The Need for Speed series proudly boasts that it’s the most successful racing franchise in the world, and with over 100-million Need for Speed titles sold around the world it’s a claim that they can back up with facts. Despite this, the series has been on a decline since Most Wanted with less sales and generally poorer critical reception coming with each release, until 2010 when EA admitted that the downfall of the series was their own doing as they had been overworking Black Box studios. Thus they made the decision to bring in other developers to work on the series in an effort to recapture past glories.
In 2010 Criterion, one of those different companies, released Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit on to the market. A year earlier Slight Mad Studios had helped regain a bit of the series reputation with Shift, but Hot Pursuit blew that out of the water by becoming the highest rated game in the franchise and selling a whopping 8.5 million units since release. In short, Criterion, one of the most respected racing developers around, brought the Need for Speed franchise back from the brink, although Black Box’s Need for Speed: The Run, release in 2011, almost sent in straight back in.
So it was hardly surprising when Criterion announced that they’d be releasing another Need for Speed title, bearing the name Most Wanted, in 2012. However, news has come forth courtesy of Game Informer magazine that Criterion aren’t just going to be making another Need for Speed title, but rather they’ll be taking over the entire Need for Speed franchise.
Speaking to the magazine at E3 regarding whether he believed that EA’s plan of release a Need for Speed title every year was watering down the series, Alex Ward, Vice President of Criterion, said that, “Maybe it’s been that way in the past, but that’s changed this year with what we’re doing… Our stamp’s going to be in everything you see in Need for Speed and Burnout going forward in the future. It’s not going to be spread anymore across different companies. Different studios have had a crack at it – it’s definitely a Criterion gig now.”
“Going forward now, with Most Wanted and what we’ll do in the future [will have], shall we say, a strong Criterion involvement,” Alex said. “I’m personally involved in how the cars drive, how the game will play out, how connected they are, and what the features are.”
According to Game Informer they asked Criterion after the interview whether this meant that Criterion would simply be overseeing the series as a whole or whether they’d personally be developing all future Need for Speed titles, but the developers didn’t clarify. His comment that, “It’s not going to be spread anymore across different companies. Different studios have had a crack at it – it’s definitely a Criterion gig now,” would seem to indicate that Criterion will be developing all future titles, but then his comment that, “Going forward now, with Most Wanted and what we’ll do in the future [will have], shall we say, a strong Criterion involvement,” would seem to suggest that Criterion will be acting more like overseers of the series, perhaps just lending a hand in developement.
Regardless, it’s exciting news for the long-running series. Hopefully this means that we might even see the return of the Underground sub-series.