I worked on the original Operation Flashpoint at Codemasters (I am even in the game!). At the time we were mainly a console publisher and were being hammered by PS1 piracy and the console transition. Things were so bad that 20% of the entire workforce were made redundant. And there was nearly zero marketing budget for Operation Flashpoint. So we concentrated on the online community and PR. And we got Flashpoint to number one in every country with a chart (and presumably loads more as well). So it pretty much saved the company.
That was way back in 2001. We had created a world class gaming brand. Yet, amazingly, no sequel has yet been released. This must be one of the most successful attempts not to make money in the history of the games industry. When I left Codemasters in 2005 I was sure that Operation Flashpoint was the biggest brand that the company owned, more valuable than all it’s other brands put together. And I was sure that it was possible to build a world class publisher on the back of it. But it is now 8 long years since the original release.
But, after many delays, we are promised that a sequel will be released this autumn, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. An opportunity for Codemasters to take on the world. But there is a big problem and that problem is Modern Warfare 2, the latest Call of Duty title, which will be released at around the same time.
Modern Warfare 2 is published by Activision, the world’s biggest game publisher. The Call of Duty brand first surfaced in 2003 to critical acclaim, scoring 91% on Metacritic and 92% on Game Rankings. Activision have milked the brand with four main versions and numerous expansion packs and spin offs. The fourth version was called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and was the catalyst for splitting the brand in two. Going forward Call of Duty and Modern Warfare will be two separate brands.
So the marketing team at Activision have done the exact opposite of what Codemasters have done. They have milked the Call of Duty brand for every penny possible and built it into one (or two!) of the world’s greatest game franchises. For example Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released in Q4 2007 (with Metacritic and Game Rankings both giving it 94%) and so far has sold around 13 million units, making it one of the world’s biggest selling games.
As you can see things are very interesting. Can Codemasters revive the Flashpoint brand and take on Modern Warfare 2? Or will they just be struggling for the crumbs that fall of the edge of the Activision table?