Driving / Racing Games from British Studios

Compared to movies, television and music; video games as a medium is still in it's relative infancy. The concept and definition of a "game" is changing all the time with new technology, input devices and peripherals. Even the longest running and best selling game franchises have only existed for upwards of 20 to 30 years. Despite this, the industry as a whole is worth over $100 billion; employing thousands across the globe who work on dozens of genres of games, one of which excels with UK developers, racing games. Outside of Gran Turismo, Forza and Mario Kart, most major racing game series have either been developed or originated in the UK, which is what we're celebrating as a part of the British motoring legacy.

These British Studios standout for their work on vairous racing and driving games:

Bizarre Creations

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Bizarre Creations
Studio Location | Liverpool, Merseyside
Game Series | Project Gotham Racing (2001 - 2007), Blur (2010)
First Game | The Killing Game Show
Current Status | Closed in 2011 by parent company Activision
Fun Fact | The studio's name originated from the results of entering "Weird Concepts" into Microsoft Word's thesaurus, which was left on a game publication submission form by company founder Martyn Chudley.

The Bizarre Creations team was initially five strong, and worked on a concept project called "Slaughter". After seeing the demo, Psygnosis signed the team up to work on Formula 1 for PS1. The game went on to become the best selling game in Europe in 1996. Bizarre went on to creating their own successful IPs, such as Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars exclusively for Microsoft platforms until their buyout in 2007.

On September 26th 2007, publisher Activision acquired Bizarre Creations for $107.4m; $67.4m was paid immediately with a further $40m contingent on hitting certain goals over a 5-year period. However, on January 20th 2011, Activision announced Bizarre Creations would close.

Climax Racing / Black Rock Studio

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Black Rock Studio
Studio Location | Brighton, East Sussex
Game Series | ATV Offroad Fury (2004 - 2006), Pure (2008), Split/Second (2010)
First Game | Gumball 3000
Current Status | Closed in 2011 by their parent company, Disney Interactive Studios
Fun Fact | Disney Interactive Studios, then called Buena Vista Games, purchased the studio to develop games for the Nintendo Wii and DS. However, no games made after the buyout released on these consoles.

The studio was founded by Tony Beckwith in 1998 as Pixel Planet. It was then acquired by the Climax Group in 1999 and was renamed Climax Brighton. In 2004, it became Climax Racing, as the Climax Group rebranded its studios. On September 28th 2006, it was acquired by Buena Vista Games and was eventually renamed Black Rock Studio in 2007 and began work on 2008's Pure.

Black Rock's second and final game, Split/Second, was released one week before Blur, the final game of fellow British developers Bizarre Creations. Despite both receiving positive reviews, it's believed that the competition between the two racing games lead to the downfall of both studios.

In early 2011, the company faced lay-offs and closure, which forced them to abandon sequels for Pure and Split/Second, Disney Interactive Studios turned down proposals for both sequels to focus on freemium content.


Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Codemasters
Studio Location | Southam, Warwickshire
Game Series | TOCA (1997 - 2006), Colin McRae Rally (1998 - 2015), Grid (2008 - 2014), F1 (2009 - 2015)
First Game | BMX Simulator
Current Status | Continual work on games in the Grid, Colin McRae Rally and F1 series
Fun Fact | Codemasters also developed the popular game series 'Dizzy', which had nine core games between 1987 to 1992. He returned in 2011 for an iOS and Android remake of 'Dizzy VI: Prince of the Yolkfolk'.

Founded in 1986 by Richard and David Darling, Codemasters established themselves in the growing ZX Spectrum market, mostly with action games that required the player to solve simple puzzles by combining different objects, such as the Dizzy series. Codemasters were one of a number of software houses in the 1980s that only released low retail price titles. However, in 1992 they began to cut down on the budget releases in favour of full-price titles.

In 1999, focus was shifted more towards 3D racing games, which saw a boom in popularity on the Playstation 1. Codemasters would continue to focus mainly on racing games with several different ongoing series, such as Colin McRae Rally, Grid and their F1 games. They also worked on a variety of other licensed projects and original IPs, including Overlord, Operation Flashpoint and the Brian Lara International Cricket franchise.

On April 5th 2010, Reliance Big Entertainment, an Indian company acquired a 50% stake in the company, which was increased to 60.41% in June 2013, making Reliance the majority owner.

Criterion Games

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Criterion Games
Studio Location | Guildford, Surrey
Game Series | Burnout (2001 - 2011), Need for Speed (2010 - 2013)
First Game | Scorched Planet
Current Status | Continual development of the 'Need for Speed' series
Fun Fact | The studio also developed an in-house game engine called 'RenderWare' for many of their games. It has also been licensed out to Rockstar Games for Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas.

