A few weeks ago, Sony announced that it was closing down Driveclub developer Evolution Studios. Sony expressed interest in relocating some of that staff to other projects, but otherwise, it was the end of the studio that created World Rally Championship and MotorStorm. Seventeen years of racing expertise, gone.
DIRT Rally developer Codemasters to the rescue! Codemasters announced today that it has picked up the Evolution Studios team.
"This expansion will not only see us gain a wealth of racing expertise and skill, but it'll take Codemasters to the next level as the world's largest racing-focused games company. With phenomenal racing DNA on both sides, we hope that gamers out there are excited to see what we do next – as are all of us here at Codies," explained Codemasters' social media manager Christina McGrath in the official announcement post.
Codemasters itself was hit with layoffs in January of last year. The transition to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was hard on the studio and it had yet to release games for either platform. F1 2015 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 finally released in July 2015. Codemasters followed that up with the release of Dirt Rally on Steam Early Access. Early Access allowed Codemasters to build out the game with significant fan feedback, reaching a successful full release on Steam in December. The retail release of Dirt Rally for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One is scheduled for April 5, 2016.
"The success of F1 2015 and Dirt Rally over the last 12 months has re-positioned the company for growth," said Codemasters CEO Frank Sagnier in the post. "The addition of the Evolution team to our studio group will allow us to scale our business and strengthen our leadership as the world's premier racing game developer."
"I'm thrilled to have Mick Hocking join Codemasters as VP of Product Development. His experience in building AAA IP and leading great teams made him a natural choice to head the development of all of our products. I am equally thrilled to welcome his talented team to the Codemasters family and I look forward to the great games and brand new IP we will develop together."
The studios will be working together according to that statement, but Sagnier has also said that he intends to keep Evolution Studios together.
"We want the team to remain to remain the team that they are," Sagnier told GamesIndustry.biz. "We want to benefit from everything that they've learned as a team together, we want them to create their own games. Of course there will be synergies, of course we will share stuff, but we would like to make sure they retain their identity and stay together as a team to do what they're good at. What we don't want to do is bring in a team of 50 people and start having some work on one game and some on another, on existing IP. The whole point is to keep their DNA and build a new game."
Codemasters has always been strong in the racing department, but the company has previously flirted with the idea of moving outside of the genre with titles like Operation Flashpoint and Archlord. Most recently, Codemasters developed and published Overlord: Fellowship of Evil. Times are tough though, so the studio has moved towards focusing on what it does best: racing. Grabbing the talent at Evolution Studios is absolutely a great move given that focus.
"We're looking to scale our business, we're absolutely focused on racing, we want to only do AAA racing, which is exactly what these guys are about," said Sagnier. "We share DNA, passion, talent. So it was sort of lucky that Sony took that decision, and I'm very happy about it. We were Ferrari and Mercedes, now we're the same team."