ANALYSIS: Codies' new focus on racing games

Christopher Dring
ANALYSIS: Codies' new focus on racing games

Codemasters’ decision to abandon the shooter genre was made last September.

Bodycount – the firm’s bold attempt at an FPS – had failed. And the game’s Guildford studio was shut.

Its racing studios are all that remain. And last month the publisher made it official. The days of Operation Flashpoint are at an end. Codemasters’ ‘razor sharp focus’ is now on its three racers – Grid, Dirt and F1. 

“Racing is a category that lends itself to multiple revenue streams,” explains VP of brand Jon Rissik.

“By channelling our talent into a specific category we can see efficiencies across franchises and deliver games that have the greatest likelihood of success. 

“With this focus, we are able to structure ourselves across platforms in both traditional and digital sectors and appeal to racing fans across every divide. No one else is able to offer that.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES

The new Codemasters Racing publishing label wasn’t actually come as a surprise.

The publisher had learnt through Bodycount what the rest of the industry has also discovered: launching a new IP in today’s economy and at this point in the console cycle is a dangerous move. Scaling back and focusing on the games that make money is the safe bet.

“Creative firms constantly reinvent themselves, it’s what makes them exciting places to be,” says Rissik. 

“HD console games are generating greater revenues from fewer titles and market resources reflect this. The approach is to be relevant and take share in a rising marketplace that is opening up opportunities in new geographies.” 

Codemasters doesn’t view its decision to abandon action games as a negative move.

It is second only to EA in racing games across Europe, but wants to be No.1. It wants to take racing to people in new markets. It wants to put its games on new platforms.

To Codemasters, its focus on racing is not a case of them cowering from the current economic storm.

Rissik says: “We target the global market and data illustrates that digital will surpass physical in 2012. We want to ensure our fans can enjoy our games, whether they buy physical or digital.

“Over the past 12 months we’ve done a lot to accelerate our digital growth and we currently have multiple projects in development.  Our first major initiative is F1 Online – a free-to-play browser experience.

“Also, in Reliance ADA, We have an entertainment powerhouse as a major shareholder and this will help us access emerging markets, particularly Asia. Our portfolio holds great appeal in South America. We certainly don’t believe that the racing category has reached a volume peak.”

INTRODUCING RACENET

Codemasters other major racing project has just arrived – RaceNet.

Although not exactly the same as Activision’s CoD Elite service, RaceNet does unify all of the firm’s racing brands. It is free and allows Codemasters fans to create a profile, unlock content and take part in challenges. The system is designed to keep players playing, and will also help Codemasters promote its upcoming titles.

“The objective of RaceNet is to extend and enhance the player experience, and to introduce gamers to titles that they might otherwise not be aware of,” says Rissik.

“Over time we may look at offering players the opportunity to buy content direct from RaceNet.”

TAKING ON THE GIANTS

Codemasters’ racing line-up is probably the biggest it has ever been. There’s three different F1 titles, RaceNet, Dirt Showdown, Dirt for Wii U and the soon-to-be-announced Grid sequel.

And becoming No.1 in racing isn’t going to be easy. Codemasters has fierce competition from Need for Speed and Forza every year. 

Yet if it can be the No.1 racing studio, Codemasters will be in a strong position for when the next generation arrives. And who knows? Maybe then Operation Flashpoint could return.

“Codemasters IP does not go away and some of it may re-emerge,” admits Rissik.

“Right now, in the current console cycle, Flashpoint is not a fit with our short-term strategy. The shooter genre is confined to the high risk, high reward titles. We are interested in positioning ourselves for the future and this can be achieved by focusing on racing.”

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Tags: games , codemasters , racing , rissik , codies

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