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Codemasters' Rod Cousens Part 2

On EGO, the evolution of DLC and role of retail in the pre-owned market

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we continue our interview with Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens, as he discusses the firm's multipurpose EGO engine, the testing and approval process, the evolution of DLC and the role of retailers and the second-hand market. You've invested in the EGO technology, and it seems to be paying off - but is that something you'd look to monetise further by licensing out?
Rod Cousens

No - I'd prefer at the stage where we are to keep it in-house, because I think it gives us a competitive advantage. And that's more important at this point?
Rod Cousens

I get selfish about that. I think the technology has been recognised outside of videogames, because we've worked outside of the industry with people. For example, car manufacturers want to have that virtual experience to sell their cars, so we don't have a problem with that - because they're not direct competitors.

And where we're working with second parties, external development groups, what we're not prepared to do is compromise on quality - so we will then deploy the EGO technology working with them. We're not the biggest software house in the world, we haven't got the greatest output in the world - but we're not prepared to compromise on quality

We're very innovative, and we're not going to stand still on Formula One - we're not going to come up with a game that sticks a couple more tracks in, the new drivers, and that's it; we're going to continue to develop the franchise, we're going to continue to create an experience that builds the consumer community, we'll extend the brand through the online segment and we're going to continually improve the quality. On F1 2010 specifically, perhaps because of the passion of Formula One fans, it can be a difficult audience to please completely. They have pretty high expectations; obviously a patch for the game has just been released, but were you surprised by the vehemence of the community?
Rod Cousens

Yeah, although some of them switched pretty quickly in a short period of time... but as I get older in life one of the old cliches that's come to bear truth is that you can't please all of the people all of the time. Even when you're a huge success, you'll never be able to do that.

But we do respond as a company to constructive criticism, we do strive continuously to improve, and we don't lose sight of the fact that the consumer is right. While you have to pay attention to your audience, they have an entitlement to their views and we have to respond to it.

Some of those views I don't necessarily share, and there are reasons for compromise sometimes which are beyond the obvious. You have to put it in context, but we try to listen to what our consumers say and always strive to improve, but knowing you can't please all of them all the time. How difficult has testing today's games comprehensively become?
Rod Cousens

That's exactly right - a game in real terms, if you pulled out of the equation the financial aspect... which the consumer would want, because they'd want it for free... that's always an argument when people say they sold more when they dropped the price. How many would you sell if you gave it away for free? Let's continue down this path of destruction...

But if you took the financial aspect out of it, and you went to the purists in the development studios, a game would never be finished. In real terms, it's never, ever finished and never, ever good enough - but when you've given the consumer a 9 out of 10 game that gives them 10-15 hours of entertainment, I think they've got good value and the software publishers have done a good job. That said, there were some tweaks that needed to be made; the game was out for a little before the patch was released - would you have preferred to have seen that out a bit sooner?
Rod Cousens

If you knew them you would, but half the time you don't. Don't forget, apart from our exhaustive QA process it goes through first party, and they didn't pick on things either - and both are rigid. We're not going to publish something that's inadequate in any way, shape or form.

But it's one thing play-testing with 100-200 people in QA, and a similar amount at first party - and then going to an audience of 2 million people. They will find something - it is what it is. Would you rather, with the benefit of hindsight, have fixed it? Of course. Expectations have changed, though, haven't they? This is a game that would have traditionally been a classic boxed retail game - fire-and-forget. But now on consoles, most get patched or updated... is that acceptable, or just part of reality now?
Rod Cousens

You don't want it to be acceptable - you try for it not to happen. But there is another element in this, and I was talking to Bernie Ecclestone about this last week - You're a shameless name-dropper!
Rod Cousens

I had no choice, I was summoned! But how do they ever approve a Formula One game? Because we've got people that do nothing else but this. Sony and Microsoft do. And Formula One management, which represent the teams don't have that.

Now as we progress to basically a delivery of the F1 experience in real-time online, how do they do that? Knowing what you know about technology, and what can happen at some random point... it's virtually impossible.

The more you try to do, the more you try improve, you also create in the midst - it's gene mutation, we're into bloody genetically-modified crops that everybody's worried about [laughs]

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