Codemasters

Last updated

Codemasters Group Holdings plc
The Codemasters Software Company Limited
Public
Traded as LSE:  CDM
ISIN GB00BFWZ2G72
Industry Video games
FoundedOctober 1986;33 years ago (1986-10) in Banbury, England
Founders
Headquarters,
England
Key people
Frank Sagnier (CEO) [1]
Products Dizzy series
Micro Machines series
TOCA series
Colin McRae Rally series
Operation Flashpoint series
F1 series
Number of employees
700 [2]  (2019)
Divisions
  • Codemasters Birmingham
  • Codemasters Cheshire
  • Codemasters Kuala Lumpur
  • Codemasters India
Subsidiaries Slightly Mad Studios [3]
Website codemasters.com

The Codemasters Software Company Limited, trading as Codemasters, is a British video game developer and publisher based in Southam, England. Founded by brothers Richard and David Darling in October 1986, Codemasters is one of the oldest British game studios, and in 2005 was named the best independent video game developer by magazine Develop . [4]

Contents

Codemasters Group Holdings plc is the holding company of Codemasters, which is publicly traded and owns The Codemasters Software Company Limited.

History

Background

Codemasters' logo between 1986 and 1993 Codemasters logo (1986).jpg
Codemasters' logo between 1986 and 1993

While attending school in Vancouver, Richard Darling and his elder brother, David Darling, had learned programming with punch cards and had access to the school's computer room outside of hours through one of the school's janitors. [5] Additionally, on weekends, they were allowed to use the Commodore PET computer owned by their father, James, to create a text version of Dungeons & Dragons . [5] Later on, the two brothers and school friend Michael Heibert, whose family possessed a VIC-20 computer, founded Darbert Computers and created video game clones of popular games, such as Galaxian and Defender . [5]

The Darling brothers later returned to England, where they acquired their own VIC-20 and founded Galactic Software, again with the help of Heibert. [5] An advertisement placed in the magazine Popular Computing Weekly caught the attention of Mastertronic, a British software publisher, and the two brothers quit their education to pursue development of budget-priced games for the company. [5] These games included Space Walk, BMX Racers, Jungle Story, Orbitron, Sub Hunt, Pigs in Space. [5] They also developed The Games Creator, a game making tool that would later be sold commercially. [5] The Darling brothers found success in making these games, gaining GB£200,000 by the time they were 16 and 17, respectively. [5] In 1985, the two owned a 50% stake in Mastertronic, which they proceeded to sell in March 1986 when they decided to become independent. [5] By October 1986, the Darling brothers, with help by their father, had founded Codemasters. [5] They initially worked out of the Beaumont Business Centre in Banbury, where their elder sister, Abigail, managed the front desk. [5]

Codemasters' first game was BMX Simulator , a successor to BMX Racers. [5] According to David Darling, the company aimed at making budget-priced games with the quality of full-priced games, as they would gain a larger customer base that would subsequently create better exposure. [5] To produce more games in less time, Codemasters started hiring developers on a freelance basis. [5] Products developed using this strategy include G-Man and Danger Zone by Mike Clark, Terra Cognita by Stephen Curtis, Super Robin Hood and Ghost Hunters by the Oliver Twins, Super Stuntman by Peter Williamson, Lazer Force by Gavin Raeburn, and ATV Simulator by Timothy R. Miller. [5] By April 1987, Codemasters started seeking programmers that would create platform conversions of Codemasters' games in exchange for four-digit sums, via placements in Popular Computing Weekly. [5]

1990s

As the 8-bit computer market diminished, Codemasters turned to develop for the 8-bit and 16-bit console markets, as well as moving away from their budget title legacy to more full-price games on the 16-bit computers — 1993 saw the last title in the budget Dizzy series, Crystal Kingdom Dizzy , although they released a full-price Dizzy game, Fantastic Dizzy , later. They had major success with the Micro Machines series and Pete Sampras Tennis on the Sega Mega Drive. Both franchises featured the J-Cart, allowing two extra controllers to be attached to the game cart without requiring Electronic Arts' 4 way play or SEGA's four-player adaptor.