Criterion Software Ltd was created in 1993 to commercialise 3D graphics rendering technology. It was set up by David Lau-Kee and Adam Billyard within Canon's European Research Lab, before being spun out as a majority Canon-owned startup. Originally Criterion Games was a division within Criterion Software, set up to develop games, using the Renderware engine, which would act as show cases as to what was possible with the platform.

Criterion Games would use this engine to produce the Burnout games, which caught the eye of Electronic Arts after the success of the first two games. Electronic Arts announced they had acquired Criterion Games and Criterion Software for a rumoured £40 million, taking into account the purchase price and existing debt.

On June 14th 2010, Criterion announced that their studio was put in charge of the Need for Speed franchise, the best selling racing game franchise of all time, with their first title. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, being set for release in November 2010. The software utilizes a new game engine named Chameleon and was followed by further Criterion developed Need for Speed games, Most Wanted and Rivals.

In September 2013, Criterion elected to cut its staff numbers to 17 people total, as 80% (70 people) of the studio moved over to Ghost Games UK to continue work on Need for Speed games. On 3 January 2014, it was announced that co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry have left Criterion to found a new studio.

Evolution Studios

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Evolution Studios
Studio Location | Runcorn, Cheshire
Game Series | World Rally Championship (2001 - 2005), MotorStorm (2006 - 2012)
First Game | World Rally Championship
Current Status | Continual development of Driveclub (PS4)
Fun Fact | Evolution Studios claim to have trademarked the 'Driveclub' name almost a decade ago, but were waiting for the technology to create their vision of the game, which was achieved on the Playstation 4.

Based in Cheshire, Evolution Studios developed a racing demo on PC, depicting multiple rally cars racing on a circuit with cockpit views, which was subsequently picked up by Sony as they were interested in a PlayStation 2 game based on the World Rally Championship licence. Evolution Studios and Bigbig Studios (their satellite studio), were acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment in September 2007 after their early PS3 launch 'Motorstorm' sold over 3 million copies. At this point, co-founders Martin Kenwright and Ian Hetherington left the company, with Mick Hocking taking over, running Evolution, Bigbig and SCE Studio Liverpool as Group Studio Director.

The developer's latest game was Driveclub. It was scheduled as a PS4 launch title, although it was ultimately delayed, until October 2014. In March 2015, 55 staff members were cut from Evolution Studio, which sources say is approximately half the studio. The redundancies have been described by Sony as a way to focus the studio on developing Driveclub as a service.

Playground Games

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Playground Games
Studio Location | Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Game Series | Forza Horizon (2012 - Present)
First Game | Forza Horizon
Current Status | Continual development of the Forza Horizon series
Fun Fact | Forza Horizon is a spinoff of the main Forza series. The American developed games have been exclusively released for Xbox consoles since 2005 and will release on alternate years to the Forza Horizon games going forward.

The development studio was established in 2009, by former employees of other well known British games developers, such as Codemasters, Bizarre Creations, Criterion Games, Ubisoft Reflections, Black Rock Studio, Sony Liverpool and many other world-class developers that are known for their work on various racing video game series. At the 2012 Microsoft Showcase in California, Playground Games announced their first project, Forza Horizon, a Forza spinoff game developed in collaboration with main-series creators Turn 10 Studios.

Psygnosis / SCE Studio Liverpool

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - SCE Studio Liverpool
Studio Location | Liverpool, Merseyside
Game Series | Wipeout (1995 - 2012), Formula One Series (1996 - 2007)
First Game | Brataccas (as Psygnosis), Formula One 2001 (as SCE Studio Liverpool)
Current Status | Merged into XDev in 2012
Fun Fact | Psygnosis rose to fame after publishing the DMA Design's 'Lemmings' in 1991 on the Amiga. They went on to publish nearly a dozen more games in the franchise.

SCE Studio Liverpool was founded in 1984 (Originally as Psygnosis) by Jonathan Ellis, Ian Hetherington and David Lawson, the company later became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment. Studio Liverpool was the oldest and second largest development house within Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's stable of developers, and is best known for the Wipeout series of racing games, with the first instalment released on the original PlayStation in 1995. The studio was also known for the earlier games in the Formula One series of licensed games before Codemasters took over.

