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Criterion Will Take Over Need For Speed Franchise As Ghost Games Transitions Into A Support Studio
Ghost Games redemption arc has ended abruptly
EA has announced that the keys to the Need For Speed franchise will be returned to Criterion.
Ghost Games will now rebrand to EA Gothenburg and will serve as an engineering hub to support the rest of EA’s games. The engineering team who are familiar with the Frostbite engine will remain, whereas various creative talent will be transferred to various positions, including Criterion.
The reason for this shift? EA cites problems attracting talent to Gothenburg. Meanwhile, Criterion is in Guildford, one of the hotspots of the UK’s game development scene.
Criterion’s claim to fame was the Burnout series, the fast-paced arcade racer. In 2010, Criterion created Need For Speed Hot Pursuit, to critical acclaim. This is a period where Need For Speed was handled by various developers with various interpretations. There was a sim racer, a cinematic racing game with QTEs, an arcade Mario Kart-style racer, and an MMO, all bearing the NFS name.
Criterion became the de facto caretakers of Need For Speed after the release of Need For Speed Most Wanted in 2012, only for the next title, Need For Speed Rivals, to be handled by new newly formed Ghost Games with Criterion supporting them.
Ghost Games’ titles have not been the strongest ones of the series’ long history. Especially the botched 2015 reboot.
Their latest game, Need For Speed Heat, have seen them turned it around (we really liked it in our review) and is the fastest-selling Need For Speed in the first week for this console generation.
— Ghost Games (@GhostGamesEA) November 18, 2019
It’s a weird role-reversal from events back in 2013. Criterion transitioned into a supporting studio role over the years helping with the development of Star Wars Battlefront (including the VR content), Battlefront II and recently Battlefield V’s battle royale mode. The co-founders, Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry left in 2014 to form Three Fields Entertainment which recently released Dangerous Driving, a Burnout spiritual successor. Now it’s the other way around.
At least Ghost ended their time with the franchise on a relatively high note. 30 jobs are at risk during this transition period, and EA is making efforts to transfer as many of them to other positions within the company.