Last updated

The Codemasters Software Company Limited
Traded as LSE:  CDM
Industry Video game industry
FoundedOctober 1986;32 years ago (1986-10) in Banbury, England
Key people
Frank Sagnier (CEO) [1]
OwnerReliance Entertainment (29%) [2]
Number of employees
≈400 [1]  (2017)
Parent Reliance Entertainment (2010–2018)
  • Codemasters Birmingham
  • Codemasters Evo
  • Codemasters Kuala Lumpur
  • Codemasters India

The Codemasters Software Company Limited, doing business 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 . [3]

A video game developer is a software developer that specializes in video game development – the process and related disciplines of creating video games. A game developer can range from one person who undertakes all tasks to a large business with employee responsibilities split between individual disciplines, such as programming, design, art, testing, etc. Most game development companies have video game publisher financial and usually marketing support. Self-funded developers are known as independent or indie developers and usually make indie games.

A video game publisher is a company that publishes video games that have been developed either internally by the publisher or externally by a video game developer. As with book publishers or publishers of DVD movies, video game publishers are responsible for their product's manufacturing and marketing, including market research and all aspects of advertising.

Southam town in Warwickshire, United Kingdom

Southam is a small market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district of Warwickshire, England. Southam is on the River Stowe, which flows from Napton-on-the-Hill and joins Warwickshire's River Itchen at Stoneythorpe, just outside the town. The town is about 7 12 miles (12 km) east of Leamington Spa, about 10 miles (16 km) from Rugby and Daventry, 13 miles (21 km) south of Coventry and 14 miles (23 km) north of Banbury.




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 the school's computer room outside of hours through one of the school's janitors. [4] 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 . [4] 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 . [4]

Vancouver City in British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 in 2016, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre, which makes it the fifth-most densely populated city with over 250,000 residents in North America behind New York City, Guadalajara, San Francisco, and Mexico City according to the 2011 census. Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada according to that census; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Roughly 30% of the city's inhabitants are of Chinese heritage. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city.

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.

Commodore PET home computer

The Commodore PET is a line of home/personal computers produced starting in 1977 by Commodore International. A top-seller in the Canadian and United States educational markets, it was the first personal computer sold to the public and formed the basis for their entire 8-bit product line, including the Commodore 64. The first model, which was named the PET 2001, was presented to the public at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in 1977.

The Darling brothers later returned to England, where they acquired their own VIC-20 and founded Galactic Software, again with the help of Heibert. [4] 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. [4] These games included Space Walk, BMX Racers, Jungle Story, Orbitron, Sub Hunt, Pigs in Space. [4] They also developed The Games Creator, a game making tool that would later be sold commercially. [4] The Darling brothers found success in making these games, gaining GB£200,000 by the time they were 16 and 17, respectively. [4] In 1985, the two owned a 50% stake in Mastertronic, which they proceeded to sell in March 1986 when they decided to become independent. [4] By October 1986, the Darling brothers, with help by their father, had founded Codemasters. [4] They initially worked out of the Beaumont Business Centre in Banbury, where their elder sister, Abigail, managed the front desk. [4]

Popular Computing Weekly was a computer magazine in the UK published from 1982 to 1990. It was sometimes referred to as PCW.

Mastertronic computer game publisher and distributor

Mastertronic was originally a publisher and distributor of low-cost computer game software founded in 1983. Their first games were distributed in mid-1984. At its peak the label was the dominant software publisher in the UK, a position achieved by selling cassette-based software at the GB£1.99 and £2.99 price-points. As well as being an exclusive wholesaler of computer games to Woolworth's, Toys "R" Us and other leading retailers, Mastertronic sold software in outlets such as newsagents which had not been previously associated with the software market.

Pound sterling Official currency of the United Kingdom and other territories

The pound sterling, commonly known as the pound and less commonly referred to as sterling, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the British Antarctic Territory, and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence. A number of nations that do not use sterling also have currencies called the pound.

Codemasters' first game was BMX Simulator , a successor to BMX Racers. [4] 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. [4] To produce more games in less time, Codemasters started hiring developers on a freelance basis. [4] 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. [4] 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. [4]

<i>BMX Simulator</i> video game

BMX Simulator is a sports arcade video game released by Codemasters in 1986 for the Commodore 64 and later ported to other home computer systems. It was followed by two sequels, BMX Simulator 2 and Professional BMX Simulator, and was part of a series of games that included ATV Simulator, Grand Prix Simulator and Professional Ski Simulator.

<i>Super Robin Hood</i> 1985 video game

Super Robin Hood is a Robin Hood-themed platform game published in November 1985 by Codemasters. It was reworked as Robin Hood: Legend Quest in 1992 when it was also released for the Amiga and Atari ST.

