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Rod Cousens - Part One

The Codemasters CEO on 2009 success, new IP and never compromising quality

GamesIndustry.biz You've had a couple of good successes this year - overall, how pleased are you with 2009's performance?
Rod Cousens

Well, for us the calendar year for 2009 was really all in the second half, so I suppose if you ask me to analyse it as a year there was some initial disappointment that came about in the first stage - which was obviously the movement of Operation Flashpoint.

The only reason I raise that is that we moved the product for all the right reasons - because we were not prepared to compromise on quality. It's a flagship brand for this company - out of our CodeM database it was one of the most sought-after products - and the impact in the second half of the year, and the response from retail, consumers and general take-up in the market has justified the decision.

So if you then look at us and look at Ashes, DiRT 2, Flashpoint and then Formula 1, it's a bit of a purple patch right now and we'll take it while we can.

GamesIndustry.biz Delaying the release of a game to get the quality right has always been in the interest of consumers, but not always a decision that some companies have taken, with the influence of financial results and so on. That does seem to be happening more now, though - why that change, do you think?
Rod Cousens

I think everyone's slightly better educated in terms of what happens in the market, where the conflicts of satisfying all the constituent parts - investors, year-on-year or quarter-on-quarter growth, and so on - has often got in the way of those decisions.

But ironically where there's been an economic meltdown, there's been a sense of realism that's come through the financial markets, and when you take that into perspective for a company like ours - which isn't one of the largest companies on a global scale, but we can certainly compete on quality. So if we were to give that up, then what are we?

My view was that the reputation of Codemasters over many years - far more than I've been here - has always been focused on quality. When you've got an internal brand - a tent pole brand for us - there's no area for compromise. We've gone for quality, and we also believe this is just the start - for us there will be further Flashpoints, and it would do the series damage if we were to go with a premature product just to make certain financial criteria.

Now, we're certainly not fiscally irresponsible, so there is a balance here, but I believe the shareholders of the company recognise that as much as anybody else, and however bitter the pill was at the time, the actual results... and let's not lose sight that we've done this in what's generally seen as a fiercely contested time frame when there's been a blood bath at retail on pricing, and a lot of strong product with great heritage - FIFA, first party releases, and so on.

The product has stood tall against the best of them, and to me that demonstrates what we're capable of, but also what is going to come out of this franchise... which is only going to get stronger. If you look at some of the more high profile franchises over the years, they're on their third, fourth (or sometimes more) renditions, and they build momentum with the release of each one. Obviously Call of Duty is the obvious one this year, but with Grand Theft Auto it was really number three onwards.

So I'd say what we've done is set Operation Flashpoint up in a way that the best is yeat to come.

GamesIndustry.biz Has Codemasters been a leader on not compromising on quality, do you think?
Rod Cousens

I'd like to think so. The heritage of this company... it's hobbyist, it's a pure gaming company, and that's its DNA. We should stand tall on that - I don't know anyone else out there that would do that, and certainly there's no one else in the UK.

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