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Five long-serving senior team members at Need for Speed developer Criterion have departed the studio following the launch of Need for Speed Unbound last month.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, Criterion’s vice president and general manager Matt Webster has left the studio after 23 years, as has head of studio development and 17-year Criterion veteran Alan McDairmant.
They’re joined by senior technical director Andrei Shires, who has been with the company for 16 years, as well as executive producer Pete Lake, who first joined Criterion in 1996. Head of content Steve Uphill also leaves following his most recent 10-year stint at Criterion. All are said to have left the developer to “explore new opportunities outside of EA”.
Following news of the departures, EA confirmed Charity Joy has been moved from the EA Sports UFC franchise to serve as executive producer on Need for Speed, while Geoff Smith, who previously oversaw Dirt and Grid at Codemasters, is now senior director of product development for Need for Speed.
Despite a rather subdued launch that arrived with little fanfare from EA, Need for Speed Unbound was a strong release for the series, with Eurogamer calling it an “arcade racer that’s capable of going toe-to-toe with the all-conquering Forza Horizon.”.
“As it stands Unbound falls just short of [being a great open world racer],” Martin Robinson wrote in his Recommended review, “but given how it delivers a Need for Speed experience that’s miles ahead of anything the franchise has offered in over a decade I’m not complaining. Here’s hoping EA’s bizarre handling of this fantastic game doesn’t dent its chances, and that Criterion gets to build upon its brilliant work for a sequel. Because then we really could have a Forza Horizon beater on our hands.”