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Codemasters' Rod Cousens Part 1

The CEO talks F1 paranoia and addresses the persistent rumours about the health of the company

Six months on from a major financial investment from Reliance Big Media, Codemasters is ending 2010 with another massive racing hit on its hands - its first attempt at a Formula One title on the high-definition home consoles with F1 2010. But the game has its critics, with a vocal community displeased with what they saw as many bugs in the final release, now patched.

Clearly, the company is still going through significant changes after a rough few years, and losing senior staff on new IP Bodycount has helped stem the gossip surrounding the business. Here, in this exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, CEO Rod Cousens addresses the persistent rumours that follow the company, why he believes the publisher doesn't get the credit it deserves, his assessment of some of the competition, and what's next for the F1 and Operation: Flashpoint franchises.

GamesIndustry.biz We're around half a year on from the Reliance deal now - how would you appraise that relationship now?
Rod Cousens

It's bedded in well - as a partner, with Balderton, they've proved themselves to be value added, and I'm not simply talking about the financial consideration. They've integrated well, introduced us to aspects of new markets, including the obvious one which is India.

They've used their relationships around the world, both in terms of the movie industry - they're an investor in Dreamworks - and also in the online space, and their relationships with some of the guys in San Francisco and the access to the Indian market.

On top of that there are the aspects that are value added in areas that we're already in - such as Formula One - and the significance of that as a venue in the next twelve months.

So there's a lot more to it than simply the financial side - and having a company the size of Reliance, as the single largest investor, is no bad thing.

GamesIndustry.biz When we last spoke, when the deal was announced, you mentioned the mobile company they own - have there been any manifestations of that relationship bearing fruit yet?
Rod Cousens

The obvious one is cricket, because that's the number one sport in the Indian market. They've created the cricket game for the mobile space for us, coming off of our franchises, some of the assets we'd already created for the game.

It also enables us to maintain access to a sector of the mobile area that is relevant to India, but perhaps less so in the rest of the world, and that's the old featureset of mobile phones. That's found money for us really, if you look at it in context.

I do think, if you try and take a macro view of the company and where it all goes - and I don't want to labour this point - but if you pay heed to the macro-economic forecast for the next ten years... I don't attach great value to it, because for every one they get right, they get them wrong too.

But I don't think you can argue with the emergence of the markets such as China, India and Brazil. Even if they're only half right, I'll take that - and for us to have a relationship with a partner giving us access to markets where the economists are suggesting are the high growth markets of tomorrow, I think in many ways that places us in a much more favourable position than far more substantial and established companies than ourselves.

If you take that down the food chain, it does manifest itself into aspects such as mobile cricket for the Indian market, which is here and now, and that's added to our projections for the coming years. That's why, strategically, it's a great partnership to have.

GamesIndustry.biz "Better placed than most for the future," was the phrase you used before - clearly that's an assessment you still agree with.
Rod Cousens

Apart from us as a company, if you look at the industry, it's faced challenges. The social gaming revolution, as some people may call it; technological shifts; monetisation, in terms of business models; the economic downturn, where the retail community has become very cautious.

What was defined as traditional publishing was going through almost a perfect storm - they were all losing money, including us, and some were better equipped financially to withstand that than we were. It was certainly a period of challenge for us, and to come out of that period with a partner where there is the financial strength that they have, there is a business model which - if you define it in terms of monetisation, Asia has been the future in leading micro-transactions, and things like that.

So I do think it's there, it's in-house and in our toolbox, and we are better placed than some who have still got to do that.

Our fiscal year two years ago was probably our worst fiscal performance in the history of the company, and we take no pride in that. But it was something that we had to do - the current fiscal year is looking pretty good, and aside from the changes that I've just talked about, the success of F1 2010 is tremendous for us.

So I believe as a company that a lot of the heavy lifting has been done, in terms of the financial realignment - but I also think a lot of heavy lifting has been done in terms of the directional and technological aspects that we're trying to target.

We've got a partner that can leverage that up - so that's why I say it. I feel as strongly as I did when I made that comment, and I probably had a lot less information in terms of what they were at that time.

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