Growing up, the idea of playing or developing video games is every boy’s dream. Just the thought of getting paid to create a video game is a dream come true for so many who spent a healthy portion of their childhood glued to the television or computer with their controller in hand. Of course these kids probably haven’t realized how much diligence and hard work goes into creating these games, otherwise they might think twice before they consider video game development and design as a career.

From start to finish, these projects can be daunting. Not only are the developers responsible for writing a compelling story line, but they also need to make sure the game play is fluid and easy, and that the graphics are as realistic as possible. We don’t have experience in the space, but we can guess that this process can be harrowing and exhausting at times. That said, once the product is finished and the developers get to see kids clamoring to get their hands on the new game, all of their work can seem very fulfilling and rewarding.

In all honesty, we are adults, and we still love playing video games of all different kinds. Our passion for the industry made it easier for us to recognize some of the development studios that have been engaging so many children with their games. This list is not meant to be comprehensive and the studios aren’t listed in any particular order. So try not to take the list too seriously, after all, they are just games…right?

Infinity Ward

It didn’t take long for Infinity Ward to make its mark on the industry as their very first game, Call of Duty, was an instant hit thanks to its game play and storyline and its success caused publisher Activision to acquire Infinity Ward, bring one of the most popular video game franchises in the country under their umbrella.

Since the acquisition, Infinity Ward has released five more additions to the Call of Duty franchise and it has gotten to the point where fans lineup outside of stores to get their hands on the newest release. In the first 24 hours after its release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sold 6.5 million copies in the United States and the United Kingdom alone, cementing Infinity Ward’s status as a developer to keep an eye on.

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Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog may not be quite as big as some of the industry giants, but they boast some seriously successful titles. Their forte is platform games and the commercially successful Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series’ helped them back up their reputation as one of the best in the business. Those multilayered games were one thing, but they weren’t done.

Their next series, the wildly popular Uncharted set, boasted a riveting storyline and inspired graphics, helping it win a slew of Game of the Year awards. Their next project will be called The Last of Us and given their track record, you can expect something special.

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Epic Games

Their list of successful games isn’t quite as deep as some of the other developers on this list, but the two series’ they can hang their hat on can stack up against some of the best titles in recent memory. Epic first garnered recognition for Unreal series that was beloved by first-person shooter aficionados across the country.

Their encore was the Gears of War trilogy, which has been one of the most anticipated series’ in recent memory. Not only is the game play unique and fresh, but the graphics and cinematic cut scenes kept players engaged in the story throughout. Topping those titles is going to be difficult, but their track record says video game fans should keep a look out for Fortnite, which will be their next project.

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Take-Two Interactive

As much a publisher as they are a developer, Take-Two Interactive owes much of its success and acclaim to its acquisitions such as Rockstar Games and 2K Games. Not many other developers can claim a product list as impressive as the one that Take-Two gets to brag about.

The Grand Theft Auto series, the Manhunt series, the Midnight Club series, the Bioshock series, and the 2K Sports titles are all part of their umbrella and helped them avoid a takeover by EA Sports back in 2008. Aside from the sports games, which are pretty straightforward but still graphically impressive, each of those series features a layered and complex story and exciting game play. Now they need to keep the momentum rolling if they want to stay atop an industry that features plenty of competition.

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Square Enix

If you love video games, then chances are you have played at least one if not a half-dozen titles in the gripping and addictive Final Fantasy series. Well you can thank Tokyo-based developer and publisher Square Enix for that, as they have built their reputation on that incredibly popular and successful series. At the time, that series was revolutionary for how detailed the graphics were and how in-depth the story became over time. Their bread and butter are role-playing games, of which they have many. But they have also continued their success by dipping into other genres.

The company expanded its footprint by acquiring the Taito Corporation – which created arcade games like Space Invaders and Bubble Bubble – and Eidos Interactive, which is responsible for the Tomb Raider and Hitman series among others. Like Take-Two Interactive, their momentum has slowed recently, but they have enough talent and success in their company that you have to expect they will be back in a big way soon enough.

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Rocksteady Studios

Square Enix actually owns a 25 percent stake in Rocksteady and they must be pleased with that because the relatively new developer is quickly establishing itself as a serious player in the industry. They have released just three games; Urban Chaos: Riot Response (which received solid reviews), Batman: Arkham Asylum (which received incredibly high praise), and Batman: Arkham City (which garnered a bunch of awards and made a whole chunk of change).

Plenty of developers have tried their hand at Batman video games, but none combined the graphics, game play, level structure, and accessories that Rocksteady used. It is uncommon to see such a small developer create such a noticeable buzz, but given the success of each of their three titles thus far, it shouldn’t be too surprising. No matter whether they continue the Batman series or move on to a new title, Rocksteady has proven they belong in this difficult industry.

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Valve

There might not be a video game developer in the world who achieved more early success than Valve thanks to their incredibly popular Half-Life and Counter-Strike series’. The graphics aren’t exactly jaw-dropping, but the game play was engrossing. Every young man in the country played one of those games growing up and many of them spent countless hours toiling away in their addicting online game play.

But Valve isn’t a two-trick pony. More recent titles like Left 4 Dead and Portal  have helped the company remain one of the most prominent and respected developers in the industry and I wouldn’t doubt that their next few series’ will also achieve similar rapid success.

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Bethesda Softworks

This Maryland-based veteran is responsible for the release of the popular Fallout series and also the popular Elder Scrolls series. But the reason they make this list is because their most recent release in the series, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was released in 2011, shipped more than seven million copies in the first week. It was their fastest selling game and received nearly universal praise for its graphics and game play. Now the question is what Bethesda is capable of when it comes to a follow-up performance.

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Ubisoft Montreal

You didn’t think we could create this list of developers without including the folks responsible for the Assassin’s Creed series did you? The first three games of that series have sold more than 28 million copies worldwide and its lucrative potential will likely make it a staple series for years to come. The intricate storyline, the unique and engaging game play, and the awesome theatrical cuts make it difficult to put down your controller once you have started playing.

Some think it would be nice to see them diversify their titles, but when you make something as popular and awesome as Assassin’s Creed, it makes more sense to just stick to what is working. So you can expect to see more games in this series, as well as a feature film and some more graphic novels as well, because this is a full-blown franchise at this point.

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BioWare

Role-playing games have been part of many developers’ repertoires for years now, but few developers create better games in that genre than the Canadian developer BioWare. Whether it is the Mass Effect series, the Baldur’s Gate series, the Dragon Age series, or the Neverwinter Nights series, all of BioWare’s titles seem to receive high praise and are plenty popular. Their most recent release, Mass Effect 3, might be the crown jewel of their resume.

The game is one of the best-written titles of its kind, and improved game play and depth helped it gross $200 million and ship 3.5 million across all platforms. Their consistent success helped BioWare earn the 2010 Studio of the Year award at the Spike Video Game Awards and they are hardly finished. Next up will be Dragon Age III, which will have the difficult task of living up to the first two games in the series, but I am sure the folks at BioWare are ready for the challenge.

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