What just happened? Microsoft's game business did well last year, releasing some of the best titles throughout the 12 months. Its achievements are reflected in Metacritic's 12th annual Game Publisher Rankings, which has placed the Redmond firm ahead of 42 others as the top publisher of 2021.

Metacritic ranks its list of top publishers using several criteria: the average Metascore for all games released that year, the percentage of scored products with Good reviews (a score of at least 75), the percentage of scored products with Bad reviews (49 or lower), and the number of titles that fall into the Great category (90 or higher with a minimum of 7 reviews).

Xbox Game Studios released five games across last year, though it had 10 Metacritic entries due to the different platforms they were released on. In addition to taking the top spot, the company has the honor of being the first with an average Metacritic score of over 85 (87.4) in the 12 years Metacritic has been running its publisher rankings.

All of Microsoft's games were classed as Good, while three scored over 90, marking them as Great: Forza Horizon 5, Psychonauts 2, and the Xbox Series X version of Flight Simulator. Halo Infinite managed 87, in case you were wondering.

Sitting behind Microsoft in the number two spot is Sony. Its ten games scored an average of 81.3, with all but one ranked as Good and no Great entries. Sony's average score of 81.3 would have been better if not for Destruction Allstars (62) bringing it down.

Metacritic's top ten publishers of 2021

Publisher Metacritic score Previous year's position
1. Microsoft / Xbox Game Studios 87.4 6th
2. Sony 81.3 4th
3. Humble Games 80.9 18th
4. Activision Blizzard 80.6 5th
5. Bethesda Softworks 80.2 16th
6. Capcom 80.6 3rd
7. Bandai Namco 78.5 38th
8. Sega 77.6 1st
9. Electronic Arts 78.3 21st
10. 505 Games 75.7 13th

The rest of the top five is rounded off by Humble Games, which was 18th in the previous list, Activision Blizzard, and Bethesda Softworks.

Elsewhere, Sega, which topped the 2020 list, fell to 8th place, Electronic Arts is 9th, and Nintendo sits in 14th position.