Electronic Arts doesn’t have the finest track record when it comes to acquiring studios. Many of them were swooped up before having their doors unceremoniously shuttered, while others are arguably a shadow of their former selves.
Bullfrog Productions, Visceral Games and Pandemic Studios are just a few of the development teams that have fallen victim to the publisher’s savage approach to the industry, and it’s a crying shame to think of what might have been accomplished if they were still around.
Such a history has many concerned about Codemasters now being a member of the Electronic Arts family, having recently been acquired for a beastly $1.2 billion. Responsible for franchises such as Dirt and Formula One, Codemasters is one of the biggest racing developers in the world, and now they sit under a new umbrella.
“This is the beginning of an exciting new era for racing games and content as we bring together the talented teams at Electronic Arts and Codemasters,” said CEO Andrew Wilson in a statement.
“Racing fandom continues to grow worldwide, and the franchises in our combined portfolio will enable us to create innovative new experiences and bring more players into the excitement of cars and motorsport. Our teams will be a global powerhouse in racing entertainment, with amazing games for players on every platform, and we can’t wait to get started.”
The above statement is drenched in positivity, and with any luck Codemasters will be able to operate with relative autonomy on new and existing projects. However, I don’t see that being the case for too long. Electronic Arts has a repertoire of properties such as Need for Speed and the long dormant Burnout which would fit perfectly in the hands of Codemasters.
Need for Speed has failed to produce an entry worthy of its legacy in years, and Burnout has only surfaced in the form of rare remasters on modern platforms. I wouldn’t be surprised if such properties fall squarely into the laps of Codemasters as they are tasked to implement a new, rebooted vision. Many players have lost touch with them, so perhaps new hands at the wheel are sorely needed.
While established properties such as Dirt and Formula One will remain untouched, I can see Codemasters being expanded to accomodate a greater repertoire of experiences. We can also expect many of their games to surface on EA Play and Xbox Game Pass, and hopefully without hastily implemented microtransactions.
It will also be interesting to see if Codemasters will follow a similar trajectory to Criterion Games, who acted as a support studio for larger, more ambitious games that happened to house vehicle components. Codemasters are masters of the genre, so they could certainly lend a helping hand while also focusing on its own projects. Much remains unclear right now, but I hope this new relationship will be a positive one.
What I’d hate to see happen is Codemasters losing its identity in the months and years to come, succumbing to corporate pressure that doesn’t allign with its personal creative vision. Outside of its EA Originals line of titles, the publisher doesn’t produce games like Dead Space or Mirror’s Edge anymore, but Codemasters could change that and introduce new racing experiences we’ve never seen before. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for now.