Hot damn, the new year is already upon us. This means we’ll be playing the full version of Burnout Paradise pretty soon. And yes, Nero and Dante will showcase exactly what Xbox diehards have been missing out on. Everything we play has to be made by someone, and as part of our “looking into the past with love and longing” series throughout January we decided to name the Top 5 Video Game Developers Of 2007. Why? Because the guys who brought you the memorable games of the past year deserve some sort of recognition.

To determine who receives top billing on our list, I gathered the Blend Games staff together for a late night power meeting. Normally things go awry within minutes of the group sitting at a table, but there was surprisingly little blood spilt this time around. Doreen, our lovely assistant, did get a paper cut during the ballot voting process. No need to worry on her behalf, Doreen has been properly compensated for her injuries. The bloody ballots were tallied, and what follows is the result of a late night meeting on a temperate January day.

TOP 5 Video Game Developers Of 2007

5. Harmonix
Responsible for: Rock Band and kicking ass

PETE HAAS: Harmonix was acquired by MTV at the end of 2006, thus divorcing them from their widely popular Guitar Hero series. In 2007, however, Harmonix showed everyone that the developer was bigger than the franchise by creating Rock Band. Rock Band had everything GH did, and added two new peripherals – a microphone and drum set. With RedOctane (publisher of the Guitar Hero series) filing for the trademarks on Keyboard Hero,Drum Hero and Band Hero, it’s safe to say Harmonix might be sitting on a pretty great idea. The Neversoft-developed Guitar Hero III, also released in 2007, was a solid game and enjoyed great sales but it’s further evidence of Harmonix’s huge presence in 2007. This developer’s work in 2007 and the past have led music video games to be a enormous mainstream success.

RICH KNIGHT: Ha, joke’s on you, Red Octane; Harmonix can survive without you. And survive they did with Rock Band, which many claim to be an even better experience than Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock. Playing Rock Band alone is kind of a bummer, but playing it with friends makes up for it completely with an experience that gets as close to performing on a stage in front of thousands (or hundreds if you’re just starting out) as possible. And part of the reason Harmonix is such a smart company is because they don’t mess with a good concept. Instead, they add every possible thing conceivable to make a game that will be remembered for the ages. My one complaint: Not enough songs. But hey, there’s always the sequel…and DLC.

4. BioWare
Responsible for: Mass Effect and interspecies sex time

PETE HAAS: BioWare was originally well-known for their adept use of existing creative licenses like Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, but the enormous success of Mass Effect has shown that the company is equally skilled at making their own franchises. Earlier this year they also released a PC version of their successful Xbox RPG Jade Empire (its setting also a BioWare creation), and rumors have been swirling about a sequel. The company stayed in our thoughts the whole year, not only because of the superior gameplay of these two titles but because of all these rumors about what they’re working on – an untitled MMORPG, an unknown Lucas Arts project. The company is such an attractive subject for rumormongering because we can’t wait to get our hands on anything the good doctors makes.

TIM BERINGER: From Alberta comes one of the few developers who can get away with releasing an average of one game a year and still be considered one of the most successful developers in the business. Past successes of the KotOR series and Neverwinter Nights have shown that when they do release a game that you’ll want to play, they don’t hold back. Their history of releasing games that will completely absorb players and probably rival MMORPGs in ruining your social life continued with this year’s huge release from BioWare was of course Mass Effect. The former doctors have given us another run away hit that shows us the long wait is always worth it as long as we’re waiting on BioWare.

3. Nintendo
Responsible for: Super Mario Galaxy and your grandpa making monthly trips to GameStop

RICH KNIGHT: I think I’ve gotten on one knee and kowtowed to Nintendo more than enough last year to justify the initial bashing to kingdom come I did to it the year prior. Overall, the console was yet again a massive failure in my eyes, and it would have remained that way if not for one game—Super Mario Galaxy. Where Nintendo faltered a bit with Twilight Princess (Great game, but, dammit, too long!), Nintendo hit that sweet mark just right with Galaxy, crafting an experience like no other with a character we know all too well. Honestly, I think Super Mario Galaxy is enough for any fan of gaming to pick up the crummy system, and I think that’s saying a lot.

