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The Codemasters Software Company Limited (trade name: Codemasters) is a British video game developer and publisher based in Southam, England, which is a subsidiary of American corporation Electronic Arts. 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.
|Founded||October 1986Banbury, Englandin|
|Frank Sagnier (CEO)|
Number of employees
|Subsidiaries||Slightly Mad Studios|
Codemasters Group Holdings plc was the holding company of Codemasters, which was publicly traded and owned The Codemasters Software Company Limited until being purchased by EA in 2021 for $1.2 billion.
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. 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. 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.
The Darling brothers later returned to England, where they acquired their own VIC-20 and founded Galactic Software, again with the help of Heibert. 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. These games included Space Walk, BMX Racers, Jungle Story, Orbitron, Sub Hunt, Pigs in Space. They also developed The Games Creator, a game making tool that would later be sold commercially. The Darling brothers found success in making these games, gaining GB£200,000 by the time they were 16 and 17, respectively. In 1985, the two owned a 50% stake in Mastertronic, which they proceeded to sell in March 1986 when they decided to become independent. By October 1986, the Darling brothers, with help by their father, had founded Codemasters. They initially worked out of the Beaumont Business Centre in Banbury, where their elder sister, Abigail, managed the front desk.
Codemasters' first game was BMX Simulator, a successor to BMX Racers. 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. To produce more games in less time, Codemasters started hiring developers on a freelance basis. 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. 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.
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.
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 Brian Lara Cricket series, Colin McRae Rally and Dirt series, Dizzy series, F1 series, Grid series, LMA Manager series, Micro Machines series, Operation Flashpoint series, Overlord series, Project CARS series and TOCA series. 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. 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 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. 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.
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. On 25 April 2008, Codemasters bought Sega Racing Studio. The studio was headed by Guy Wilday, who was involved in the Colin McRae Rally games and was formerly the series producer.
On 5 April 2010, Reliance Big Entertainment, an Indian company acquired a 50% stake in the company. 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.
In April 2015 Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens left to join Jagex, leaving COO Frank Sagnier as the new temporary CEO. In April 2016, Codemasters announced that they had hired most of the staff of racing game developer Evolution Studios after Sony closed the company.
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 GB£185 million. As a result of the IPO, Reliance Entertainment held a 29.5% stake in Codemasters.
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.
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.
Codemasters announced in November 2020 that it had been approached to be acquired by Take-Two Interactive as a buyoff offer valued at GB£739.2 million. Codemasters said its board was ready to approve the deal, pending the required regulatory approvals and Take-Two's own commitment once those approvals were granted. In the same month, both Take-Two and Codemasters agreed to a Take-Two buyout of Codemasters in a stock and cash deal around US$994 million, which was expected to be completed by early 2021. Following the acquisition, Codemasters would have operated within the 2K label under its existing leadership. In a statement, Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick said that Codemasters' racing games would fit well with its own roster of sports games. However, Take-Two's bid was subsequently trumped by Electronic Arts in December 2020, which offered to buy all outstanding shares at GB£6.04 for an offer valued at about US$1.2 billion, about 14% higher than Take-Two's offer. Codemasters' board of directors agreed to the EA deal, which is expected to close by the first quarter of 2021. Take-Two formally withdrew its offer in January 2021, ceding to EA's bid, while Codemasters' board signed off on EA's bid later that month. The acquisition was completed on 18 February 2021, with all shares transferred to Codex Games Limited, a subsidiary of EA. EA's Andrew Wilson said they plan to keep Codemasters as a standalone entity within EA similar to Respawn Entertainment. Codemasters announced in July 2021 that CEO Frank Sagnier and CFO Rashid Varachia will depart the company at the end of the month, as part of the EA acquisition plan. Special vice president of product development Clive Moody and of publishing Jonathan Bunney will take over leadership of Codemasters following this.
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