Reports of Studio Liverpool's closure surfaced on August 22nd 2012, with roughly 100 individuals comprising two development teams being made redundant. In a press release Sony stated that after an assessment of all European studios, it had decided to close Studio Liverpool. Sony said that the Liverpool site would remain in operation, as it is home to a number of Sony World Wide Studios and SCEE Departments.

Reflections Interactive / Ubisoft Reflections

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Ubisoft Reflections
Studio Location | Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
Game Series | Driver (1999 - 2011), Destruction Derby (1995 - 1996)
First Game | Ravenskull
Current Status | Co-developing games in the 'Tom Clancy' and 'Just Dance' franchises
Fun Fact | The 'Driver' games were inspired by old cop shows like Starsky and Hutch and movies like Bullitt and The Driver. After the success of the first game, it was followed by four sequels and four spin-offs.

Studio founder Martin Edmondson started developing games for the BBC Micro with Nicholas Chamberlain in 1984. The name 'Reflections' was first used for their 1989 hit Amiga game, Shadow of the Beast, published by Psygnosis which spawned two sequels. In 1995, they became known for Destruction Derby, which was critically acclaimed for its realistic physics and destruction, which later become Reflections' speciality. In 1999, Reflections became well known for the game 'Driver', which had several sequels and spinoffs over the following years. In August 2006, Atari announced that it had transferred all of the staff and most of the assets of Reflections Interactive Limited, including the intellectual property and technology rights to the Driver series, to Ubisoft for $24 million.

In 2007, they released 'Driver: San Francisco' to critical acclaim, and have since played parts in developing other Ubisoft franchises; Just Dance, The Crew, Watch Dogs and Tom Clancy's The Division. The only game developed solely by Reflections since 2011 was the downloadable title 'Grow Home' for PC and PS4, an adventure platform game with procedural animation and physics-based gameplay.

Slightly Mad Studios

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Slightly Mad Studios
Studio Location | London, England
Game Series | Need for Speed: Shift (2009 - 2011), Project CARS (2015)
First Game | Need for Speed: Shift
Current Status | Continual development of Project CARS
Fun Fact | After decline sales and low review scores of the Need for Speed games in the mid-2000s, EA moved the American series to British developers. Slightly Mad Studios developed two entries in 2009 and 2011, Criterion Games solely worked on two games in 2010 and 2012, and co-developed another in 2013.

Slightly Mad Studios is an independent British video game company headquartered in London, England. In September 2009, Slightly Mad Studios released their first game, Need for Speed: Shift with Electronic Arts. The game took a different approach to the previous entries in the series, which mainly focused on street racing. Shift focused on touring cars and circuit racing, and was praised for an innovative cockpit view in the cars. A sequel to the game, Need for Speed: Shift 2 was released in late 2011 to positive reviews, but sold less copies than it's predecessor.

Slightly Mad Studios began developing original IPs, with it's most recent title being released in 2015, a community-based racing simulator known as Project CARS. This title is being developed using community-based development, pre-alpha testing, and funding, in an attempt to bypass normal publishing costs. This is planned to be the first title of a series of similarly-developed games, and the process will be known as "World of Mass Development", or WMD.

Stainless Games

Driving / Racing Games from British Studios - Stainless Games
Studio Location | Newport, Isle of Wight
Game Series | Carmageddon (1997 - 2015)
First Game | Carmageddon
Current Status | Annual releases of 'Magic: The Gathering' games
Fun Fact |The original Carmageddon game drew huge controversy over its content, which resulted in it being banned In many countries such as Germany, Brazil and the UK (for a short time).

Originally named Stainless Software, the company was founded in 1993 by industry veteran Patrick Buckland and Neil Barnden. Patrick Buckland was lead programmer on Carmageddon 1 & 2 and Neil Barnden was the lead artist.

Carmageddon launched amidst much controversy over its violent content in 1997 but garnered high review scores thanks to its compelling gameplay and many ground-breaking features (including a fully featured physics engine - a world-first for video games). The first release of the game was censored to change blood-spewing humans to either zombies with green blood or robots with black oil. Stainless released a sequel, Carmageddon II in 1998, but the next game in the series (Carmageddon TDR 2000) was contracted to another developer.

On June 1st 2011, Stainless announced that they had reacquired the rights to the Carmageddon brand, and that a new - and completely independent - game was in development, named Carmageddon: Reincarnation. On May 8th 2012, Stainless announced a Kickstarter project aimed at funding Carmageddon: Reincarnation into a new game, with an initial requirement of $400,000 which was funded successfully on June 6th 2012. A total of $625,143 was raised and the game fully released on PC on May 21st 2015.

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