EA has confirmed that the next Need for Speed game in development at the reformed Criterion Games has been put on hold, so that resources can be poured into the next Battlefield game, which is expected to debut on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC in late 2021.
It’s a significant move, and one that was put down in the interview with Polygon to the impact that the pandemic and working from home has had on development. Working from home has slowed all game development as employees log in and work remotely, and EA has clearly made the decision that it’s more important to release a new Battlefield in late 2021 than it is for Need for Speed to ship.
However, EA’s executives make it clear that neither franchise is in jeopardy. Criterion’s resources are being temporarily diverted to support EA DICE and will return to developing their new Need for Speed game in 2022.
Speaking to Polygon, EA chief studios officer Laura Miele said, “[Battlefield] is shaping up great, the team has been working incredibly hard, they pushed hard last year, and yes, we have been working from home. And it’s hard; it’s hard to make games from home, and the [EA DICE] team is fatigued a bit.”
“We have a great game and some incredible potential with this game,” she continued. “We’re playing to win; we’re playing to put a great Battlefield game out in the market.”
Following the disappointment of the reception to Battlefield V, EA were quick to start teasing the next entry in the franchise. Targeting PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, the game was teased at EA Play 2020, showing greyboxed tech demoes with seemingly well over 100 players with the goal of “creating epic battles at a scale and fidelity unlike anything you’ve experienced before.”
Needless to say that’s a big task and EA DICE must be slipping behind on their development targets – not a great sign after tricky launches for Star Wars Battlefront II and Battlefield V.
Criterion has had plenty of ups and down over the last decade, with the team splitting up as Ghost Games was founded in 2013 to handle the Need for Speed – many Criterion staff joining that team in a UK studio. Criterion continued to work in a small capacity, cooking up the Star Wars Battlefront – Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission in 2016, and then working on the Fighter Assault mode for the follow up Star Wars Battlefront II.
EA decided to effectively reform Criterion in February 2020, transferring much of the Ghost Games team over to Criterion to work on a new Need for Speed game.
Speaking of the decision to switch Criterion over to working on Battlefield, and concerns surrounding recent moves like the cancellation of Anthem NEXT, Miele said, “There’s no way we would have made a decision like this without including [Criterion] and discussing this with them first, and the impact that they could have on [Battlefield]. They’ve worked on [Star Wars] Battlefront, they’ve worked on Battlefields, and they have a really tight, close collaborative partnership with DICE. I’m really confident that this is going to be a pretty positive win for them.”