Need for Speed Rivals is being developed under Swedish studio Ghost Games. Sure, seeing the Need for Speed series switch between devs is no surprise, but according to Ghost Games' studio head Marcus Nilsson, the racing franchise has been completely transferred over as their responsibility. No more Criterion for the foreseeable future.
It's a rather surprising development, considering a year earlier, Criterion had apparently taken over EA's Need for Speed series. Nilsson has said now that "Need for Speed needs continuity," which EA is currently looking at. He says:
"It cannot go from black to white between Black Box and Criterion, and that's why we're now thinking about the brand as Ghost owns it. We're going to build it, we're going to build it on Frostbite 3, [and] people will see something they are familiar with every time we release the game. And I think that is the core basis of building a brand; that people know what to expect."
Part of the importance of this continuity is establishing credibility. If games vary too much, then keeping gamers happy becomes that much harder. Having been the executive producer on Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed, Nilsson knows a thing or two about this.
"When you go from a Shift experience to The Run experience to a Hot Pursuit experience, then it loses credibility. I think we now have the work of re-establishing that credibility with building the brand. You know, it's still a really strong brand, absolutely. We just need to make sure people know what to expect when they get it, and Rivals is absolutely the first step toward that.
"Need For Speed is not going to go away, right? It's not the final or last step of that. But what you see in Rivals, a lot of those things will carry on going forward and myself and Rivals will be involved in shaping that."
Now, when asked whether Need for Speed would wind up switching or alternating back to Criterion, similar to how Activision handles the Call of Duty series, Nilsson said simply, "No, you're not going to see that."
In fact, he even noted that a "small part of Criterion" is actively working on something else, though the Burnout studio is also helping Ghost with Rivals. EA has also confirmed that Ghost is now fully responsible for the series, though the publisher preferred not to comment on Criterion's involvement beyond Rivals.
Need for Speed Rivals comes out on November 19, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.