Publisher of the Year 2012

The one from the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons.

No relation to that Police Academy guy, no.

Do you remember watching The Sopranos and realizing that you wouldn’t be able to watch television the same way again?

In a post-Sopranos world, it was tough to watch other TV. Shows that you had watched contentedly before were tougher to sit through. You can be as good as the Sopranos, you wanted to tell them. Everything had changed, and there was a new yardstick to measure against.

In a pivotal year for iOS gaming, the Pocket Tactics Publisher of the Year for 2012 was the point around which that pivot happened. It is to smartphone and tablet games what The Sopranos were to television.

After the jump, the Publisher of the Year.

2012′s Publisher of the Year is Playdek.

Before Playdek arrived on the scene, most iOS board game conversions were dry, uninspired things that might as well have been PC games. This company set the gold standard for tablet and touchscreen boardgames, turning out sterling apps that made gaming on your device into the plucked-from-the-future Star Trek experience it was always supposed to be: beautiful apps that feel truly native to the device, seamlessly integrated multiplayer, thoughtful user interface design.

Bloody good.

Playdek’s 2012 crown jewel, Summoner Wars.

If changing the way we perceived mobile games wasn’t enough. Playdek’s output for the year was downright prolific. The almost universally-beloved Summoner Wars would have been accomplishment enough for most, but Playdek also released the under-rated Nightfall, the Storm of Souls expansion for Ascension, Food Fight, and Can’t Stop – the latter being their first non-card game running on an entirely new engine. All that, and they started the long process of porting their catalogue to Android.

It’s a testament to the esteem in which Playdek is held that when a much-anticipated board game conversion goes wrong, the murmur on forums and Twitter is invariably – “why didn’t they give this Playdek?” Their recent capture of the Penny Arcade license speaks to that as well.

In 2012, there was no publisher in the same league as Playdek. Codito is prolific and chooses smart licenses, but has never delivered games as consistently polished as Playdek’s. Slitherine, Fantasy Flight, Big Daddy’s Creations, and Coding Monkeys have delivered extraordinary products but can’t match Playdek’s volume of output.

That’s not to say that Playdek has been bulletproof. They’ve not managed to get the long-in-the-making Agricola out the door, and many an eyebrow arched at their choice of hanky-panky oddity Tanto Cuore for a forthcoming adaptation. It’s also true that Playdek has been a one-trick pony thus far – all of their products heretofore have been adaptations of existing board or card games. But as George Rothrock and Gary Weis told me in our interview from September, the company’s ambitions definitely include original properties.

2012 was Playdek’s year. And 2013 might be, too – but there’s plenty of competitors who don’t intend to make it easy for them.

For all the games and developers recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2012 Awards, visit the awards index page.