Need for Speed lead the charge for what is now known modern racing games. In 2003, Need for Speed Underground was launched to The Fast and Furious generation of gamers.
The series paved the way for fast cars, customization, upgrades, and brought the tuner scene into prominence.
Developed by Black Box Studios, and published by EA Games, we saw a new side to racing, and open world gameplay. This satisfying trend would continue well on into 2006, where Need for Speed Carbon would be released onto the Playstation 3.
Unfortunately this blazing inferno faltered and eventually fizzled out. In February of 2012, EA confirmed a number of lay-offs at EA Canada, and EA Black Box, and that they were moving the studio’s towards “high-growth digital formats, including online, social gaming and free-to-play”. EA declined to comment on whether or not EA Black Box’s brand would remain.
However just a few months later, in July of 2012, EA Black Box was renamed Quicklime Games during Need for Speed: World’s 2nd anniversary, a move that left many puzzled with the publisher. Unfortunately, it operated under this name until its closure in April of 2013.
Alex Ward of Criterion Games, answered the call of duty for the franchise, and released Need for Speed Hot Pursuit in November of 2010, and Need for Speed Most Wanted in October of 2012. Both sold well, but not enough to live up to the expectations that their respective predecessors reflected.
In April of 2013, when approached with the rumor of a possible reboot for the Need for Speed Underground series, Alex Ward took to Twitter and had this to say: “ Totally fake. Remakes, and reboots?”#Movedon.
“May as well add this. Sequels. Reboots. Remakes. Been there. Done that.”
As of January of 2014, Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry have departed from EA, to found a new studio, which has an upcoming “Project Zero” that they are focused on launching. In a statement on Twitter that summarizes it all, he had a fresh perspective on things for his outlook on the future. ” to start fresh and form a new games company with Fiona Sperry.”
Responsibility for the Need for Speed franchise has been taken over by EA’s Ghost Games. The Need for Speed series needs a major tune up in terms of not only a home studio, but the publishers as well. Without both The Need for Speed will only keep granny shifting, instead of double clutching.
Recent months have seen some uphill battle at the company, with the Need For Speed franchise having been grand-slammed from Criterion, to Ghost Games, and taking a number of staff with it, it has caused them to go into a consultation period to fill empty seats.
After Criterion produced both Need for Speed Most Wanted, and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, Ghost Games took over for the more recent Need for Speed Rivals. Meanwhile, the Burnout IP, which made Criterion a household name, seems to have been put very much on low heat, unless that is the mysterious identity of the recently announced Project Zero.
Matt Webster of Criterion, is being singled out as the man with the plan to make the phoenix rise from the ashes. As to how linear the circumstances that lead to the departure of Ward and Sperry are remains to be revealed. There is cause for speculation, however. On one hand, you could ask whether it was over the call for a reboot of Need for Speed Underground, which we all know would sell itself, if left with the same template, or even made a HD remix.
On the other hand, it could have been due to creative differences, and wanting a new Burnout to be developed, especially because the last one flopped so hard in 2008, only scoring an equivalent of a B+.
No matter the reason hopefully we will see big things from Matt Webster of Criterion, especially with the Big reveal coming in June of 2014 at E3.
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