Electronic Arts has decided to consolidate some of their UK development teams, integrating Codemasters Cheshire fully into Criterion Games to have the two studios act as one on the development of the next Need for Speed, which is expected to release in this financial year. Criterion now has both the original Guildford team and their team in Cheshire.
No jobs have been lost in the transition, with an EA spokesperson telling GamesIndustry.biz that “This integration builds off the close partnership the two studios have developed over the past few months. Sharing common values and similar cultures, we strongly believe unifying the huge wealth of experience across both teams will help us to deliver the best racing experiences we can for our players.”
Codemasters Cheshire has a long history under previous names and iterations. Founded as Evolution Studios in 1999, it was quickly bought up by Sony and produced a string of WRC rallying titles through the PlayStation 2 generation. For the PlayStation 3, they shifted gears to over the top arcade racing in the Motorstorm series, but the studio started to struggle in the 2010s.
Motorstorm Apocalypse’s release disappointed after being delayed in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, but this was followed by the more niche PS3 and PS Vita racer Motorstorm: RC which provided the concept for Evolution’s PS4 launch window game Driveclub.
At least, that was the plan. Driveclub was delayed from the PS4’s launch and eventually released a year later, before stumbling into server load issues that effectively killed the game’s chances of success – I really liked it, but it had some indifferent reviews. Evolution and Sony supported the game heavily with DLC and a motorbike expansion, but the writing was on the wall, and Sony chose to close the studio in early 2016.
At that time, Codemasters stepped in to pick up the studio as a whole and bring them into the fold. Codemasters EVO, as it was rebranded, got to work on the innovative arcade combat racer Onrush. Again, we rather enjoyed Onrush, but it never struck a chord with punters and ended up as a commercial flop. A wave of redundancies hit, the studio was rebranded again as Codemasters Cheshire, but given another golden opportunity for success with the development of Dirt 5, which launched alongside the new generation of games consoles. Once again, we rather liked Dirt 5, but it’s not clear how well it sold.
This was the last game released by Codemasters as an independent company before being acquired by Electronic Arts in February 2021. Codemasters Cheshire being folded into Criterion brings to an end a very mixed 11 year period for this studio, but also gives the team another opportunity to keep working on one of the biggest racing game franchises, while also continuing Criterion’s own story of rebirth.
The rest of Codemasters remains, with Codemasters Birmingham continuing to turn out yearly F1 games, while the main Codemasters studio in Leamington Spa is surely hard at work on their next rallying game, whether that’s under the Dirt brand or leaning into their upcoming WRC exclusivity which starts in 2023.