Racing games have been perennial favorites for years. From Mario Kart to Gran Turismo, racing has always been a genre to satisfy a broad base thanks to its quick pick-up-and-play nature and the fantasy of being behind the wheel of a turbo-charged vehicle. Publisher Electronic Arts has been an active player in this space with franchises like Burnout and Need for Speed, among others, and now the company is aiming for an even bigger share thanks to its $1.2 billion buyout of venerable UK racing studio Codemasters (Dirt, F1, Project Cars).
With the deal approved, EA and Codemasters are aiming to create a “powerhouse in racing entertainment” that brings more innovation to the genre than before. The goal is to publish new racing games on an annual basis, the combined publishers said. With the potential exception of Ubisoft (The Crew), most of the competition for the new EA Codemasters comes from the first-party studios at Microsoft (Forza), Sony (Gran Turismo), and Nintendo (Mario Kart).
By acquiring Codemasters, EA also gained a bit of flexibility with its portfolio and release strategy. Criterion, which has been working on the next Need for Speed game, recently put development on pause so that it could support Battlefield 6 development. EA Studios chief Laura Miele suggested that delaying Need for Speed will also prevent Criterion and Codemasters from effectively competing against each other. With interest in virtual motorsports giving the esports industry a boost during the last 12 months, EA’s acquisition of Codemasters is good timing. In fact, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, the number of gamers who play racing titles has jumped up from 14% to 16% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020, representing over 4 million more players for the sector to target.