What could EA’s $1.2bn acquisition of Codemasters mean for F1 esports and future games?

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Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco analyses EA’s purchase of UK-based developer Codemasters

The opening lines in EA’s press release confirming the completion of its acquisition gives you a good indication of what to expect in the future.

‘Electronic Arts and Codemasters establish a new global powerhouse for racing videogames and entertainment,’ it reads.

‘Combining the top-tier talent and expertise across Codemasters’ Formula 1, DIRT, GRID, DiRT Rally, and Project CARS with EA’s Need for Speed franchise and Real Racing mobile game.’

‘Immediate growth opportunities for Codemasters’ franchises through Electronic Arts’ commercial resources, technology infrastructure, and nearly half a billion strong player network.’

This is a deal that makes sense. And for an implied enterprise value of $1.2 billion, you’d certainly expect it to!

Codies has built up a solid reputation in the racing games arena, having developed the likes of the F1, Grid and Dirt games, which EA now has access to.

Let’s not forget Codies acquired Slightly Mad Studios in late 2019 for a reported $30m, giving EA ownership of the well-known Project Cars 2 title.

Aside from the huge F1 license, Codies also has the WRC (World Rally Championship) license, as part of a five-year deal running from 2023 to 2027.

There’s been huge growth in this space in recent years, with more people and gamers stuck at home during lockdown. Some have turned to esports, and gambling has been on the up too, for those aged 18 and over. Check out SA Gaming for online slots, virtual sports and more.

The deal builds on EA’s reputation in the sports genre, giving it a host of popular and respected racing games to add to its repertoire.

It will also cement EA as the biggest sports-related esports game publisher out there. The F1 Esports Series and Virtual Grand Prix have been doing particularly well in recent years, as have FIFA esports competitions, with the likes of the ePremier League, FIFAe World Cup and more.

FIFA is EA’s giant franchise and has been for many years. It has only grown in popularity in recent years, with the rise of the Ultimate Team mode, but this microtransaction-based mode has drawn criticism for the addictive nature of its loot boxes/card packs, which can be bought using real money.

“Perhaps we’ll see more tournaments emerge, much like the various competitions and tiers EA already has in FIFA. Some have suggested we may see microtransactions or Ultimate Team modes added to Codies’ racing games. Time will tell.”

In short, you can expect the esports operations around F1 and other titles to continue, and possibly grow further, backed by EA’s resources and networks. Perhaps we’ll see more tournaments emerge, much like the various competitions and tiers EA already has in FIFA.

Some have stipulated that we may see microtransactions added to Codies’ racing games in time, or that a sort of Ultimate Team mode may be added to future F1 games. Time will tell.

In the press release, it states that “the union will open significant growth opportunities for Codemasters franchises with access to Electronic Arts’ network of more than 430m players and industry-leading multi-platform subscription services”.

“Electronic Arts’ also brings deep data and analytics capabilities to the Codemasters development and publishing teams, providing audience insights to accelerate the performance of key franchises.

“These capabilities, as well as Electronic Arts’ global publishing, marketing and game development strength, will unlock new opportunities for the combined group’s portfolio of racing games and content to reach and deeply engage more players around the world on console, PC and mobile.”

In a nutshell, more resources, more weight, the bigger get bigger. It’s a good deal for both parties in my view, but will it be good for gamers? Again, time will tell.

“This is the beginning of an exciting new era for racing games and content as we bring together the talented teams at Electronic Arts and Codemasters,” said Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA.

“Racing fandom continues to grow worldwide, and the franchises in our combined portfolio will enable us to create innovative new experiences and bring more players into the excitement of cars and motorsport. 

“Our teams will be a global powerhouse in racing entertainment, with amazing games for players on every platform, and we can’t wait to get started.”

“Today is a landmark in Codemasters’ history, and an exciting day for our employees and players,” commented Frank Sagnier, CEO of Codemasters.

“The partnership with EA will enable our teams to take our highly-acclaimed franchises to new heights and reach a huge global audience through their player network. Together we can redefine the landscape of racing games to create even more compelling experiences for racing fans around the world.”

Sim racing games is a genre that boasts some decent UK talent, so I for one find this news positive. Lots of va va voom and enormous potential. I look forward to seeing where it leads.

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