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Five Criterion veterans depart after Need for Speed Unbound launch

EA announce two new Need for Speed leaders

There has been significant changes at EA's Criterion studio following the departure of five of its longest-serving leaders.

Matt Webster, VP and GM of Criterion, has left the studio. Webster has been with Criterion for over 23 years, and has been working for EA since 1990. He was part of the initial team responsible for the first FIFA game.

Also departing is executive producer Pete Lake, who first joined Criterion back in 1996 as an artist. He leaves alongside senior technical director Andrei Shires, a 16-year Criterion veteran. Head of studio development Alan McDairmant is also moving on after 17 years with EA, while Steve Uphill, head of content, leaves following his latest 10-year stint with the developer. All five have left to "explore new opportunities outside of EA", and comes after the release of Need for Speed Unbound.

Following these departures, David Rutter, GM of EA's racing group, has announced that Charity Joy is joining as executive producer for Need for Speed. Joy joins the team from the EA Sports UFC franchise. Elsewhere, Geoff Smith is moving from his role overseeing the Dirt and Grid games at Codemasters to take the role of senior director of Product Development for Need for Speed. He will report directly to Joy, while also overseeing EA's WRC game until the spring (when the game is due to launch). The two will work alongside Steve Cuss, head of studio operations at Criterion. Cuss continues in his previous role and reports to Rutter.

"It’s now been one year since the talented teams at Codemasters and Criterion officially came together as one unified force, driving the future of racing entertainment," Rutter wrote to staff. "This is an incredibly exciting time for our group following the recent launch of Need for Speed Unbound, (which is being hailed as having opened a new era for the franchise), the successful release of EA SPORTS F1 22 earlier this year, as well as significant progress on the development of WRC.

"As we look ahead, we know there’s a strong opportunity to evolve our games and experiences, and bring them to an even broader audience of fans – with our long-term strategy centred on our strengths in licensed motorsports as well as arcade/open-world racing."

He concluded: "Building off the progress made so far this year, with two launches, and even more plans underway for next, we are confident that we have the best people, working on the best games, and will achieve great things in 2023."

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Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 15-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who