Skip to main content

How Dizzy's success sent Codemasters into a spin

On full price software

David Darling: "We've totally given up on the full price market on the Amiga and the various home computers. When we've done full price games – say Rock Star Ate My Hamster – they've worked much better as budget re-releases. It's not to do with the quality of the games not being high enough – Dizzy costs $50 or so on some consoles in the States because that's how the market is there, and it hasn't harmed sales in the slightest.

"I think the quality of our games is as good or better than the arcade stuff from Ocean or US Gold, but I don't see why we should charge five times more than we have to for it. We'd rather sell as many games as possible at a low price instead. You have to believe in what you're doing.

"At one point we were selling Amiga games at £4.99 and that was really lower than we could afford, but now we're at £7.99 it's a comfortable price point. We can still afford to do a two disk game like Miami Chase and put it out for less than ten quid. Apart from MicroProse we're the least pirated software house around, and I think one big reason for that is that we charges prices that most people can afford."

Richard Darling: "We've experimented with 3D games lately, but they're very difficult – there are so many about, they take a lot of work to program, and developers tend to get bogged down with trying to get everything looking realistic at the expense of gameplay.

"We've always been reluctant to get into that area because it's possible to get so much gameplay in a single static area – just look at Tetris – that complex programming adds nothing to the fun of a game, and indeed can quite easily get in the way.

"This is a problem the full price Amiga market really used to suffer from – so many games produced were just really graphics demos, and the average Spectrum release was often just as much fun to play. I think it's changing now though, and as full price game publishers start to get back into the idea of gameplay again, we're starting to investigate things like solid 3D which we wouldn't have touched with a barge pole before."

Paul Ransom: "There should be no difference whatsoever between the standard of budget games and full price stuff. The fact that a game is sold at a budget price is purely a marketing decision. I think that will become clearer as we start to produce more quality stuff on the 16-bits, with games like Hover Sprint and Bubble Dizzy. If you look at the 8-bit market our games are as good as anything anyone's doing – Spellbound Dizzy took five or six months to develop on the Speccy, and there hasn't been a better game this year at any price point.

"The only full price things we do now are compilation packs where we sell about five games for £24.99, but we always make sure we put a couple of brand new games on there too for value for money, maybe releasing them as standalone products later."

Codemasters interview spread 2

On Bullfrog and the Bitmaps

Paul Ransom: "As far as other 16-bit developers are concerned it's the Bitmaps I really respect for their very slick graphics, neat programming and the way they make established game sstyles exciting again. Though many people won't see it like that, Bullfrog are actually very similar – with Populous all they've done is take an established type of game, in this case the Kingdom one, and package it very slickly. When people call Populous original they're really missing the point."

On the challenge set by The Hit Squad

Paul Ransom: "The Hit Squad label is certainly giving the Codies a run for our money in the 16-bit budget marketplace, but we're a lot less worried about them than we were when Ocean first announced it. It's become obvious that there'll always be a market for original budget stuff too – we're not getting pushed aside by the re-releases.

"Part of what happened around the time of the Hit Squad launch was that we put our prices up from £4.99 to £7.99 to tie in with what was becoming an industry standard – the idea was that games at £7.99 would actually sell more because they'd be perceived as of higher quality. We were in two minds as to whether it was a good idea at first, but actually it's been good news for the consumer – the higher price means we can afford to spend more time and effort on our original 16-bit stuff."

On the idea of imitating successful full price games

Paul Ransom: "To be honest we've never really thought about it. It's true that we could spend our time doing cheaper, B-movie versions of successful games – in the same way as once a film like Pretty Woman is successful lots of people go out and make similar films – but we haven't ever really drummed up the enthusiasm for it. Programmers are proud people and wouldn't really fancy it in our experience – it's a bit sad to think we might be spending all our time doing that sort of thing really.

"The thing is, games like SimCity or Populous were examples of good games design, not slick programming. If we wanted to do a Populous rip off we no doubt could, but we'd be hard pushed finding people who'd want to do it. Programmers tend to be show offs who want to say 'Look what I can do!' with their games – they wouldn't fancy the idea of simply copying someone else."