It would be easy to think that Formula One isn’t as popular as, say, football. But it is a truly massive sport, with millions of avid UK fans.
And last year Codemasters proved that this audience can be just as profitable as that of FIFA or PES. The game rocketed to the top of the charts in its opening week back in September and has shifted 2.3m copies worldwide to date.
The publisher’s communications manager Andy Gray says the passion of Formula One enthusiasts was instrumental in this success: “I don’t think you can underestimate the Formula One fanbase. It is a massive global sport and no market is more vociferous in its consumption of F1 than the UK. The marquee races can attract viewing figure in excess of eight million in the UK alone.
“It’s fair to say that it surpassed everyone’s expectations – and I had pretty lofty ambitions for the game as I am such a big fan of the sport. Hopefully we can keep this up for this year’s game.”
BACK ON TRACK
Codemasters’ triumph is not to be understated. While there is already a strong market for games based on football, golf or tennis, Formula One had long since veered off into the pits. Bringing the sport back to the forefront of games was a challenge, but it was one of many that Codies approached with gusto.
“The first issue was that there is a disconnect between the market for games and the market for F1, although the sport itself is doing a lot to attract a younger audience now,” says Gray.
“There was also a perception that F1 was in freefall as a games franchise as sales of the Sony titles had tailed off over the years.
“Obviously the most important thing was to make a great game that would attract fans of the racing genre, regardless of whether they knew Nick Heidfeld from Nico Rosberg. That was then backed up by a strong campaign. I think the ‘Be the Driver, Live the Life’ tagline resonated with fans of the sport and then the TV campaign, the largest in Codemasters’ history, really drew in the mainstream.”
The publisher invested heavily to ensure the game’s success, doing everything possible to capture the attentions of this lucrative yet elusive fanbase. Not only had it reached out to consumers with the Wii and PSP hit F1 2009, its 2010 campaign kicked off in March and ran throughout the F1 season up until launch in September.
Employing some impressive star power also helped. Codies recruited F1 test driver Anthony Davidson as its technical consultant, and arranged an F1 2010 race over Xbox Live between Lewis Hamilton and his brother Nic – complete with commentary from BBC presenter Jake Humphrey. This footage was broadcast on BBC 1 two weeks before the game’s release during the Italian Grand Prix, reaching an audience of 2.3 million.
Gray says: “All the way through the campaign, we had these fans in mind and made sure that our messaging looked and felt authentic to Formula One.
“The fact that there are so many F1 fans working at Codemasters meant that we always had a good sounding board for what worked and what didn’t with the fans.”
But there’s no rest for Codemasters who are already working hard on the upcoming F1 2011. After raising the bar with 2010, the publisher will be hard pressed to top its now award-winning formula. However, Gray is confident the next iteration will more than live up to fans’ expectations.
“We have some cool things up our sleeve both in terms of game features and the way that the game is marketed.
“We have learnt a great deal in the couple of years that we have been working with the licence which can only benefit the game and its promotion.”