Data & Research

Meet the Top 20 PC Developers to Watch 2017

Meet the Top 20 PC Developers to Watch 2017

To mark the launch of, we have compiled a list of the PC game developers that you should be keeping an eye on. 

These are studios that doing something fascinating or different in the current games market, whether they be triple-A vets or industry newcomers.

They're anyone from a small developer using new technology to take their ideas to the next level to industry veterans going indie and putting new spins on old ideas.

This is not a countdown, these are – in our opinion – 20 of the most interesting developers working in the PC space right now. If there's someone you feel we have missed, we'd love to hear about them! Email the editor at [email protected]. Read on...

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  • Boss Key Productions

    Boss Key Productions logo

    Location: United States
    TL;DR: CliffyB is back and putting a new twist on the shooter genre

    US-based Boss Key is the latest venture of games industry veteran Cliff Bleszinski, best known for his work on the Unreal Tournament and Gears of War games series. Following his 2012 retirement, he returned to the industry at the helm of this new studio to make a brand new brand of shooter.

    Originally dubbed Project Bluestreak, Lawbreakers is set for release this week and marks a new chapter for the game developer. Having axed its free-to-play plan as well as the purist arena shooter design, instead opting for a MOBA ability and hero-focused style, combined with its anti-gravity gameplay, Lawbreakers certainly looks ambitious for such a small studio.

    What’s more, Bleszinski is already sketching out his next project.

  • Brendan Greene

    Brendan Greene  logo

    Location: Ireland/Korea
    TL;DR: He has already taken over the world 

    It could be argued that Irish game developer Brendan Greene does not belong on a ‘Ones to Watch’ list, because his title, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, has been one of the most-talked about releases of 2017. Yet, the developer has demonstrated in a short amount of time just how popular the relatively-new battle royale game type can be.

    The architect of this style of game, Greene’s career in development began with him modding the DayZ mod of ARMA 2, which he licensed out to Daybreak Game Company for H1Z1. Since he has risen to superstardom with PUBG. His game has racked up more than four million downloads and generated well over $100m in revenue for Korean developer and publisher Bluehole, and the title is still in Early Access. 


  • Bulkhead Interactive

    Bulkhead Interactive  logo

    Location: United Kingdom
    TL;DR: Watch out, Call of Duty: WWII

    Created at the end of 2015 with the merging of Deco Digital and Bevel Studios, Bulkhead Interactive already has two titles under its belt – the pre-merger Pneuma, as well as the post-union puzzle title, The Turning Test. This launched in August 2016 to largely positive reviews.

    Now the developer is working on Batallion 1944, an old-school World War Two shooter in the vein of Medal of Honor and Call of Duty 2 that reached its £100,000 funding goal in just three days on Kickstarter, and went on to raise nearly three times its initial aim: £317,281.

    That title is set for release later this year, with Bulkhead Interactive considering how the old-school shooter could work as an eSport. This is an indie developer with real triple-A ambition.  

  • Clapfoot

    Clapfoot logo

    Location: Canada
    TL;DR: Bringing players together for an ambitious and strategic MMO  

    Canadian games developer Clapfoot began life making mobile games such as Tank Hero, Sector Strike and Hero Forge, before moving to console and PC with 2016’s strategy title Fortified.

    Now the developer has expanded its scope, releasing the seemingly very ambitious persistent massively multiplayer online game Foxhole, which, having made its way through Steam Greenlight, hit Early Access in July 2017.

    The aim of this title, Clapfoot says, is to bring hundreds of players together working on strategies that will take weeks to unfold, and feel like they are fighting together and affecting the outcome of a totally open war – one not hindered by the game's business model or hamstrung with its mechanics. 


  • Codebyfire

    Codebyfire logo

    United Kingdom
    TL;DR: One-man team creating a super detailed city sim 

    Having spent over a decade in the games industry at the likes of Inbox Digital, 20:20, Geek Beach and Auroch Digital, Richard Wallis decided to go it alone at the end of 2016.

    Good news didn’t take long to strike, with the developer’s debut title, The Colonists, being signed by Frozen Synapse developer-cum-indie publisher Mode7 in July of this year. This title is a strategy title in the vein of genre classic Settlers, which is set to come to Steam Early Access this month. Not bad for just eight months on the job.

    What sets The Colonists apart from the other similar titles is that this one man-development team has created a super deep optimisation system for the civilisations players have created, taking influence from more modern city simulation projects. 


  • Foam Sword Games

    Foam Sword Games  logo

    Location: United Kingdom
    TL;DR: The man behind the adorable Tearaway strikes again 

    Rex Crowle and Moo Yu aren’t exactly new faces to the games industry. Their combined CVs include stints at industry pillars such as Lionhead, Insomniac, Media Molecule and Mind Candy.

    In 2016 the duo took to Kickstarter to raise money for their next project, Knights and Bikes at the newly-founded Foam Sword Games. The co-op adventure game managed to get £126,446 from 4,796 backers, and is set to launch this year. It already has positive write-ups from the likes of Vice, The Guardian and Engadget. What's more - Tim Schafer's Double Fine has stepped in to handle publishing duties. 

