EA will return the Need for Speed franchise to UK games studio Criterion.
Current franchise leader Ghost Games in Gothenburg is set to become EA Gothenburg once again (pending Swedish Union approval). The studio will refocus itself as an engineering hub supporting development across EA's portfolio. EA told GamesIndustry.biz that: "The engineering expertise in our Gothenburg team, some of whom are architects of the Frostbite engine, is vital to a number of our ongoing projects, and they would remain in that location."
As for the Ghost Games creative team, EA is looking to transfer many of the staff to positions at Criterion and other places within the wider organisation. However, 30 roles remain at risk. "Outside of the engineers and those that we plan to transfer to other positions, there would be 30 additional staff in Gothenburg, and we would hope to place as many of them as possible into other roles in the company," EA tells us.
Ghost Games has been the franchise home for Need for Speed for the last four games in the series: 2013's Need for Speed: Rivals, the 2015 reboot, 2017's Need for Speed: Payback and last year's Need for Speed: Heat.
However, EA says it has struggled to attract the right talent to Gothenburg to work on the series. By contrast, Criterion is based in Guildford, which is one of the UK's biggest game development hubs.
Criterion is known for creating the Burnout series of video games, and had previously developed two Need for Speed titles: 2010's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and 2012's Need for Speed: Most Wanted. However, in 2013 the studio downsized with many employees moving to Ghost Games (a UK Ghost Games team currently exists within Criterion's offices). At the time, Criterion was to begin working on new projects, including a cancelled extreme sports game.
Following the departure of studio founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry in 2014, Criterion has spent the last five years supporting EA DICE on Star Wars: Battlefront (with its VR mission), Battlefront II and Battlefield V. During that time, the studio has also collected three GamesIndustry.biz Best Places To Work Awards wins.
"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 stated.
"Ghost Games have helped to bring some great Need for Speed experiences to our players. Consistently delivering that at AAA levels means we need teams with diverse skills in locations where we can continually support them and bring in new team members to join. 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. 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.
"Criterion is a fantastic studio, and we're looking forward to adding to their talented team and building a great future for Need for Speed. The engineering teams in Gothenburg are also vital to our ongoing plans across EA."