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Need for Speed goes back to Criterion, ending Ghost Games

Ghost Games is once again EA Gothenburg, supporting Frostbite development

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In-game shot of a high-performance racing car mowing down wet city streets in Need For Speed Heat
Need for Speed Heat (2019)
Image: Ghost Games/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Ghost Games, makers of the last three Need for Speed games for Electronic Arts, has been dissolved and the racing series is being handed back to Criterion Games.

Electronic Arts confirmed the franchise overhaul in a statement to, acknowledging that as many as 30 positions at Ghost Games could be at risk. The remaining staff will form an engineering hub called EA Gothenburg and support development across all of the company.

A tipster identifying themselves as a former Ghost Games and future Criterion employee described the same arrangement to Polygon, adding that Ghost Games workers in Romania would reabsorbed into other teams working at that location.

EA, in its statement, said it would transfer some positions from Gothenburg, Sweden to Criterion, located in Guildford, England. Criterion, best known for the Burnout series on the previous two console generations, developed 2010’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and 2012’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

But in the fall of 2013, development of Need for Speed Rivals shifted entirely from Criterion to Ghost Games, with the majority of Criterion developers at the time reassigned to an office called Ghost Games UK. Criterion was supposed to work on another title, an unnamed extreme sports game revealed at E3 2014.

But studio co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry had left the company at the beginning of 2014, and the unnamed project was scrapped. Criterion has spent its time since then supporting development of Star Wars Battlefront, Star Wars Battlefront 2, and most recently Battlefield 5’s Firestorm battle royale mode.

Need for Speed Heat was the best-reviewed of the three games made since production shifted entirely to Ghost Games, although its numerical scores would still be considered average. (Need for Speed Rivals launched two months after Ghost Games was placed in charge.) The game’s official Twitter account said Need for Speed Heat’s launch week saw more players “than any other NFS title this generation.” But Blake Jorgensen, EA’s chief financial officer, told investors on Jan. 30 that “Need for Speed is kind of, as we expected,” meaning 3 to 4 million copies sold based on previous guidance.