Codemasters is notable for making the large majority of games published by Camerica, which bypassed Nintendo's lock-out chip by glitching it and produced unlicensed NES games. These NES games were known for being shiny gold and silver cartridges that were slightly different from normal NES cartridges in shape, though they still fit into the cartridge slot. Many Codemasters titles were also featured on Camerica's Aladdin Deck Enhancer.

In 1990, Codemasters developed a device called the Power Pak, later renamed the Game Genie . It was a cheat cartridge for the NES, released in the US by Galoob and in Canada and the UK by Camerica. In an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit, Nintendo sued Galoob in the case Galoob v. Nintendo, claiming that the Game Genie created derivative works in violation of copyright law.

In an effort to establish themselves in the United States, they announced that they would launch a new development studio in Oakhurst, using offices that were abandoned by Sierra On-Line and hiring much of Yosemite Entertainment's laid off staff in mid-September 1999.

1998–2009

Between 1998 and 2003, Codemasters dominated one area of game console entertainment when they teamed up with Jester Interactive Limited to publish their range of music creation software, for PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PC, namely MUSICtm, Music 2000, MTV Music Generator and MTV Music Generator 2. In 2003 this partnership was dissolved, with Jester releasing their own Music 3000 product. Codemasters released their final music based product called MTV Music Generator 3 in 2004.

Codemasters have since continued to release titles for later generation systems, such as the TOCA series, Colin McRae Rally series, Brian Lara Cricket series and Operation Flashpoint . They owned the rights to use the title Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising , but have parted with the original developer Bohemia Interactive Studio. In spite of this, Codemasters released Operation Flashpoint: Elite , developed by Bohemia, for Xbox in October 2005. The year 2005 also saw the appointment of Rod Cousens, formerly of Acclaim, as Managing Director.

In April 2007, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group entered into a game distribution agreement with Codemasters to distribute the company's titles in North America ending May 2008. [6] Also in April, Codemasters launched the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar in Europe on behalf of Turbine. In June, Codemasters were purchased by equity group Balderton Capital [7] and they changed their logo to an interlocked metallic C and M. Later that month they released the latest in the Colin McRae Rally series, Colin McRae: Dirt . They also published Overlord and Clive Barker's Jericho . Following the death of Colin McRae on 15 September 2007, Codemasters released a public statement expressing their sorrow and support for the family.

In March 2008, Codemasters announced a new partnership with Majesco Entertainment which would focus on titles for DS and Wii, including Nanostray 2, Toy Shop, Cake Mania 2 and Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society for DS, and Wild Earth: African Safari, Our House and Cake Mania for Wii. [8] In May, it was announced that Codemasters had won the rights to the Formula One licence after Sony's deal ran out. The first resulting game, F1 2009 , was released on the Wii and PlayStation Portable in Autumn 2009, and another similar game, F1 2010 , on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2010. The game is based on the Dirt, Grid and Dirt 2 engine.

On 8 April 2008, Sega announced the closure of Sega Racing Studio, although no reason was specified it has been assumed it was due to lackluster sales of Sega Rally Revo . At a later time Sega announced none of the employees were folded into internal studios. [9] On 25 April 2008, Codemasters bought Sega Racing Studio. [10] The studio was headed by Guy Wilday, who was involved in the Colin McRae Rally games and was formerly the series producer. [11]

Notable also in 2008 was the Darlings' recognition in the Queen's Birthday Honours, as both were appointed Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the video game industry. [12]

2010–present

On 5 April 2010, Reliance Big Entertainment, an Indian company acquired a 50% stake in the company. [13] Later in 2010, Codemasters launched the free-to-play version of Lord of the Rings Online . While originally scheduled for 10 September, it was delayed due to contractual reasons and launched on 2 November. In May 2011, Codemasters transferred control of the European Lord of the Rings Online to Turbine. On 3 June 2011, the Codemasters.com website was breached. It is believed that the attacker was able to gain access to the personal information of registered users with Codemasters accounts. Codemasters notified its users about the attack via email on 10 June 2011, after which their websites were pulled down and users redirected to their Facebook page.

