Two of Criterion Games’ co-founders have left the Electronic Arts studio famous for creating the Burnout franchise. According to a statement released by Electronic Arts, vice president and creative director Alex Ward and studio director Fiona Perry both decided to part ways with the company. Executive producer Matt Webster will assume leadership of Criterion Games.
Criterion Games was seen as a bit of a golden child within Electronic Arts. Burnout Paradise was one of the best racing games of the past console generation and their first entry into the Need for Speed series, Hot Pursuit, was seen as invigorating for the stagnant franchise. In 2012, Criterion was given creative control of the Need for Speed franchise and saw the release of the well received Most Wanted.
But just a year later, confusion began to swirl around Criterion Games. Development of the next Need for Speed, Rivals, was given to the new studio Ghost Games. While Electronic Arts had historically tossed the Need for Speed franchise between multiple studios (recently Black Box and Criterion), the announcement of Ghost Games taking the point was followed with the startling news that a large number of Criterion staff were transferred to Ghost Games, seemingly to assist with development of Rivals.
Fast forward to August, just months after the announcement of Rivals, and Electronic Arts dropped the news that Ghost Games would assume creative direction of the Need for Speed franchise moving forward. It seems that Criterion Games had lost favor within the EA conglomerate.
Criterion’s fall from grace is startling, especially considering the studio has never created a truly terrible game. The Burnout games consistently improved upon themselves and their Need for Speed entries were top notch. Even EA acknowledged the talent within the studio, by moving the vast majority of the company into Ghost Games.
I sincerely hope the Burnout franchise doesn’t die as a result of Criterion’s potential crumble. But it wouldn’t be the first franchise to fall victim to studio mishandling.
As for Ward and Perry, the pair have decided to branch off on their own and create a new studio together. Here’s hoping they bring back crash mode in their spiritual successor to Burnout.