Electronic Arts is to move its Need for Speed racing franchise into three distinct genres, as it breathes more life into a series that has sold almost one hundred million units.
This autumn will see the release of simulation game Need for Speed Shift and arcade racer Need for Speed Nitro, while later in the year, EA will release the free-to-play action MMOG Need for Speed World Online.
"Our fans have been sharing with us their varied takes on the racing genre and it is clear that despite the huge mass appeal of Need for Speed’s action-driving games, there are large groups of consumers who appreciate different takes on racing games," commented Keith Munro, VP of marketing at EA, to our sister site Eurogamer.net.
"A few years ago we decided to respond to this reality, so we are taking the franchise down some new paths by delivering three distinct experiences: simulation, action and arcade.
"This isn’t about quantity, this is about crafting different games for different audiences and their unique tastes in the driving category," he added.
Slightly Mad Studios – made up of former GT Legends and GTR2 developers – will work on Need for Speed Shift alongside Black Box producer Michael Mann, and senior VP of EA Games Europe, Patrick Soderland. The title will be released for PC, PS3, PSP and Xbox 360.
For the Wii and DS, Need for Speed Nitro is in development at EA Montreal, while Need for Speed World Online will be co-developed by Black Box and EA Singapore.
Exclusively for the PC and to be released first in Asia, the game will be part of the Play 4 Free range, which currently includes FIFA Online.
"Once Need for Speed World Online has been successfully deployed in Asia, we will expand the game's reach by offering the service to PC gamers around the world," said Munro.
He also revealed that as well as Nitro, EA Black Box is also working on a "future action title in the franchise".
Despite four titles in the works, Munro insisted that the company is not milking its franchises, rather tailoring them to different needs and consumer demands.
"I would say that our strategy is the inverse of milking; it is an intentionally non-traditional approach," he said. "We are creating different racing games in different sub-genres, and this will become clear as we reveal the titles over the course of 2009."