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Electronic Arts — and not Take-Two — is buying Codemasters

EA passes 2K Sports rival with last-second, $1.2 billion bid

Cars race at nighttime in a screenshot from Dirt 5
Dirt 5 launched in early November on Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X.
Image: Codemasters/Deep Silver
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Electronic Arts will buy Codemasters for $1.2 billion, overtaking an earlier bid by Take-Two Interactive to acquire the racing video games developer and publisher.

EA announced the deal in a news release very early Monday morning, adding that it expected the deal to complete in the first quarter of 2021. Take-Two also said it expected a first quarter closing when it announced its $994 million bid in November.

Sky News on Sunday reported that EA was pursuing Codemasters despite Take-Two’s standing offer. The British broadcaster said it is unknown if Take-Two could respond with a counter-proposal. Its market capitalization ($21.8 billion) is roughly half of EA’s ($39.9 billion).

Electronic Arts’ last-minute play unites the world’s foremost developer of racing video games — known for its F1, Dirt, and Grid franchises — with the marketing, licensing, and publishing muscle of EA Sports.

Andrew Wilson, the chief executive of Electronic Arts, said his company has “admired Codemasters’ creative talent and high-quality games for many years.

“With the full leverage of EA’s technology, platform expertise, and global reach, this combination will allow us to grow our existing franchises and deliver more industry-defining racing experiences to a global fan base,” Wilson added.

Codemasters’ chairman, Gerhard Florin, likewise saw the union as a good fit for both.

“The Board of Codemasters firmly believes the company would benefit from EA’s knowledge, resources, and extensive global scale — both overall and specifically within the racing sector,” Florin said in a statement provided by EA.

In driving games, Electronic Arts is best known for its action/heroic racing Need for Speed series. Its most recent title is a remaster of Criterion Games’ 2010 hit Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. A decade of inconsistent launches led to EA reorganizing its approach to the series at the beginning of the year, closing down the Gothenburg, Sweden studio that made the last three games, and handing production back to Criterion in the U.K.

It’s also another substantial deal for U.K.-based Codemasters in a little more than a year. In late November, Codemasters bought Slightly Mad Studios, adding the Project Cars simulation franchise to its stable. The $30 million deal brought Codemasters’ workforce to more than 700 worldwide. However, Project Cars 3 launched to markedly lower scores back in August.

Codemasters’ most recent launch is Dirt 5, a more arcade-oriented racer than either its two predecessors or the F1 series. The last time EA Sports got into a fully licensed motorsports simulation was NASCAR 09 in 2008.

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