Paying for brands

In the 1980s it became apparent that you could make a game sell better by borrowing someone else’s brand. You could take an average Sinclair Spectrum game and stick a name like Robocop on it and you had an instant hit. And because people were buying a brand you were less likely to be pirated.

So we ended up with a long tradition of paying a lot of money to other industries just to use their name, even when it wasn’t even necessary. And as a result ended up harming ourselves very badly by not building up our own brands. Something you can still see today at Electronic Arts.

When I was at Codemasters we were paying a lot of money for the game rights to Colin McRae, TOCA (saloon car racing) and the LMA (football management). And I didn’t understand why because there didn’t seem to be any marketing advantage, in fact they carried many disadvantages. So to me it looked like we were paying a lot of money for nothing. Of course every time I voiced this opinion I was talked down. Except by Jim Darling, who thought that these people should be paying us for the publicity we were getting them. And he had a point, worldwide Colin McRae was far more famous for the video game than he was for his driving. In fact many Americans didn’t realise that he was a real person.

So it is interesting to see that Codemasters are doing the right thing and are migrating away from paying for these names. So Colin McRae is becoming Dirt and TOCA has become Grid. Names that cost nothing and that can become powerful brands owned by the games industry. Electronic Arts take note.


  1. Ironically, Codemasters just bought the F1 licence, who were asking for too much money from Sony and everyone was of the opinion that they should be paying someone to make an F1 game, not the other way around.

  2. Codemasters games will now be more likely to be pirated, as they are no longer branded.

  3. I’ve often wondered why Activision forked out so much for the Tony Hawk licence. No one even knew who he was until the games made him famous…

  4. Codemasters stuff if more likely to be pirated if they keep using copyright protection that stops anyone using it unless you get a crack.

  5. The reason Codies stopped using the “Colin McRae” name might just have something to do with the fact that he died shortly after DiRT was released.

    Good GRIEF man, could you be less informed?

  6. Then that makes your not taking it into account in your claims above even more ridiculous!

    Any chance you could approve my links to Greenpeace’s efforts to save sharks? It would seem only appropriate you provide these links after damning them and thus discouraging people from donating toward a cause you appear to care about.

  7. Any need to be so rude? I’m sure you can voice your opinion with out doing so. You only lose respect if you comment in such a way.

    CM were obviously leaning away from the name by titling it Dirt (in such a way that Dirt took centre stage) well in advance of that unfortunate event.

  8. Neither of those migrations are marketing related though, Colin is (unfortunately) dead, and the GRID game has none of the TOCA sanctioned series in it.

  9. Not sure why they got Captain Sensible to endorse that football game though…

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