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Codemasters boss outlines vision for industry future

Cousens proposes higher retail margin on hardware with £29.99 games and solid DLC plan

Codemasters CEO has told that the industry's business model needs a shake-up, and that the price of videogame software should be lower, while retailers should be incentivised with higher hardware margins and a cut of downloadable content revenues.

Talking in part two of an interview with the industry veteran, who has spent over 25 years working in the videogames business, he dismisses the idea that retailers aren't needed in a digital future, arguing instead that the constituent parts of the value chain should come together and work out a more constructive future in a changing and demanding environment.

"Let me give you a scenario that could happen in the next three-to-five years," he said. "That's that games aren't at GBP 50 - they're at GBP 20-30, but they're unfinished. You then have to download future levels or packs to progress through the game, and within those downloadable packs you also have micro-transactions.

"You can do that directly, or you can do it in conjunction with retail, where they have a code to unlock future packs and they participate in the margin.

"That is a far more constructive and value added approach than if they're simply churning pre-owned software out, which I believe in terms of content creation disadvantages us - and actually, further, stagnates the industry."

He went on to develop that view further, offering a different approach to the traditional razors-and-razor-blades model.

"What if we reversed that and argued that if the platform holders want to get their installed base to the levels we all need around the world, they actually have to improve the margins to retail on hardware, but you now look at the software package over a 12-month period," he asked.

"Probably the first point isn't what they're getting on day one, where we're selling predicated on a retail price of GBP 49.99 and everyone's discounting the hell out of it. Instead the price probably needs to be GBP 29.99 on a lower margin base, with DLC following that, with more margin built into the hardware - which is what we all need. That's where I'm going with it, and that's what we as an industry should be doing."

However, he admitted that while he saw the benefits in such a plan, he wasn't overly confident of seeing such changes come into effect - and while he emphasised the need for retail to come to the table, he refused to criticise those businesses for their current reliance on pre-owned titles.

"If I was the retailer I'd get with the programme and engage with the publishers," he said. "[GAME CEO] Lisa Morgan is a great friend of mine of many years' standing and I've got nothing but admiration for the job that she's done, which is a public company - and that's never an easy task. Navigating through an economic minefield is a further aggravation.

"So I want to be quite clear that I'm not critical of what they do - but I do believe it's time that the industry takes a look at it, and all the constituent parts of the industry, the development community, the publishing element, the retail element, figures out something and evolves... because it will take evolution to get there.

"But I'm not negative - I think it's great, it's very exciting and provides greater opportunity (and actually greater benefits) to our industry which will continue to grow."

The second part of the interview with Rod Cousens, in which he also talks about the future of the Ashes Cricket series following the demise of Transmission Games, and whether or not the company will look for an IPO in the future, is available now - along with part one.

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