Swedish studio Ghost Games has been given control over all future titles in the Need For Speed series, studio head Marcus Nilsson has revealed - just a year after Need For Speed: Most Wanted developer Criterion announced that they had taken ownership.
Speaking to VideoGamer.com about the future of the racing series at Gamescom, Nilsson said that he believes "Need For Speed needs continuity", and that EA is "now thinking about the brand as Ghost owns it".
"It cannot go from black to white between Black Box and Criterion, and that's why we're now thinking about the brand as Ghost owns it," he said. "We're going to build it, we're going to build it on Frostbite 3, [and] people will see something they are familiar with every time we release the game. And I think that is the core basis of building a brand; that people know what to expect."
Nilsson, who previously served as executive producer on Shift 2: Unleashed, believes that the series needs to remain consistent with each release in order to avoid "confusion" and "lose credibility", with pursuits, online open worlds and a narrative forming a key part of the Need For Speed experience.
"When you go from a Shift experience to The Run experience to a Hot Pursuit experience, then it loses credibility," Nilsson continued. "I think we now have the work of re-establishing that credibility with building the brand. You know, it's still a really strong brand, absolutely. We just need to make sure people know what to expect when they get it, and Rivals is absolutely the first step toward that.
"Need For Speed is not going to go away, right? It's not the final or last step of that. But what you see in Rivals, a lot of those things will carry on going forward and myself and Rivals will be involved in shaping that."
Criterion is heavily involved in the development of Rivals, but how long the studio stays associated with the series remains to be seen.
Asked whether future games in the series would alternate between Ghost and Criterion year-on-year, Nilsson replied: "No, you're not going to see that."
He also suggested that Ghost could make a sequel to Need For Speed: Underground if there was enough demand.
But with Ghost now in control of Need For Speed, where does that leave Criterion?
"There's a small part of Criterion working on something else," Nilsson says. "Criterion is absolutely helping us out a lot on this game and would we make something next year or whenever we do it, it's going to be something that is ultimately driven from Ghost."
Though Criterion's next project has yet to be announced, creative director Alex Ward has suggested that it may not be a racing game.
"Here is what I want folks to know," he tweeted. "Some folks are eternally disappointed. Nothing I can do about that. So many tweets asking for new Burnout. Equally many tweets asking for a new NFS game from us. Also Road Rash.
"Whilst I love all of those games, I am personally not doing any. After over a decade of making racing games it's time to make something new. It is early days thus I have nothing to 'announce' or talk about."
VideoGamer.com checked in with EA yesterday to confirm that Ghost had been given full responsibility over Need For Speed and whether Criterion would remain involved with the series beyond Rivals, and was told by the publisher that it "had nothing further to add as [Marcus] has answered your questions accurately".
Need For Speed Rivals launches on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on November 22. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions have yet to be dated.