DDNet Game of the Year Awards 2021! Publisher of the Year

7 mins read

It’s that time of year again, everyone, where we celebrate the best games of the year. Despite being a heavily disrupted year thanks to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, 2021 produced some incredible games, almost from day one, and as a result, our awards this year has the most variety of games ever – almost 50 different titles got at least one award, and as you’ll see as we announce each category, it really is an endless stream of incredible experiences.

This year we had a special, expanded judging panel, with the entire DDNet team participating, but we also invited some prominent people from independent game publications outside the Website to participate, so we could get a broader range of insights and thoughts into the winners from each category. Our additional judges this year included Pete Davison from Rice Digital, Thomas Knight of Nook Gaming, Robert Allen of Tech-Gaming, Matt Ryan from Shindig, and academic and freelancer, @TsuChanJohnson on Twitter. The total judging pool for the awards was ten people this year around, and there was some heated discussion about the worthiest titles in each category indeed!

It’s important to recognise the role of a publisher in the games industry. It has been a terrible year in the space with a lot of publishers being revealed to be absolutely horrible companies (hi, Activision and Ubisoft), but when publishing works, you get a company that is taking on all the financial risk to bring us wonderful games to play, and then making sure that the best games get seen by the people that will love them. Having dealt with a lot of indies that self-publish, the value that publishers bring to gaming shouldn’t be ignored, and so with this award we recognise the publishers doing good things in the industry.


Idea Factory International
For such a tiny outfit, Idea Factory has always punched well above its weight, and Idea Factory International does the same with the western game releases. From a number of Nintendo Switch ports of a range of excellent JRPGs, to a couple of new Neptunia releases on console, and even dabbling in otome visual novels with the incredible Cupid Parasite, Idea Factory International’s output this year has been eclectic, vibrant, and consistently entertaining. 

There has always been the question mark hanging over this company: what would happen if Neptunia lost steam? Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be happening, as 2022 will bring is the Neptunia Sisters title, which looks like a delight, but even if that were to happen, this company has done a remarkable job of diversifying its output in recent years, and we look forward to seeing that continue into 2022.
Square Enix

It was looking like a relatively mild year for Square Enix this year. Bringing Yuffie to Final Fantasy VII Remake was a good thing, to be sure, and there was Braverly Default too, and some releases by the western studios. There were even some remasters of classic, beloved PlayStation 1 titles. But it was really the back half of the year where things really picked up, and Square Enix reminded us that, as big “AAA” publishers go, it is the one with the most creative soul.

Backing Yoko Taro’s wild ideas paid dividends with Voice of Cards being excellent, and then Dungeon Encounters may have been released just a month after it was announced, but it delighted us in a big way too. With the likes of Chocobo Racing and Triangle Strategy on the way in 2022, we’re quite comfortable that Square Enix will land on this list again at the 2022 awards.

When the success of one of history’s best-selling consoles comes down to how well you support it, the pressure is always on to have an amazing year, and Nintendo has delivered as it always does. The N64 Classics on Nintendo Switch might have been controversial (we loved them), but Metroid Dread, Skyward Sword, Game Builder Garage, Famicom Detective Club, Pokémon Snap, and plenty more besides demonstrates that Nintendo hasn’t lost its creative spark or willingness to do things differently by any means.
What’s perhaps most incredible, however, is that this really was a relatively muted year by Nintendo’s standards, with few new games from its “A-list” backing it. Looking at what Nintendo has planned for 2022, including a NEW Pokémon title, the biggest Kirby to date, a new Splatoon, Zelda Breath of the Wild sequel and Bayonetta 3, and we struggle to imagine the Switch momentum is going to ease off any time soon.

Koei Tecmo
Koei Tecmo has had a rare year for a publisher; its line-up of releases was so good that it’s genuinely easy to forget what games came in the first half of the year. Koei Tecmo kicked things off in 2021 with a new Atelier game, and it takes so much for us to have mentally relegated that to “last year” prominence. From there we had Project Zero/Fatal Frame, Romance of the Three Kingdoms on Nintendo Switch, Samurai Warriors, and the absolutely spectacular Blue Reflection: Second Light. A game that we didn’t even know existed at the start of the year.

Koei Tecmo wrapped the year up with a relatively niche release in the Monster Rancher collection, but with Monster Rancher being so beloved, that this was a distantly second release for the company just goes to show how well it performed this year with bringing us a seemingly endless series of things to play. It’ll be a tough act to follow in 2022, but if any publisher can do it, it’s Koei Tecmo.

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

Previous Story

24 Games Of Christmas! Day #13: Monster Train: First Class

Next Story

Review: Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector (Sony PlayStation 4)

Latest Articles