EA plans to publish three separate new Need for Speed
games in 2009, each tailored to specific formats and featuring a radical change of focus from previous titles.
In previews with a number of consumer websites, including GameSpot and Eurogamer, EA revealed new title Need for Speed: Shift
for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and PSP.
Intended to be a much more serious racing simulation than previous games, the title is being developed by a combination of internal and external resources in the UK.
The game will be overseen by Black Box executive producer Michael Mann, as well as EA Games Europe head, and Digital Illusions CE (DICE) co-founder, Patrick Soderlund. Development work will be carried out by new British studio Slightly Mad Studios. The London-based firm is led by SimBin co-founder Ian Bell, who worked on titles such as GT Legends
and GTR 2
The second game is currently known as Need for Speed: Nitro
and will be released exclusively for the Wii and Nintendo DS. Developed by EA Montreal, the game is described as having a “unique visual style” but no screenshots have yet been released.
The final game is online PC title Need for Speed: World Online
, a free-to-play title developed by Black Box and EA Singapore. Aimed primarily at the Asian market, the game will launch there in the summer, with a North American release in winter 2009.
The announcements follow still unconfirmed reports
that the majority of staff at EA Black Box, the traditional developers of the Need for Speed
series, were laid off last week.
The remaining staff still appear to be in full charge of the franchise though, with EA Games marketing exec Keith Munro admitting to Eurogamer that Black Box is also working on a fourth Need for Speed title
"Black Box is currently working on a future action title in the franchise," said Munro. He also insisted that the global economic crisis was not at the root of the changes: "This isn't about quantity, this is about crafting different games for different audiences and their unique tastes in the driving category."