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Criterion co-founders leave studio for something new


Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry have left Criterion Games. Ward and Sperry were the studio’s co-founders, with the former taking the roles of vice president and creative director, and the latter being studio director.

Criterion Games will be known to most as the home of the Burnout racing series. Electronic Arts put the team in charge of the Need for Speed series and Burnout was put on the backburner. The last full Burnout title to be released was 2008’s open-world Burnout Paradise, but a top-down arcade spin-off called Burnout Crash! appeared on mobile and consoles in 2011. Criterion Games has since developed the very good Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which saw release in 2012.

Despite being put in charge of the Need For Speed franchise, Criterion went on to develop something else for Electronic Arts. What that might be is still unknown, but an EA representative who confirmed Ward and Sperry’s departure, said that Criterion continues to work on that “new project for next-gen consoles as new IP continues to be a major priority across EA.”

As for the Need For Speed franchise, the most recent entry was handed by newly formed studio Ghost Games. Over 60 of Ghost Games’ staff is made up of ex-Criterion developers, which left Criterion with a workforce of around 20 people to work on this secret new IP. With co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry now out of the picture, that project is being headed by long-time Criterion staffer Matt Webster.

Ward and Sperry have now formed a new company together.

Source: Polygon

  • Wesley Fick

    I wonder what motivated their decision to leave? Stale game design requirements?

    • Miklós Szecsei

      It’s difficult to say. On the one hand, it couldn’t have been the prospect of being “shackled” to NFS development duty by EA, because Criterion only did one NFS before Ghost Games picked up the franchise. Then, it can’t really be about not being given a shot at a new IP, because, well, Criterion is still working on a new IP for EA. So while lots of people are saying things along the lines of “well they probably just got sick of EA’s “rubbish” and being told to churn out racer after racer”, the reasoning is probably a little less pessimistic than that.

      Unless of course the new IP was another racing game – then the two of them probably left because they were over it. :P

      • Wesley Fick

        IIRC Criterion was behind Hot Pursuit (2010) and Most Wanted (2012) and did one Burnout game in between for multiple platforms in 2011. But we’ll have to wait and see what the motivation really was for them leaving. I hope they try a stab at being an indie studio and not mix with any publishers.

      • Miktar Dracon

        Except Ghost Games was made up of like 60% of Criterion staff, which got shunted into Ghost Games by EA to make more NFS. So Criterion was gutted for the sake of NFS.

        • Miklós Szecsei

          Yep, that’s another way of looking at it.


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