In mid-2012, it was announced that Codemasters' racing games, whether about to be produced or developed, would begin to be branded under the 'Codemasters Racing' label. Dirt: Showdown and F1 2012 were the first racing titles to receive the new label name. The label was discontinued in 2016, as Codemasters' subsequent racing games, Dirt Rally and F1 2016 are branded with the regular Codemasters logo.

On 9 June 2013, Reliance Entertainment increased its stake in Codemasters from 50% to 60.41%, making it the majority owner. [14]

In April 2015 Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens left to join Jagex, leaving COO Frank Sagnier as the new temporary CEO. [15] In April 2016, Codemasters announced that they had hired most of the staff of racing game developer Evolution Studios after Sony closed the company. [16]

The first Codemasters title for eighth generation consoles was F1 2015 , launched in July 2015. In October 2015 they released Overlord: Fellowship of Evil , their first non-racing game since 2011 and the last as of May 2018, not counting Onrush, which shares many aspects with racing games but is specifically in the separate vehicular combat genre.

After the disappointing sales of Onrush , several members of the Codemasters EVO development division were let go in redundancies and the division was shifted to a support role for other titles. [17]

Codemasters held an initial public offering to list the company on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market on 1 June 2018. The company's shares were valued at 260 pence during trading bringing in a total of GBP 185 million. As a result of the IPO, Reliance Entertainment held a 29.5% stake in Codemasters. [18] [19]

Through placings in June and November 2019 Codemasters welcomed new institutional shareholders to the register whilst providing Reliance with a highly satisfactory exit and thus ending their nine-year relationship with them. [20]

Codemasters acquired Slightly Mad Studios, the developers of the Project CARS titles, in November 2019 for about US$30 million. The acquisition brought the total staff at Codemasters to about 700 people. [2]

The studio got the exclusive license to the World Rally Championship series in June 2020 which will begin as a five-year deal in 2023, with plans to release their first game in 2024. [21]

Games

Related Research Articles

Game Genie is the name of a line of video game cheat cartridges originally designed by Codemasters and sold by Camerica and Galoob. The first device in the series was released in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, with subsequent devices released for the Super NES, Game Boy, Genesis, and Game Gear. All the devices temporarily modify game data, allowing the player to cheat, manipulate various aspects of games, and sometimes access unused assets and functions. Five million units of the original Game Genie products were sold worldwide, and most video game console emulators feature Game Genie code support. Emulators that have Game Genie support also allow a near-unlimited number of codes to be entered whereas the actual products have a much smaller limit, between three and six codes.

Camerica was a Canadian video game company founded in 1987. It is most notable for releasing various unlicensed video games and accessories for the Nintendo Entertainment System, such as the Game Genie.

1988 saw many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Super Contra, Super Mario Bros 2, Assault, Altered Beast, Mega Man 2, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and Super Mario Bros 3

Colin McRae Rally, and more recently Dirt, is a racing video game series developed and published by Codemasters. Colin McRae Rally and Dirt 2 have since been developed and published for Mac OS X by Feral Interactive.

<i>The Excellent Dizzy Collection</i> video game compilation

The Excellent Dizzy Collection is a video game compilation published by Codemasters in November 1993. The title includes three stand alone games, based on the video game character Dizzy created by the Oliver Twins. The compilation contains, Dizzy the Adventurer, Panic Dizzy and the previously unreleased Go! Dizzy Go!.

Evolution Studios former British video game developer

Evolution Studios Ltd. was a British video game developer headquartered in Runcorn, Cheshire. The company was founded in 1999 by Martin Kenwright and Ian Hetherington, following the purchase of their studio Digital Image Design's publisher Ocean Software by Infogrames. Kenwright then left Digital Image Design with six members of staff to form Evolution Studios.

Feral Interactive British video game publisher

Feral Interactive is a video games developer and publisher for macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch platforms. It was founded in 1996 and is based in London, UK. Feral Interactive works with publishers such as Square Enix, 2K Games, Sega, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Codemasters. Feral develops and publishes ports of its partners' popular games, including the Total War and Batman: Arkham series, Tomb Raider and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

<i>Colin McRae: Dirt</i> 2007 racing video game by Codemasters

Colin McRae: Dirt, stylised as colin mcrae DiRT, is a racing video game developed and published by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sixth game in the Colin McRae Rally series and the last of the series to be published before Colin McRae's death. It features new graphics, audio, physics engine, new vehicles and a new game engine which was co-developed between Codemasters and Sony Computer Entertainment. The game features a variety of off-road racing categories as well as World Rally Championship style events. The game was released for the PlayStation 3 in Europe on 14 September 2007, prior to Colin McRae's death. The sequel, Colin McRae: Dirt 2, was released in September 2009. A simplified version of the game was developed by Glu Mobile and released for Java ME devices in 2008.

