Development on the Need for Speed franchise will be spearheaded by Criterion once again.
EA has announced via GamesIndustry.biz that Ghost Games will rebrand itself to EA Gothenburg, acting as an “engineering hub” that will support EA’s entire game portfolio. The publisher noted that some of the development team at Ghost Games “are architects of the Frostbite engine” and are therefore needed to assist in various ongoing projects at the company.
Criterion is most famous for creating the Burnout series and had developed two entries in the Need for Speed franchise – 2010’s Hot Pursuit and 2012’s Most Wanted. The British developer also had an extreme vehicular sports game under development, but this was cancelled as the studio refocused its efforts on assisting in the Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefield franchises.
“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 told GamesIndustry.biz.
EA is planning to transfer most of the Ghost Games creative team to positions at Criterion Games in Guildford, UK. However, it did mention that 30 additional staff members are at risk, but the publisher says it aims to put as many of them as possible into other roles within the company.
EA also mentioned that it struggled to attract the necessary talent to Gothenburg to work at Ghost Games, whereas Guildford, the home of Criterion Games is considered a bustling hub of British game development studios.
“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,” EA says. “Criterion can also provide the consistent leadership that we need to continue creating and delivering new Need for Speed experiences for a long time to come.”
Need for Speed Heat is the fourth and final entry in the franchise to be developed by the Ghost Games label and released last November on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. It was also the first title from the studio to not feature Executive Producer Marcus Nilsson at the helm, who founded the studio in 2011 to take over development of the Need for Speed franchise after the launch of Need for Speed Most Wanted in 2012. Nilsson departed Electronic Arts around two years ago following the release of Need for Speed Payback.
Ghost Games, which had studios located in Gothenburg, Sweden, Guildford, UK and Bucharest, Romania, released its first Need for Speed entry in 2013 with Need for Speed Rivals. It followed that with an Underground-style reboot of the franchise in 2015 that was simply called Need for Speed before later releasing a more action-focused driving sequel in 2017 known as Need for Speed Payback. Following the release of Need for Speed Rivals, the open-world racing game franchise switched from an annual release cadence to a two-year development cycle.
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