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Criterion co-founders leave studio and EA

Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry make way for Matt Webster [UPDATE: Ward, Sperry teaming up on new company]

Update: Over on Twitter, Alex Ward was asked by VG247's Dave Cook why he's leaving and Ward replied that he decided "to start afresh and form a new games company with Fiona Sperry."

Original Story:

The two co-founders of Criterion Games, Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry, have left the studio and EA as a whole, the publisher has confirmed. The two had played central roles at the racing specialist since its formation in 2000.

Issuing a statement to Polygon today, EA indicated that Matt Webster will be taking over lead development of the game in progress at the studio and will be the de facto head of the group in the future.

"Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry have decided to leave EA," the statement reads. "We appreciate their many contributions through the years and wish them well in their future endeavours.

"The incredibly creative and talented team at Criterion are hard at work on a new project for next-gen consoles as new IP continues to be a major priority across EA. Matt Webster is leading development of the new game and the Criterion studio moving forward. Matt has been part of Criterion for years and has an exciting vision for this new game."

Ward's role had been as vice president and creative director, whilst Sperry had been the studio director. Both had been heavily involved in the forthcoming project known publicly as 'Project Zero'.

Recent months have seen some upheaval at the company, with the Need For Speed franchise having been shifted from Criterion to Ghost Games, taking a number of staff with it. After Criterion produced both NFS: Most Wanted and the well-received Hot Pursuit, Ghost Games tool over for the more recent Rivals. Meanwhile, the Burnout IP, which made Criterion's name in the first place, seems to have been put very much on the back burner, unless that's the mystery identity of Project Zero.

Either way, EA's recent management reshuffle seems to have affected more than just the C-level roles at the company, with Webster being singled out as a man with a bright future at the publisher. How amicable the circumstances leading to the departure of Ward and Sperry are remains to be seen.

If you have jobs news to share or a new hire you want to shout about, please contact us on newhires@gamesindustry.biz

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Latest comments (8)

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 2 years ago
Hmm... Assuming the PopCap report is accurate, that's 4 high level staff leaving two EA-acquired studios at the turn of the year. From the outside looking in, it appears they couldn't wait to get out when they had the first opportunity.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 3rd January 2014 4:33pm

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Ste Hickman Writer 2 years ago
Well, as a fan, I can only thank Alex and Fiona for their efforts at Criterion over the years and I'll eagerly look out for their next project. Burnout has been my favourite arcade racer this side of F-Zero X since Sega and Namco dropped the ball years ago.

Best of luck.
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What was growing with a certain executives departure from MS (before the Xbone launch), is now being followed by a hoard of executives; many of whom having previously had their companies acquired by larger operations, now baling with assets. This will be an uncomfortable start to 2014 for the consumer games sector - as many investors will now see this spate of retirements and departures as a hidden message of perceived viability of the departed operations.

We touched on the state of the publishing and development sector departures last year, though the discussion was closed down - now we see a flood of new departures and retirements (liquidity of assets at first opportunity) in the wake of the Gen-8 launches. The question has to be, "...is this just injection of new blood, or jumping ship prior to Q2 profit reporting?"
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Show all comments (8)
Jan Almqvist Senior Artist, Electronic Arts2 years ago
These things are pretty natural really and doesn't have to spell doom for the consumer games sector.
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Peter Bond Studying Art & Design, University of Bedfordshire2 years ago
Bring on Burnout Trilogy in HD please! :D
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Luke Herbert Game Designer, Turbulenz Limited2 years ago
Bring on Burnout Trilogy in HD please! :D
Whilst other publishers have jumped on this cash cow, EA is yet to release a HD version of a 10+ year old game.

Is this a bad or good thing...?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Luke Herbert on 4th January 2014 4:57am

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David Amor Director, MAG Interactive2 years ago
Nice to see you behind the wheel, Matt.
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts2 years ago
I would love to see another Burnout. I have no visibility to such things yay or nay, but as a consumer would be great to see!
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