Sega Racing Studio

Sega Racing Studio was a computer and video game developer established in 2005 for the sole purpose of developing AAA Sega racing titles. The studio had radically expanded from a small group of people to a team of over 60 employees by the year 2007 drawing talent from other major British developers such as Rockstar Games, Rare, Codemasters and Criterion Games. Its mission statement was to create driving games for the Western market while paying homage to Sega's legacy in the genre and developing new racing IPs.

Reliance Entertainment Media and entertainment company

Reliance Entertainment Pvt Ltd is a division of the Reliance Group handling its media and entertainment business, across content and distribution platforms. It was founded on February 15, 2005 when it was started as Reliance Big Entertainment and BIG Pictures, 4 years later when it merged into Reliance BIG Pictures in 2009 and 1 year later it finally changed its name into Reliance Entertainment in 2010.

<i>Colin McRae: Dirt 2</i> 2009 racing video game by Codemasters

Colin McRae: Dirt 2 is a racing video game developed and published by Codemasters in 2009, first for the Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii and Xbox 360, and then later for PC platforms. It is the seventh game in the Colin McRae Rally series, the first game in the McRae series since McRae's death in 2007 and the last to feature his name in the title.

David Darling (entrepreneur) businessperson

David Darling is a British video game developer and entrepreneur, known for co-founding Codemasters, with his brother Richard Darling, and for being involved in a long succession of top ten games over more than 30 years. He is now founder and CEO of smartphone app developer and publisher Kwalee.

<i>Colin McRae Rally</i> (2013 video game) 2013 video game

Colin McRae Rally is a rally racing video game developed and published by Codemasters. It was originally released for iOS mobile devices in June 2013, and then ported to Android devices and OS X and Windows personal computers (PCs) in 2014. Gameplay is similar to early iterations of the Colin McRae Rally series of racing games with content predominantly taken from the 2000 title Colin McRae Rally 2.0. Players can drive cars and participate in point-to-point rally events, competing against times recorded by computer drivers. Stages take place in several different locations with varied terrain like tarmac and gravel. The game features damage modelling and chassis deformation effects that can be sustained from collisions.

<i>Micro Machines</i> (video game) 1991 video game

Micro Machines is a racing video game developed by Codemasters and originally published by Camerica for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1991. Themed around Galoob's Micro Machines toys, players race in miniaturised toy vehicles around various environments. The game is the first instalment in the Micro Machines video game series.

<i>Dirt 4</i> 2017 racing video game made by Codemasters

Dirt 4 is a rally-themed racing video game developed by Codemasters. It is the twelfth game in the Colin McRae Rally series and the sixth title to carry the Dirt name. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June 2017, and for macOS and Linux in March 2019 by Feral Interactive.

<i>Dirt Rally 2.0</i> 2019 video game

Dirt Rally 2.0 is a racing video game developed and published by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It was released on February 26, 2019. The game is the thirteenth title in the Colin McRae Rally series and the seventh title to carry the Dirt name. It is a successor to the 2015 video game Dirt Rally and emphasises realistic driving physics.

Project CARS 3 is an upcoming racing video game developed by Slightly Mad Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It is scheduled to be released on 28 August 2020 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Dirt 5 is an upcoming racing video game developed and published by Codemasters. It is the fourteenth game in the Colin McRae Rally series and the eighth game to carry the Dirt title. The game is scheduled to be released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X in October 2020, and Stadia in 2021.

<i>Project CARS</i> Racing video game series by Slightly Mad Studios

Project CARS is a racing video game series developed by Slightly Mad Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The franchise was introduced in 2015 and received a sequel in 2017, with the third video game of the series has been announced in 2018.

References

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