EA boss John Riccitiello has said the decline in quality in Need for Speed in recent years was down to developer BlackBox doing the series year in, year out, in a “death march regime”.
He said when he first joined the games industry, NFS was a key and “really strong” series.
“I’d come into EA just after we’d shipped a couple of relatively miserable ones. Our Need For Speed business was off… dramatically. We came up with this idea of putting a cop in the game. Suddenly this whole cat and mouse, cops and chasing thing blew the roof off,” he said to investors at the America Merrill Lynch 2010 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference.
“We had several consecutive years of growth. We reached a bit of a lull period and came up with Underground which has sort of that night-time vibe and lightning which brought it to new heights – north of 10 million units for the franchise.
“In the ’04 to ’07 period, we had a single studio, Black Box, up in Vancouver, building our [NFS games]. And we literally had them on a death march building for five years in a row. [They were] annual iterations, they had to put it out; no rest for the weary.”
Riccitiello continued: “It’d happened before – games publishers do this from time to time. We should have put them on two-year alternating cycles but we didn’t. And the title declined dramatically. We started to lose people. They didn’t want to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
He admitted the problem was EA’s “fault,” but that those days were gone.
Since then, BlackBox has released Need for Speed: Undercover, as well as Need for Speed World.
The next title in the series, Hot Pursuit, comes from Criterion Games. That releases on November 19.