Five longtime employees of Criterion Games have left the studio, according to GamesIndustry. Each of them had been with Criterion and parent company Electronic Arts for over a decade, if not longer. All five have left to “explore new opportunities outside of EA.”
Notably, these departures come following the recent release of Need for Speed Unbound, Criterion’s return to the series after it collaborated with Ghost Games on 2013’s Need for Speed Rivals. Unbound released on December 2, and is already priced at 40 percent off on the Xbox Store, which may imply that the game isn’t selling as well as EA had initially hoped.
Among the now-ex Criterion staffers leaving is Matt Webster, who became the studio’s VP and general manager back in 2013. He’d been with Criterion for 23 years, and was one of the developers on the original FIFA game.
Also leaving are Pete Lake, an executive producer who joined Criterion in 1996; 16-year veteran and senior tech director Andrei Shires; studio development head Alan McDairmant; and content head Steve Uphill. McDairmant had been with EA for 17 years (he joined Criterion in 2005), and Uphill was with Criterion for a decade.
Stepping in as executive producer for the Need for Speed franchise going forward will be Charity Joy, who previously worked on EA’s UFC series. Joy is joined by former Grid and Dirt director Geoff Smith, who will serve as senior director of product development on both Need for Speed and oversee EA’s WRC game until the latter’s spring 2023 launch.
In a staff-wide email, EA’s racing group GM David Rutter wrote that the racing game department has a “strong opportunity to evolve our games and experiences, and bring them to an even broader audience of fans—with our long-term strategy centered on our strengths in licensed motorsports as well as arcade/open-world racing.”
“Building off the progress made so far this year, with two launches, and even more plans underway for next, we are confident that we have the best people, working on the best games, and will achieve great things in 2023.”