Layoffs hit Ghost Games' UK office, unannounced NFS title mothballed

The Guildford, Surrey offices of Ghost Games, a branch of the relatively recently rebranded EA Gothenburg studio responsible for Need for Speed: Rivals, was hit by layoffs this week and development on a new, unannounced Need for Speed title put on hold, multiple sources tell Polygon.

Electronic Arts earlier this week let go of their contractors at the office and told full-time staffers they could either take compensation and leave or continue working in the office to support work on Visceral's rumored police-themed Battlefield title, code-named Havana. Sources say Havana is due out later this year.

The news comes just weeks after Electronic Arts confirmed to Polygon that Criterion Games founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry had left their studio.

"The incredibly creative and talented team at Criterion are hard at work on a new project for next-gen consoles as new IP continues to be a major priority across EA," an EA spokesperson said at the time. "Matt Webster is leading development of the new game and the Criterion studio moving forward. Matt has been part of Criterion for years and has an exciting vision for this new game."

Remaining staff helping Visceral with upcoming police-themed Battlefield title.

Criterion Games was briefly in charge of the Need for Speed franchise before it was handed off to Ghost Games.

In 2013, Need for Speed Rivals executive producer Marcus Nilsson told Polygon that Ghost Games studio was now in charge of the franchise.

"Ghost is now leading Need for Speed and there will certainly be some announcements about how that will evolve and work in the near future," Marcus Nilsson, executive producer on the game, told Polygon. "Criterion is doing something else, but that doesn't mean they can't help us on this."

Nilsson said that about 80 percent of Criterion was working on Rivals with the remaining group working on a mysterious "new project." A month later, Alex Ward tweeted that 60 to 65 people moved from Criterion over to Ghost Games, seemingly permanently, to work on the game and the franchise, leaving about 20 at Criterion.

It is unclear what the future holds for the racing franchise, though one source tells us that current plans would leave future development of a Need for Speed title in the hands of the Gothenburg studio.

Officials at Electronic Arts have not responded to multiple emails over the past few days seeking comment.

Update: An EA spokesperson told Polygon that the company has "entered a consultation period for some positions in our Ghost Games U.K. studio."

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