    With its eye-catching art style and interesting gameplay, this title is certainly one to keep an eye on.


  • Hinterland

    Hinterland logo

    Location: Canada
    TL;DR: The Early Access darling that's heading to the silver screen 

    The last few months have been pretty busy for Canadian developer Hinterland.

    Founded back in 2012, the studio has been hard at work on episodic narrative The Long Dark, having released the survival component of the game three years ago in Early Access. As the title was released in its full form in August, the developer announced that 1.3m copies of The Long Dark had been sold, with that figure having shot up from the 750,000 downloads reported back in April.

    That’s not the only big news surrounding the studio either. It was recently announced that the game was getting the silver screen treatment with Resident Evil film series producer Jeremy Bolt stepping in to head the project up.


  • Love Conquers All

    Love Conquers All logo

    Location: Canada
    TL;DR: Finally, someone who knows how to write sex and relationships in games

    Founded by Canadian developer Christine Love, indie studio Love Conquers All began life after Love released Digital: A Love Story in 2010. Originally intended as an interactive narrative, Love moved into games development after people who experienced Digital thought it was a game.

    In 2012, Love released Analogue: A Hate Story – the first visual novel game to come to Steam – before kinky lesbian comedy visual novel Ladykiller In a Bind (or to use its full title: My Twin Brother Made Me Crossdress as Him and Now I Have to Deal with a Geeky Stalker and a Domme Beauty Who Want Me in a Bind!!) was released onto Humble in October 2016, before hitting Steam in January 2017.

    That title made its development budget back in just nine months, with Love also revealing that her games in total have sold 250,000 units to date. Given Love’s different and interesting approach to writing relationships and sex in video games, we’re intrigued to see what Love Conquers All comes up with next.


  • Studio MDHR

    Studio MDHR logo

    Location: United States
    TL;DR: One of the most eye-catching indie games in years

    Studio MDHR – or to use its full name, Studio Moldenhauer – is a two-man development team from North America. Founded in 2013 by Jared and Chad Moldenhauer, the firm is behind the eagerly anticipated Cuphead.

    This title features an eye-catching design that mimics the watercolour-drawn art style and jazz-tinged soundtrack of classic cartoons from the 1930s. Announced back in 2014, it is undoubtedly one of most-anticipated indie projects from the last few years, as well one of the pillar releases of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox programme.

    After a long period of silence, the game is finally set for release and is expected to hit digital storefronts at the end of September.

  • Monomi Park

    Monomi Park logo

    Location: United States
    TL;DR: Early Access success with a unique take on the life sim

    San Mateo-based developer Monomi Park has been in the games press a fair bit recently due to the final release of its Early Access first-person life sim title Slime Rancher. As the name suggests, this is a game where one ranches slimes. 

    Founded in 2014 by Nick Popovich and Mike Thomas, the company launched Slime Rancher into Early Access at the start of 2016, with the project selling more than 800,000 copies by May of this year. The title garnered praised for its fresh take on the farming genre, and, at the time of writing, boasts a perfect 10/10 score on Steam user reviews

  • Radiation Blue

    Radiation Blue  logo

    Location: Germany 
    TL;DR: The German studio making a complex space survival game  

    Hailing from Freiberg, Germany, Radiation Blue began life in 2015 and features former triple-A talent that worked on the likes of the Hitman franchise, Spec Ops: The Line and Shadow Wars.

    The studio’s first release, Genesis Alpha One, is an ambitious affair that combines elements from the roguelike, base-building, survival and first-person shooter genres. Players are put in charge of building and managing space ship, deal with alien threats and farm resources. The title was also selected by GamesBeat as one of the best titles using Unreal Engine at this year’s E3.

    Genesis Alpha One caught the attention of UK-based indie label Team17, with the company announcing they had signed the release in February 2017.

  • Reikon

    Reikon logo

    Location: Poland
    TL;DR: Eastern European development talent mixing Hotline Miami and Akira 

    Hailing from Poland, Reikon boasts development talent Jakub Styliński, Maciej Mach, Magdalena Tomkowicz, Marek Roefle who between them have worked on The Witcher, Dead Island and Dying light franchises.

    These developers began work on cyberpunk action game Ruiner in the middle of 2014 before opening shop properly in December of that year. The eagerly-anticipated game is pencilled in for a 2017 release date, with Devolver Digital handling publishing duties.

    Ruiner features a distinctive take on '80s style cyberpunk, with a thick neon atmosphere, as well as a gameplay style that mixes up the frantic chaos of a game like Hotline Miami with the strategic planning on Supergiant's Transistor. 

  • RocketWerkz

    RocketWerkz logo

    Location: New Zealand
    TL;DR: The creator of DayZ is heading into space 

    Having risen to fame off the back of his DayZ mod for military simulation title ARMA 2, Dean Hall left Bohemia Interactive, the firm making the full version of DayZ, in 2014 to set up his own games studio, RocketWerkz.

    The studio’s first title, space survival game Ion, was something of a false start, and ended up being cancelled, but earlier this year at EGX Rezzed the developer announced Stationeers. Drawing inspiration from Space Station 13, this game sees players building and managing their own space stations, and is scheduled to release into Early Access later this year.

