Speaking to an audience at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2010 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, EA boss John Riccitiello has outlined EA's role in the critical decline of Need for Speed – but also asserted that the series is once again in pole position.
If you went back to when I first got into the games industry, 1997, Need For Speed was a really strong title,” he stated, as reported by CVG.
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.
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.
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.
It was definitely our fault. Those days are gone. We're back in two studios and we've got them on bi-annual cycles. We made really great progress with a strong entry last year, which was more of a simulation game. This year Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is right back in the core action driving. It's had a two-year dev cycle. I feel great about it.”