EA's Keith Munro on the franchise's past, present and future.
Need for Speed is one of the biggest brands in gaming. Since its debut back in 1994 the series has gone through numerous evolutions, but has always been popular with gamers. Today EA announced that the franchise has reached 100 million units sold across the world, so we caught up with Keith Munro, Vice President Global Marketing for Electronic Arts, to find out why Need for Speed is so popular and what lies ahead for the franchise.
VideoGamer.com: Congratulations on reaching the 100 million sales milestone. What makes Need for Speed so popular with gamers around the world?
Keith Munro: Yeah, 100 million units; we're super excited about that. Less than a handful of franchises up until now have reached that milestone, and we're honoured actually. We really have to thank our fans. Especially those guys that buy our game or buy Need for Speed every year. We're very excited, but we really just need to thank our fans.
So I think what makes the Need for Speed franchise and brand, why it's done so well, is because we've tried to, we've had a few reinventions - I'll get into that in a minute. Every year our teams set out to create an innovative, fresh new look at what makes driving and racing exciting. That has really captured the imagination of our fans. I can get into things that are very core to Need for Speed, like the physics engine that drives our games, how the different cars feel like those cars on the road, but they're actually heroic physics. You can actually make that corner at 180km per hour, where in real life you'd never be able to. So we deliver a very heroic feel. The feel of the driving in our games is so critical, and that obviously is resonating with our fans. We heard a lot of really great feedback about how we've introduced story into a lot of our games, so there's a context, a reason for people to race. Having cops, open-world and what not is also very popular. It's a culmination of things. I would say at the base of it, also Need for Speed in the last half a dozen years has really propelled itself into pop culture and youth automotive culture. We're the purveyors of car culture for millions of people around the world, who themselves are into cars, they like motor sport or car culture in general. We actually bring to them things that are cool about car culture, including new vehicles, new concepts, different types and styles of racing. We really brought drifting to the forefront when it was just burgeoning in the North American market and non-existent in Europe. Things like Canyon racing. And Even Need for Speed ProStreet, which brought together a new street style that was sanctioned. We're brining to life car culture for a lot of people.
VideoGamer.com: Shift was released last month on the back of rave reviews. Given how well it was received by the press, has it met your sales expectations?
KM: Yeah, I think it's done pretty much what we had expected. As you know, it's the first Need for Speed game in many years to launch into the September window, traditionally we launch in November, the holiday window. So we're excited yes. Great reviews and the quality is very high, and people are really enjoying playing Shift. We have it out there longer so it has more of a chance in the marketplace in its opening year.
VideoGamer.com: What lies ahead for Shift? Do you have DLC plans in place or will certain decisions depend on sales over the coming months?
KM: Actually I'm not allowed to talk about that [laughs]. Yeah, it's doing well.
VideoGamer.com: Can you perhaps hint at all that fans are going to be able to keep playing the game for some time to come?
KM: We are trying to work on what we feel… we don't want to just create more content just for the sake of it. We're trying to create stuff that is highly additive, whether for Shift or even ideas for future projects. So TBD, but we have people thinking right now.
VideoGamer.com: I was reading some message boards earlier and there was some concern that Shift had bombed because it didn't make the top 10 sales chart in North America for September. Bearing in mind the game's current sales, is it a given that at some point we'll see Shift continue and become a franchise that sits alongside the other more traditional Need for Speeds?
KM: First of all, the sales numbers, we're actually pretty proud of the numbers it's done, because it launched into a different window. We're typically the holiday racing title, so there's a lot of retraining that has to be done to make people aware of our launch. It's actually hitting a similar number for the days in the market in North America as what we shipped last year, in the holiday window, which is a much higher sales period. So it's not that concerning actually to us and as I said earlier, it's meeting our expectations. Down the road we will be evaluating the performance of Shift. We want to be having a lot of conversations with consumers about what they loved and what they would change, and there is definitely potential for us to consider sequeling that title.