The lights are on
Gamers were ecstatic when developer Criterion signed on for its first Need for Speed title in 2009, and with its second NFS game coming this fall in Most Wanted, the studio is poised to take full control of the franchise.
We talked to Criterion vice president Alex Ward at E3, and he revealed that from now on Criterion will be in charge of the entire franchise. When asked whether he thought EA's original plan to release a Need for Speed title of some kind every year was watering down the series, Ward said, "Maybe it's been that way in the past, but that's changed this year with what we're doing… Our stamp's going to be in everything you see in Need for Speed and Burnout going forward in the future. It's not going to be spread anymore across different companies. Different studios have had a crack at it - it's definitely a Criterion gig now.
"Going forward now, with Most Wanted and what we'll do in the future [will have], shall we say, a strong Criterion involvement," he explained. "I'm personally involved in how the cars drive, how the game will play out, how connected they are, and what the features are."
The studio would not clarify if Criterion will directly develop every Need for Speed title, as Ward intimated, or simply oversee the series, when we asked them after our interview.
Ward was, however, clear that Criterion will have control over which Need for Speed titles will come out in the future. As of now the franchise covers different areas with its Shift, Most Wanted, Underground, and Hot Pursuit imprints, and although there's no definite road map for what kind of future Need for Speed games Criterion and EA will release, Ward expressed interest in one all-encompassing NFS title. "I think it would be amazing in the future if there was one big game that had all of these in it. That would be amazing."
As for the Burnout franchise, Criterion definitely has not forgotten the series and its many fans. The studio put out the downloadable Burnout Crash! last year, but Ward was mum on the future of Burnout other than to say that the developer "[thinks] about it all the time.
"I think something big will have to happen soon to enable us to do some of the things we want to do."
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