made groundbreaking strides in the industry. My dream is for Valve to include the portal gun in Half-Life 3, if it's ever released
id Software (Founded in 1990)
As one of the older game developers still in existence, Id Software has managed to stay afloat thanks mostly to their genre-defining shooters from the '90s. Who can forget the original FPS, Wolfenstein 3D, or the action-packed multiplayer shooter, Quake III? The developers are still going strong by recreating some of their more popular shooters, like DOOM and the upcoming Quake Champions. I still have hopes that they will make a sequel to one of my all-time favorite FPS games, Rage.
Santa Monica Studio (Founded in 1999)
This is Sony's most successful in-house development team that is also responsible for helping other developers craft their games. They even publish a few here and there. Santa Monica Studio is best known for creating the awesome God of War series as well as for making lesser-known titles like Warhawk and PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe. They're currently developing a new version of God of War that looks freakin' fantastic!
Gearbox Software (Founded in 1999)
Gearbox Software initially produced a wide variety of ports from console to PC that include Half-Life and all of its expansions. Their first original game was the WWII-based FPS Brothers in Arms, which is still one of my favorite WWII games. Then they went on to create the popular Borderlands and the recently-released multiplayer game, Battleborn. Even though they are responsible for POS games like Aliens: Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem Forever, I choose to focus on their positive achievements.
Obsidian Entertainment (Founded in 2003)
Obsidian Entertainment started strong out of the gate with Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2 and then went on to craft Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas. Unfortunately, their original IP, titled Alpha Protocol, didn't sell enough to warrant a sequel. However, they've made a bit of a comeback with South Park: The Stick of Truth and Pillars of Eternity. Later this year Obsidian plans on releasing a fantasy-based RPG on the PC called Tyranny.
Infinity Ward (Founded in 2002)
Everyone knows Infinity Ward is the main developer of the global sensation known as the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, but to be honest, I prefer their first two games. Call of Duty set a high benchmark for WWII shooters, and CoDII raised it even higher on the PC as the first FPS that incorporated tank warfare. Sadly, the console version's online multiplayer mode was severely lacking. While their Modern Warfare series has grown stale over the years, CoD: Infinite Warfare looks like it might actually introduce something new.
[Naming just ten is very limiting, which just goes to show the strength of American developers. I would like give honorable mentions to Rockstar Games, Irrational Games, and NetherRealm Studios. ~Ed. Nick]