need for speed games

Need for Speed Development Returning to Criterion, Ghost Games to Serve as Support Studio

UK-based Criterion Games (Burnout Paradise, NFS: Hot Pursuit) is getting its hands on the Need for Speed franchise, again. Meanwhile, Ghost Games, the studio behind last year’s NFS: Heat, will become an engineering support studio. This transition means Ghost Games will return to its former EA Gothenburg moniker, should EA receive approval from the Swedish Union. Unfortunately, such a shift may not bode well for all developers at Ghost Games.

While many members of Ghost Games’ team will transfer to Criterion, reports quite a few will remain in office to serve in developmental support roles. However, upwards of 30 jobs are at risk, too. EA addressed how the studio’s talent will be spread out, telling, “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.”

A representative from the publisher added, “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.”

It’s a sad turn of events for a studio that’s been central to the franchise since 2013’s Need for Speed: Rivals. Since then, Ghost Games has also produced NFS‘ 2015 reboot, NFS: Payback in 2017, and 2019’s Heat entry. Despite its long-standing history with the series, EA says it’s difficult attracting talent to the Ghost Games studio in Gothenburg, Sweden. Contrarily, Criterion’s Guildford location in the UK is a massive hub of incredible game-making talent. According to EA,

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.

Need for Speed is likely in good hands at Criterion. Not only is the studio known for the celebrated Burnout franchise, it made quite the mark on NFS several years ago with 2010’s Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted in 2012. After the team’s founders, Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry, exited their roles in 2014, Criterion became more of a support team for EA. Notably, Criterion lent its talents to helping DICE with 2015’s Battlefront and the sequel, as well as Battlefield V. It will be interesting to see where  Criterion takes NFS in the future.