Need for Speed Series Returns to Criterion, Ghost Games Demoted to Support Studio

Nathan Birch
Need for Speed Heat Codemasters

EA’s Need for Speed series has been on cruise control for a while now. Pinpointing where things took a wrong turn isn’t hard – the last title entirely developed by Criterion Games, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, has an 84 on Metacritic, while the three most recent titles from Ghost Games (Need for Speed, Need for Speed Payback, and Need for Speed Heat) have all been mired in the 60s or low 70s. I reviewed both Payback and Heat and can attest both are pretty middle-of-the-road experiences.

Well, apparently Ghost Games is out of chances, because the Need for Speed series is being returned to Criterion. EA issued the following statement to

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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. […] Criterion can provide the consistent leadership that we need to continue creating and delivering new Need for Speed experiences for a long time to come. […] We're looking forward to adding to their talented team and building a great future for Need for Speed.

In recent years, Criterion has mostly acted as a support team, working on the vehicles and space combat in DICE’s Battlefield and Battlefront series. Now the roles are being reversed – Criterion will be making their own games again, while Ghost Games will become EA Gothenburg, a Frostbite Engine engineering and support team.

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. Outside of the engineers and those that we plan to transfer to other positions, there would be 30 additional staff in Gothenburg, and we would hope to place as many of them as possible into other roles in the company.

I feel for the folks at Ghost Games, but, ultimately, this is almost certainly a positive development for the Need for Speed franchise. Criterion has been badly underutilized in recent years, and I’m eager to see what they can do at the wheel of their own games again.

What do you think? Eager for a new Criterion-developed Need for Speed? Or are you done with the series?

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