<i>Ghost Hunters</i> (video game) 1987 video game

Ghost Hunters is a platform game written by the Oliver twins for the Amstrad CPC and published by Codemasters in February 1986. It was also converted and released for the ZX Spectrum (1987) and Commodore 64 (1989) platforms. The game combines platform-style action with shooting gameplay similar to that found in the game Operation Wolf. The game is the second release by the Oliver twins, published when they were just seventeen years old and still going to school. It was conceived as a sequel to their first commercially successful game, Super Robin Hood, although it has little to do with this game other than using a modified version of its engine. The twins have credited the film Ghostbusters and the cartoon series Scooby-Doo for influencing the game.


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.

<i>Dizzy</i> (series) series of computer games

Dizzy is a series of video games, created by the Oliver Twins and published by Codemasters. It was one of the most successful British video game franchises of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Originally created for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC, the series appeared on multiple home computer and video game console formats, with over a dozen games being published between 1987 and 1992.

<i>Crystal Kingdom Dizzy</i> video game

Crystal Kingdom Dizzy is an adventure video game featuring the character Dizzy released in December 1992 by Codemasters. The Oliver Twins—who were heavily involved in the design and programming of previous Dizzy games—had less involvement with this one.

<i>Fantastic Dizzy</i> video game

Fantastic Dizzy is a 1991 video game developed by Codemasters. It is part of the Dizzy series. It was published to several platforms, including Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga and MS-DOS.

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.

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.

Nintendo Japanese video game company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

A glitch is a short-lived fault in a system, such as a transient fault that corrects itself, making it difficult to troubleshoot. The term is particularly common in the computing and electronics industries, in circuit bending, as well as among players of video games. More generally, all types of systems including human organizations and nature experience glitches.

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 Sierra On-Line and hiring much of Yosemite Entertainment's laid off staff in mid-September 1999.


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. [5] 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 [6] 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. [7] 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. [8] On 25 April 2008, Codemasters bought Sega Racing Studio. [9] The studio was headed by Guy Wilday, who was involved in the Colin McRae Rally games and was formerly the series producer. [10]

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 computer games industry. [11]


On 5 April 2010, Reliance Big Entertainment, an Indian company acquired a 50% stake in the company. [12] 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 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' latest 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. [13]

In April 2015 Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens left to join Jagex, leaving COO Frank Sagnier as the new temporary CEO. [14] In April 2016, Codemasters announced that they had hired most of the staff of racing game developer Evolution Studios after Sony closed the company. [15]

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. [16]

Codemasters held an initial public offering to list the company on the London Stock Exchange's AIM 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 now holds a 29% stake in Codemasters. [17] [18]


Related Research Articles

Rare (company) British video game developer

Rare Limited is a British video game developer and a subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios based in Twycross, England. Rare is known for its platform games, which include the Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker series, although the studio does not adhere to specific genres and has developed games in the first-person shooter, action-adventure, fighting, and racing genres.

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, 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.

1990 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, Dr. Mario, and Super Mario World.

1988 saw many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Super Contra, Super Mario Bros 2, Assault, Altered Beast, 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

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.

Liquid Entertainment

Liquid Entertainment was an American independent video game developer based in Pasadena, California. The studio was co-founded in 1999 by Ed Del Castillo and Michael Grayford, and is led by president Del Castillo and CEO Holly Newman.

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.

Ratbag Games

Ratbag Games Pty Ltd was an Australian developer of video games such as Powerslide, The Dukes of Hazzard: Return of the General Lee and World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars 2002.

Ever since Pole Position in 1983, Formula One has always played a part of the racing genre in video games. Geoff Crammond's 1991 simulation Grand Prix played an integral role in moving Formula One games from arcade games to being full simulations of the sport. Platforms: Arcade, SG-1000, Intellivision, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Atari 7800, Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Commodore 16, Commodore Plus/4, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Amiga, Atari ST, PC DOS, Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, TurboGrafx-16, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Mac OS X, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Android, tvOS, Linux

Reliance Entertainment

Reliance Entertainment Pvt Ltd is a division of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group handling its media and entertainment business, across content and distribution platforms.

<i>Colin McRae: Dirt 2</i> 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 and was the first game in the McRae series since McRae's death in 2007.

<i>Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament</i> 1994 video game

Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament is a 1994 racing video game developed by Supersonic Software and published by Codemasters for the Sega Mega Drive. The sequel to Micro Machines, the game is themed around Galoob's Micro Machines toys, and players race around environments in miniature toy vehicles. Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament adds new vehicles and game modes, and the Mega Drive version was released on J-Cart, enabling up to eight players without a multitap.

<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) first game in the Micro Machines series (published 1991)

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>Onrush</i> racing video game

Onrush is a vehicular combat game developed by Codemasters and published by Deep Silver for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It was developed by Codemasters and the team from Evolution Studios.


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