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The Best Developer of 2017

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It’s award season here at Twinfinite! Let’s look back at the best developers from 2017. Voted on by our editors, these developers in particular did amazing work in 2017. Let’s start our top vote-getting honorable mentions, runner-ups, and finally, of course, our overall winner!

 Honorable Mention: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games

Best Developer of 2017

Sonic Mania


Even Sonic’s most loyal supporters recognize his best years are behind him. Though the character continues his legacy in 3D, it is Sonic’s 16-bit clothes that arguably still fit him the best. The crack team behind Sonic Mania Christian Whitehead, PagodaWest Games, and Headcannon did what seemed impossible: bring Sonic back to his former glory.

SEGA’s decision to trust this squad to create a Genesis-style outing for Sonic certainly paid dividends. Sonic Mania has enjoyed critical acclaim, as well as pleasing Sonic’s faithful fanbase. Christian Whitehead’s awesome mashup of revamped iconic levels and superbly designed new ones, presented in gorgeous pixel art and supported by rockin’ beats has proven a winning formula. The end result is what now can be considered one of the greatest Sonic games ever made.

Honorable Mention: Larian Studios

Best Developer of 2017

Divinity: Original Sin 2, original sin, release date

If you thought isometric, turn-based RPGs were a thing of the past, Larian Studios’ Divinity Original Sin 2 has surely changed that perception. Earning universal critical acclaim, it’s one of the best RPGs to be released not only this year, but ever. This enthralling 100-hour experience improves on its predecessor’s best qualities with a superb branching narrative, interesting characters, and a battle system that demands skilled strategy and tactics. Gamers have responded in kind, as Divinity Original Sin 2 smashed past one million copies sold in just one month.

What makes Larian Studio’s success so notable is that it comes after a troubled history of financial struggles and publisher mismanagement. Now fully independent, the developer has found its groove and is proudly showing the rest of the industry how it’s done.

Second Runner-Up: Atlus

Best Developer of 2017

persona 5

Atlus’s Persona 5 is a refreshing hark back to the old school of gaming. Its linear single-player gameplay, turn-based combat, lengthy cutscenes, are unusual in today’s gaming ecosystem. And yet, Persona 5 is absolutely one of the most innovative and unique gameplay experiences of 2017. Atlus has been developing the Persona series for over two decades, and they’ve pretty much perfected this wonderful part visual novel, part RPG, part social adventure series. With Persona 5, by sticking to what they know best, the developer has created a video game of exceptional standards.

There really is a magic to Persona 5’s particular jumble of day-to-day school life and its otherworldly dungeon crawling. It’s a game about forging tight bonds with new acquaintances; leveling up those friendships by hanging out so that you’re able to support each other against the dangers of its other fantasy realm. It’s quite extraordinary but totally absorbing. Particularly so, because Persona 5 is brought to life by an eye-popping visual charm and a fist-pumping soundtrack. It’s a recipe for escapism that will make you never want to leave Tokyo. We can’t speak highly enough of Atlus’s most polished Persona game yet.

First Runner-Up: Ubisoft

Best Developer of 2017

Assassin's Creed Origins, Xbox One X

Ubisoft deserves a great deal of credit for its versatility in development over 2017. Beyond successfully relaunching its hugely popular tentpole franchise, Assassin’s Creed, it has released brand new IPs, developed a superb Nintendo Switch title, dabbled in VR, and produced an exceptional RPG based on a highly popular license. While not every title has released to universal critical acclaim, Ubisoft’s commitment to covering these different bases of the industry suggests has to be commended.

It’s worth remembering that Ubisoft has been battling a hostile takeover by holdings company Vivendi in 2017. But when you’re backed into a corner, you fight, and Ubisoft is making the sort of gamer-focused decisions that are shifting public perception of the company.

Assassin’s Creed Origins has flown off store shelves thanks to its roleplaying overhaul and a lovingly detailed world. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was a resounding success, with Ubisoft winning over Nintendo fans for being among the only significant third-party developer to really gamble on Nintendo’s new console. New IPs, such as For Honor, didn’t necessarily set the world on fire, but it’s the sort of experimentation gamers like to see. And expanding into the VR market speaks to that point similarly, especially given that Star Trek Bridge Crew is one of the standout VR experiences on the market.

Ubisoft has had a stellar year, pushing back any sentiment that it was exploiting annualized franchises. Long may it continue.

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