JEFF RICHARD: When Shigeru Miyamoto has a hand in developing anything over the course of the last twelve months, you can bet that Nintendo will be on our top list of developers for the year. When Super Mario Galaxy arrived in November, the gaming world seemed to freeze in place and all of a sudden everyone knew what title would earn the crown of Game Of The Year. Miyamoto’s platforming masterpiece resurrected everyone’s favorite plumber and tossed him into space—and into one of the most innovative and all-around enjoyable games ever released. To say Nintendo is one of the best developers of the year is an understatement, if this was only the first of Mario’s Wii adventures, we’re more confident than ever that the folks at Nintendo can top even this one.

2. Ubisoft
Responsible for: Assassin’s Creed and proving, once again, that women belong in game development

STEVE WEST: When you want to talk about powerhouse developers, most people point to EA or Activision. The truth is, those houses of gaming madness live and die on shoveling as much out as possible. Ubisoft is currently sitting in a position where it balances the mass production of an EA with some hard core, and sometimes brilliant, game design. We saw no Splinter Cell this past year, but as the franchise is seemingly coming to a screeching halt Jade Raymond unleashes Assassin’s Creed on us. The way we interact with NPC crowds has been altered, and the way we approach gameplay is all-new. It’s the ability to take what has proven true for generations and expound upon that to forms something new. Say what you will about the minor issues it has, Assassin’s Creed is the natural progression of what is distinctly an Ubisoft title.

TIM BERINGER: The French developer continued a long standing tradition of success this year. Ubisoft doesn’t cater to any one single demographic of gamers to make their bread and butter. Whether it was Raving Rabbids 2 or Assassin’s Creed, they kept their success going strong through 2007. Anyone who wants to argue the merits of this group of game makers needs just to look at the sales records and reviews of these two games. Raving Rabbids are obscenely fun games that anyone can play and requires a massive rod stuck firmly up into your colon to not enjoy. Ubisoft shows another side with the massive hit, Assassin’s Creed. Stuck at the top of sales charts since its release, this game is still looking to challenge any new title that comes out week after week. This is a testament to Ubisoft’s success. Also, I love Jade Raymond.

1. VALVe Software
Responsible for: The Orange Box and unleashing innovative game design upon the populace

PETE HAAS: Sweet, another chance for me to praise Valve. I’m like the John Madden to Valve’s Brett Favre - I just can’t stop talking about them. Let me try to sum it up quickly without getting too much drool on you. Every developer has delays. It’s an inevitable occurrence. In Valve’s case, they had two titles past their intended release date: Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Team Fortress 2. So when they’re both ready, they decide to release them together, and throw in Half-Life 2, Episode One, and a little game called Portal…all for the price of one game. I wish all developers were so fond of overkill. Orange Box was like some package you’d see on an informercial.”If you call now, I’ll not only give you the rotisserie grill, I’ll throw in the steak knives, the cooking gloves, and the flavor injector! All for one easy payment of $49.95!”

JEFF RICHARD: It’s still hard to believe the original Half-Life debuted almost a full decade ago, cementing the name of ‘Valve’ in every hardcore gamers mind. Six years later saw the release of the revolutionary sequel—and the gaming world was changed forever. Now, with the release of HL2, Episodes 1 & 2, Portal and the wildly blast-tacular Team Fortress 2, all in one incredible package courtesy of The Orange Box, it’s hard not to think of Valve as one of the best developers around. Each title provides such a unique experience – have you met…GLaDOS? – that they are easily worth the price of admission as separate titles and together give our vote to Valve as one of the best developers of 2007.

RICH KNIGHT: VALVe, quite simply, makes games for smart people. While others were mindlessly blasting away in Halo 3 and calling people the “N” word, VALVe made the perfect first person offering with The Orange Box, which featured five (count ‘em, FIVE!) amazing games in one, orange tinted package. And these weren’t just any five games, either, but five of the most revolutionary, out of sight, games in the history of gaming. Half-Life 2 and its two episodes explored the deeply woven storyline with computer perfect graphics on the consoles, and Team Fortress 2 offered multi-player mayhem on a ridiculous scale (Just ask Mr. Haas). But Portal offered the greatest offering with its out there physics and intelligent concept. Ah, VALVe. Thanks for catering to the educated gamer. You had a good year last year.

Nominated but didn’t make the cut: Insomniac, Bungie, Naughty Dog, Irrational Games, Infinity Ward, Blizzard, 2K Boston

Who Is The Best Developer Of 2007?
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