Electronic Arts, the ever-growing game studio and publisher, has recently acquired Codemasters, the development studio behind multiple popular racing series such as Dirt, Grid, and Fuel.
Electronic Arts is known for acquiring promising studios, although this process usually comes with a reasonable amount of criticism. Despite this reputation, Electronic Arts has become one of the biggest and most successful gaming companies precisely because of these practices.
What does Electronic Arts buying Codemasters mean for gamers?
Fans of any of the different series developed by Codemasters have plenty of cause for concern. EA’s reputation for acquiring smaller studios and turning their products into horrific amalgamations of their former selves, is well earned. In 2017, Manveer Heir, a former Bioware developer, spoke with Matthew Byrd about what happened after that studio’s acquisition by EA. During their discussion, they talked about EA’s push for microtransactions.
“They are generally pushing for more open-world games. And the reason is you can monetize them better…It’s the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of ‘just’ playing for 60 to 100 hours?”
According to Heir, Mass Effect 3 ended up getting some individual players to spend as much as $15,000 through the game’s microtransactions, and the total profit made led to Electronic Arts pushing for multiplayer in Dragon Age as well.
For Codemasters fans, it’s likely that Electronic Arts will try to instill a ruthless and exploitative system of microtransactions akin to what is seen in their other titles.
And for those who don’t care about microtransactions?
If the prospect of microtransactions being heavily pushed in future Codemasters titles isn’t a problem, then there are a few other things to look out for. One common trend whenever Electronic Arts acquires another development studio is the way EA seems to rely strongly on focus testing.
Going back to Bioware for a moment, the first Mass Effect was a very character driven RPG where stats and numbers played a major role in determining how characters worked. After their acquisition by EA, Mass Effect 2 released with a much more basic series of RPG mechanics attached to a basic and streamlined shooter experience.
It’s not that Mass Effect 2 lacked RPG elements, but it no longer played like an RPG with clear class distinctions. Instead, all classes felt very much the same.
However, Codemasters is known for their racing games, a genre that already caters to a very niche audience. It’s unlikely that Dirt, Grid, or the F1 series will be significantly altered under EA’s direction. Instead, Electronic Arts may try to help Codemasters release their products more annually, similar to the way that EA Sports’ titles are handled.
Alternatively, Electronic Arts could take a more hands-off approach, and simply dictate that their games have a more aggressive monetization strategy.