Codemasters disasters #4 Managing brands


Codemasters never saw their IP as being brands. Throughout their entire history there are a huge number of great one off games that never saw a sequel. Instead the focus was always on games as stand alone products with the occasional, rare, sequel. Perhaps the only exceptions were LMA, which by it’s very nature demanded annual iterations and the two externally developed games, Snooker and MTV, where Codemasters was just the publisher of someone else’s brand. This lack of brand management made the company far less efficient and far less profitable than competitors.

Statistically a new IP has very small chance of success. It is the repeated brands that make the money. Yet Codemasters published mainly new IP. Games which never saw a sequel. Games like Prisoner of War , Second Sight, Blade of Darkness, Insane and Shoot to Kill. If you look at a full list you can see how difficult they made things for themselves.

Micro Machines was a brand licensed from Galoob toys with whom Codemasters had a very good relationship. It was Galoob who had made the Game Genie the number one toy in America one holiday season. Micro Machines the game did well so Codemasters did a sequel, then another one, V3. V3 on PSX was a fantastic game and a great commercial success. It was fun in the way a good Wii game is today and became a cult favourite for gangs of students to play after the pub. So in an amazing display of brand misunderstanding Codemasters decided to drop the license from Galoob and do without for the fourth game of the series. So Micro Maniacs was born. And unsurprisingly it bombed. This was especially bad because it involved disbanding an internal development team.

Operation Flashpoint was a number one in every country with a chart including the USA, a first for Codemasters. Released in 2001 it has even now not seen a sequel. This is almost unbelievable, you could have built a company far bigger than what Codemasters is now on this brand alone.

Dizzy, I have covered this on here before.12 out of Codemasters 60 number one games had the word Dizzy in their title. It was bigger than Mario. Then they fell out with the Oliver twins, who wrote the games, in a way that meant that nobody could make any more Dizzys. One again, if Dizzy had kept going and been managed properly it would now be a brand far bigger than Codemasters and Blitz combined. To me it is incomprehensible that this was allowed to happen. The parties involved shot themselves in the foot with a tactical nuke.

Anyone who has any involvement with brand management will find all this almost unbelievable. But it is true.


  1. Isn’t Colin McRae a Codemaster series? At least they had one brand that was used for more than one game 🙂

  2. Colin happened as a game that was a hit, then a sequel, then another. It wasn’t managed as a brand. The same with TOCA/Race Driver.

  3. Umm, you’ve got it wrong about Micro Maniacs Bruce.
    The Dev Team wasn’t disbanded till about 2 years after Micro Maniacs was released, having been working for a year and a bit on an entirely different game, that got canned mostly because of the external “expert” that was brought in who scheduled it to death.
    To be honest, it did surprisingly well for an after-the-pub game that was incorrectly marketed at 12 year olds.
    Also, it got a chart topping Number 1! 😉 OK so not in the largest territory ever but it was hardly a complete failure.

  4. And as far as I’m aware, and as we were told at the time, the reason that Micro Maniacs wasn’t Micro Machines v4 was more to do with Hasbro purchasing Galoob and Hasbro having their own internal games division so they wouldn’t release licenses of any of their own IP rather than to do with Codemasters losing anything.
    Just after the launch of MicroManiacs Hasbro sold the interactive rights to their whole catalogue to Infogrames, and hence the 2002 Atari Micro Machines game.

  5. Well Codies did quite well with Flashpoint mission packs created by the QA dept I think. It just seemed like every studio had a go at making the sequel! 🙂 Good luck to the guys on the latest sequel!

  6. Interesting points raised here. Personally speaking I think publishers should be encouraged to make one off games, as if they do a good job they could be the next Halo. The problem – particularly with the likes of Codemasters – is they seem to have lost the plot no matter which games they’re backing.

    I remember how big Micromachines was, V3 was a great title, hard to imagine after seeing the awful sequels.

  7. with the success of Company of Heroes as a RTS gamers tend to forget that Soldiers of WW2 was a much more interesting and engaging take on the RTS world.

    Most people I have talked to about the SOWW2 usually say it was too hard. But if you get into it and avoid the disk bootup bugs that have sometimes happened it is a really detailed and unique game.

    I am director of a company that work with hard to reach people to engage them through games and build their skills. (also a case study in the Byron Report for all its worth :/ and did speak to Codemasters about the use of older games in this setting, but it never got anywhere as they only saw the latest games having any real value. Say that to Ubisoft and Prince of Persia developers, that old ip is not worth much!!

    There is real value in older games and their ip. stumble across Manic Minor on Google and it is now a online multiplayer game. OK no $$$ in that but it shows that there is a market for taking a step back at unique games and continuing the brand.

    I just bought Turning Point for the 360 and after half an hour I could not play it any more. It was simply a poor designed and thought out game. Ok, it can be argued that it could get better after the time i game it, but after playing a lot of these types of games you would think that thought would have been put into it’s design and playability. The weapons just felt wrong and the innovative (not) jump from 1st to third view when interacting with the environment just made it frustrating.

    CM have made some great games, but there are a lot of crap that is created just to tap into the hupe and LCD of certain gamers. There are a lot of gamers that want a hell of a lot more challenge and depth that would buy these sorts of games. Instead we just get by with the usual and make the sad mistake of buying games that are over hyped and over rated.

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