Codemasters (earlier known as Code Masters and often nicknamed Codies in magazines) is one of the longest running British video game developers. The CEO is Rod Cousens, formerly of Acclaim Entertainment and in 2005, Codemasters was named as the top independent games developer by "Develop magazine", an international monthly journal for video game developers.
Founded in 1985 by Richard and David Darling (who worked previously for Mastertronic), Codemasters quickly established themselves in the growing ZX Spectrum market, mostly with action games that required the player to solve simple puzzles by combining different objects. One of the best examples of these games are the Dizzy series. While Codemasters found their roots in the ZX Spectrum, they did not exclusively write for this one computer - they also released software (including the Dizzy series) for the Enterprise 128, Vic 20, Commodore 64, Commodore 16, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, Atari 8-bit, Commodore Amiga and Atari ST.
They were famous for releasing a long series of games called "Advanced Something Simulator" or "Professional Something Simulator". This led to the parody "Advanced Lawnmower Simulator" being developed, praised to the skies and then published by Your Sinclair magazine as an April Fool's Day stunt. Codemasters were one of a number of software houses in the 1980s that only released low-retail-price titles. Hence when, in 1992, they began to cut down on the budget releases in favour of full-price titles, they attracted the ire of many fans and the gaming press, the latter questioning the commercial logic behind it as Codemasters had known a great deal of success from their budget titles.
As the 8-bit computer market diminished, Codemasters turned to developing for the 8-bit and 16-bit console markets, as well as moving away from their budget title legacy to more full-price games on the 16-bit computers - 1993 saw the last title in the budget Dizzy series, Crystal Kingdom Dizzy, although they released a full-price Dizzy game, Fantastic Dizzy later. They had major success with the Micro Machines series and Pete Sampras Tennis on the Sega Mega Drive. Both franchises featured the J-Cart, allowing two extra controllers to be attached to the game cart without requiring EA's 4 way play or SEGA's four player adaptor.
The company also attracted both smirks and scorn from the gaming press and the gaming public in the 1980s with gleaming quotes that appeared to come from the gaming press on the packaging of their games (e.g. "This game is absolutely brilliant!" on Fruit Machine Simulator) - a standard feature of game packaging. However, on closer inspection, the quote could be seen to be attributed to none other than David or Richard Darling, the founders of Codemasters.
Codemasters is notable for making the large majority of games published by the controversial Camerica company, which bypassed Nintendo's lock-out chip by glitching it and produced unlicensed NES games. These NES games were known for being shiny gold and silver cartridges that were slightly different from normal NES cartridges in shape, though they still fit into the cartridge slot. Many Codemasters titles were also featured on Camerica's Aladdin Deck Enhancer. In 1990 Codemasters developed a device called the Power Pak, later renamed the Game Genie. It was a cheat cartridge for the NES, released in the US by Galoob and in Canada and the UK by Camerica.
Codemasters have since continued to release titles for later generation systems, such as the Race Driver series, Colin McRae Rally series, Brian Lara Cricket series series and Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. They currently own the rights to use the title Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising, but have parted with the original developer Bohemia Interactive Studio. In spite of this, Codemasters released Operation Flashpoint: Elite, developed by Bohemia, for Xbox in October 2005. June 2006 saw the long awaited release of Sensible Soccer 2006. In June 2007 Codemasters were purchased by equity group Balderton Capital and they changed their logo to an interlocked metallic C and M. Later that month they released the latest in the Colin McRae Rally series, Colin McRae: Dirt. They have recently published Overlord]] and Clive Barker's Jericho and are in the production stages of Race Driver: GRID.
Following the death of Colin McRae on September 15, 2007, Codemasters released a public statement on this. In March 2008 Codemasters announced a new deal with Majesco. The new partnership will focus on titles for DS and Wii, including Nanostray 2, Toy Shop, Cake Mania 2 and Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society for DS, and Wild Earth: African Safari, Our House and Cake Mania for Wii.