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Need for Speed is heading back to Criterion

EA announces that developer Criterion will once again be taking over production of the Need for Speed franchise.

After eight years away, EA is passing the Need for Speed series back to Criterion, its previous developer. EA’s long-standing racing franchise Need for Speed has had quite a few development studios attached to it over the years. And it seems Ghost Games’ run with the series has come to an end.

“With a strong history and passion for racing games and vision for what we can create, the Criterion team is going to take Need for Speed into the next-generation,” EA said in a statement to Gamesindustry.biz. EA had been unable to build up Ghost Games’ ranks with the talent it was searching for in the Gothenburg area where the studio is located:

“Ghost Games have helped to bring some great Need for Speed experiences to our players. Consistently delivering that at AAA levels means we need teams with diverse skills in locations where we can continually support them. And bring in new team members to join. Despite our best efforts to establish an independent development group in Gothenburg over several years, it’s become clear that the breadth of talent we need to maintain a full AAA studio is just not available to us there.”

What’s the background of Ghost Games?

Ghost Games has been the home of Need for Speed for the last four games in the series, developing 2013’s Need for Speed: Rivals, the 2015 Need for Speed reboot, 2017’s Need for Speed Payback, and last year’s Need for Speed Heat. While Payback marked a low point for the series, Ghost Games was getting the street racer back on track. Now the series returns to Criterion, who have been involved in the Need for Speed series before, developing Hot Pursuit in 2010, Most Wanted in 2012, and providing supporting work for Rivals in 2013. The studio is also responsible for creating the acclaimed Burnout series. 

With Heat achieving player count records for Ghost Games, the studio change is unlikely to be anything to do with underperforming games. Instead, Criterion’s location in Guildford, which is one of the UK’s gaming hubs and the location of one of EA’s offices and their experience with the series makes sense. As we move into a new console generation. “Criterion is a fantastic studio. And we’re looking forward to adding to their talented team. And building a great future for Need for Speed.” EA continued. 

So what happens to Ghost Games’ employees?

As for Ghost Games, it will revert to its original name of EA Gothenburg. And change its focus to engineering support. “The engineering expertise in our Gothenburg team, some of whom are architects of the Frostbite engine, is vital to a number of our ongoing projects. And they would remain in that location,” EA stated. So, while some will stay on at the rebranded studio. Other members of the team will be transferred to Criterion and other studios within EA. However, this sadly leaves 30 current jobs at risk. But EA added that they “hope to place as many of them as possible into other roles in the company. 

Criterion’s will now have the responsibility of reestablishing the soul of Need for Speed. Which is something Ghost Games has grappled with and ultimately failed to do. However with the PS5 and Xbox Series X coming, Criterion has the chance to wipe the slate clean once again. And bring back the franchise to it’s former glory days.

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