    Keeping in mind the last time Hall released an Early Access title – not long into the scheme’s life – it sold one million units in just a month, you'd be foolish to not pay attention to Hall's latest game. 


  • Sloclap

    Sloclap logo

    Location: France
    TL;DR: The French studio behind one of the most interesting fighting games in years

    Founded in 2015 by former Ubisoft Paris employees who had worked on the likes of Watch Dogs and Ghost Recon, Soclap is working on its debut project, strategic fighting game Absolver, right now.

    Set for release later this month, with Devolver Digital handling publishing duties, the title was announced at E3 2016, with some journalists saying it was their biggest surprise of the show, garnering awards including best indie game of the show from GamesRadar. 

    It has been praised for featuring a deep fighting system, that is equal parts Dark Souls and Street Fighter, as well as its complex animations.


  • Spilt Milk Studios

    Spilt Milk Studios logo

    Location: UK
    TL;DR: The UK indie competing with the MMO giants 

    UK indie studio Spilt Milk isn’t a brand new player, but it’s on the verge of releasing its most ambitious title yet.

    Formed in 2010 by Andrew Smith, the developer has been behind titles such as Tango Fiesta and mobile title Hard Lines, as well as work-for-hire on the likes of Crackdown 2’s DLC.

    Tango Fiesta was a success for the developer, but it is about to release its most ambitious title yet in Lazarus. This was originally set to be a mobile arcade style title, that has gone to the big league thanks to the assistance of cloud tech giant Improbable, and its SpatialOS. Lazarus is pencilled in to hit Early Access in September.


  • Splendy

    Splendy logo

    Location: UK
    TL;DR: The developer reviving the FMV adventure game 

    For many, FMV games are type of game that died a death in the ‘90s with the likes of the infamous Night Trap. Yet, having worked on film projects in the past, UK-based Splendy Games has adopted real film footage into their games, too.

    Having released adventure title The Hunting on iOS and Android devices, Splendy’s first major release was 2016’s The Bunker.

    That project saw them collaborating with Wales Interactive on the console version, Green Man Gaming Publishing helping out with the PC SKU and All 4 Games, chipping in support with the mobile ports. This project starred The Hobbit actor Adam Brown in the lead role, and went on to be entered into the Cannes Film Festival 2017.


  • Strike Gamelabs

    Strike Gamelabs logo

    Location: United Kingdom
    TL;DR: Industry vets putting a twist on the roguelike genre

    Cornwall-based Strike Gamelabs was founded by commercial director Ella Romanos, technical director Gareth Lewis and design director Martin Darby in 2014 following the closure of their previous venture Remode Studios. 

    At the end of 2016, the developer revealed what it had been working – Underzone. The studio promises that this game promises a new twist on the roguelike genre, with enemy design being randomly generated as well as map layouts.

    Given the popularity of the roguelike/lite sector in the last few years, Strike GameLabs’ Underzone is certainly one to look out for. The title is set for release at the start of 2018. 

  • Sushee

    Sushee  logo

    Location: France
    TL;DR: French indie entrusted with Square Enix's Fear Effect IP 

    Formed in 2008 and based in Lannion, France, Sushee was behind the dark and creepy point and click game Goetia, the first project published by Square Enix’s indie games venture, Collective. 

    That title hit digital store fronts in April 2016 to largely favourable reviews, but since the studio has moved on to big and better things. After Collective announced it was letting indies pitch to work on classic Square Enix IP, Sushee jumped at the chance.

    And this paid off, with Sushee has been entrusted with Square’s PlayStation action franchise Fear Effect. The studio has given the IP a real-time strategy style twist on the much-loved franchise in Fear Effect Sedna. 


  • Toxic Games

    Toxic Games logo

    Location: United Kingdom
    TL;DR: Team behind the mind-bending QUBE is upping its game 

    This London-based developer came together in 2010 to finish their 2009 student project, the first-person and brain-bending puzzle title QUBE. That title went on to be released at the end of 2011, with a Director’s Cut launching in 2014, Toxic gaining its fair share of critical acclaim.

    Now the developer is hard at work on QUBE 2, which sees Toxic raise the bar not just in terms of quality, but also with its ambition. The project has attracted award-winning composer David Housden, environmental art from Codemasters vet Harry Corr, as well as writer and producer Benjamin Hill.

    The mind-bending puzzle game is scheduled to be released next year. 

  • Ultra Ultra

    Ultra Ultra logo

     Location: Denmark
    TL;DR: IO Interactive alumni putting a new twist on the action genre  

    Danish indie studio Ultra Ultra was formed by eight development staff, the bulk of whom are veterans of Hitman firm IO Interactive. The studio’s first title, sci-fi adventure game Echo, is set for release in September, and features the interesting premise that enemies adapt to player behaviour; adopt a stealthy style of play and they will do, for example.

    The title was entered into Steam Greenlight in May 2016, with the title being successfully Greenlit the next month. 

    Ultra Ultra clearly has big plans for the release, too.  It has already signed a merchandise and licensing deal with London-based games creative agency Bits & Pixels. 

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.