It's official: the sheen has well and truly worn off the Need for Speed franchise. Once a guaranteed smash, recent titles have under-performed badly, leading EA to announce a total reboot for the series.
Speaking with Eurogamer, EA have revealed that there'll be three new NFS games released in 2009, the idea being to seperate the series and provide games for the "core", casual and online gamer alike.
Need for Speed: Shift is the "core" title, and will be out on PS3, 360, PC & PSP (which is seemingly another nail in the coffin of the existing NFS PSP project) this fall. Also out in the fall will be Need for Speed: Nitro for the DS & Wii, which presumably has giant-head racers and car vaults. Finally, Need for Speed: World Online is a free-to-play online title, due for release in Asia in the summer before a Western release around Christmas.
So who's behind these games, now that Blackbox staff (the most recent devs on the series) have been gutted? Four different studios, and Blackbox are still one of them.
NFS: Shift is a far more serious take on racing than previous titles. Which you'd expect, with Slightly Mad - new custodians of GT Legends and GTR 2 devs Blimey! - working on it.
NFS: Nitro is being developed by EA Montreal, and will be an "arcade racer with a fresh and unique visual style that is very Need for Speed. The game will be rich and deep and will appeal to experienced arcade racers as well as casual players". Right. Expect Mario Kart with loud mufflers and garish paint schemes.
Finally, NFS: World Online is a joint project between the remnants of Blackbox and EA Singapore. There's no mention of microtransactions yet, but as a free-to-play game, we'd imagine driving anything beefier than a Mazda 3 will cost you real-world money.
Revamped NFS series launches this year [Eurogamer]