First announced on June 18, 2020 as part of Electronic Arts' "EA Play Live June 2020" presentation, it was shown during a section about the publisher's next generation series of games, targeting the then unreleased PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S hardware.
Following its first official reveal in June 2020, it is being developed by Criterion and is described as to "include a new Need for Speed game that is bringing some astounding visual leaps, developed by the Criterion team, who have launched some of the most highly-rated games in franchise history". Alongside Criterion, Codemasters Cheshire is assisting in development of the game and the Need for Speed series as a whole.
The game's development was pushed back by a year in March 2021, with Criterion pausing development of their Need for Speed game to assist DICE and their in-development "Battlefield 6", which would later be revealed as Battlefield 2042.
On May 11, 2022, the official Codemasters Twitter account posted a series of tweets announcing the Codemasters Chesire team would be integrating with Criterion Games to work on the Need for Speed series.
|“||We can confirm Criterion Games and the development team at Codemasters Cheshire are officially coming together to create the future of @NeedforSpeed, forming one Criterion studio with two location hubs. [1/3]||”|
— Codemasters (@Codemasters)
|“||This integration builds off the close partnership the two studios have developed over the past few months. [2/3]||”|
— Codemasters (@Codemasters)
|“||Sharing common values and similar cultures, we strongly believe unifying the huge wealth of expertise across both teams will help us to deliver the best racing experiences we can for our players. [3/3]||”|
— Codemasters (@Codemasters)
EA Q4 FY 2022 Earnings Call
On May 10, 2022, Electronic Arts held an earnings call for the fourth quarter of their 2022 fiscal year.
In an accompanying presentation, a page highlighting their 2023 fiscal year (FY23) release slate lists Need for Speed within the third quarter (Q3), which is between October 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022.
One of the images includes a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX MR FQ-360 parked near a body of water with a view of the Lakeshore City skyline, and the another of a map for the game's setting with debug segment zones overlaid on top of the road network.
In episode 42 of GrubbSnax, published on April 14, 2022, Jeff Grubb reiterated points made by other publications regarding recent leaked information: the game's console releases could only be for "next-generation" devices - PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S - and could have a November release month.
|“||I got a little bit of details, and those details are still right, I think that's gonna be next-gen only, it's coming out later this year - probably November - that stuff could all; the release date could change absolutely.||”|
— Jeff Grubb
He reiterated a previous leak relating to the game's setting potentially being set in Miami, similar to the fictional setting of Need for Speed: Heat, but backtracked on the validity on the information given to him at the time, and denounced it in episode 42.
Following the correction for the game's location, he began listing features and aspects he felt confident were present in the upcoming game, as well as the game taking place in a fictionalised rendition of Chicago called "Lake Shore City". Chicago has previously appeared in Need for Speed: ProStreet and Need for Speed: The Run.
|“||Let's start with some of the other stuff:
— Jeff Grubb
Autolog's appearance in prior Need for Speed games has been as an asynchronous multiplayer leaderboard for friends to compete against each other outside of traditional multiplayer.
Similar visual effects in a leaked gameplay video published in late 2020 follow Jeff's description of "It's going to be photorealistic, but it's going to have - on top of that - there's going to be like "anime" elements".
Closing his segment about Need for Speed, he said "I imagine you're going to hear about this game pretty soon".
Codemasters Cheshire Support
On February 10, 2022, a series of tweets by Tom Henderson relayed leaked information from an internal Electronic Arts Town Hall meeting. The tweets highlighted that Codemasters Cheshire - the studio behind both Onrush and DiRT 5 under Codemasters, and previously Evolution Studios prior to their purchase in April 2016 - would be assisting Criterion in the development of the Need for Speed series.
On January 21, 2022, a tweet by Tom Henderson speculated that the release of Criterion's Need for Speed would be within September to October 2022, which is a similar release timeframe for nearly all previous releases in the Need for Speed series, and an October release would place it within the third quarter of Electronic Art's 2023 fiscal year.
On December 4, 2021, a tweet by Helene Kiji, a producer at Criterion whom recently joined the studio having moved on from Gameloft, expressed her thanks for a welcoming gift she received from Criterion. The tweets were deleted soon after they were reposted.
|“||Joli cadeau reçu aujourd'hui 💜🔥 [Nice gift received today 💜🔥]
Thank you 😍
— Helene Kiji, Producer
Alongside the thank you message, two images of a Criterion/NFS branded tote bag were included with the tweet, of which two posters of unreleased media relating to Criterion's in-development Need for Speed were underneath it.
One of the posters depicted a red Nissan 200SX (S14) fitted with a chassis mounted spoiler similar to a Street Faction Engineering design, and was surrounded by multiple stickers with a style reminiscent of 1980s punk rock.
Codemasters Cheshire Project
On October 10, 2021, it was reported that Codemasters Cheshire had an open position for a Develop Manager, with the role describing that it would be for "the most ambitious and biggest game that Codemasters has made in over a decade".
The role had been open to applications from August 31, 2021.
|“||Based at our stunning, refurbished studio in Cheshire, near to both Liverpool and Manchester, you will be working closely with the dev team in an internal production capacity. Under the guidance of the Development Director and with support from the production team, you will help handle production of the studios’ next key project – which promises to be the most ambitious and biggest game that Codemasters has made in over a decade!||”|
— Development Manager role
EA Q4 2021 Earnings Call
On May 11, 2021, Electronic Arts held an earnings call for the fourth quarter of their 2021 fiscal year.
During the call, CEO Andrew Wilson was asked by Mike Hickey about the future of the Need for Speed series with regards to Criterion, to which he, as well as CFO and COO Blake Jorgensen, replied to Criterion's expertise for both the Need for Speed and Battlefield series, alongside noting the recent purchase of Codemasters would add to the series and the company's racing franchises.
|“||Nice. Excited to play it. Last question for me. I think last call, you noted that development of Battlefield was ahead of expectations.
Obviously, you've seen it, it's exciting. Maybe buzz is building. But at the same time, it looks like you do like Criterion, that studio to do additional work with the base. I'm just curious on the decision to do that and what your plans are for need for speed in the future.
— Mike Hickey, Analyst (The Benchmark Company)
|“||Yeah. There was two things at play here. One is we have incredible ambition around Battlefield. We've got DICE Stockholm, DICE LA, Criterion, our technology team in Gothenburg and our entire Frostbite team, quite honestly, focused on making this the best possible Battlefield that can be.
We've made tremendous progress. The teams have admirable ambition to be truly creative and innovative experience. And having Criterion who have delivered some of the most amazing experiences in our history and have worked really closely with DICE in the past, come together to help realize the fullness of that ambition was just a no-brainer for us this year. What has also happened, of course, is we had acquired Codemasters and a number of new racing games, including the F1 franchise, which is shaping up to be really strong this year.
And it was an opportunity for us to really think more broadly about our holistic racing strategy. Need for Speed will absolutely be a meaningful part of our future. We actually think there is -- with the culmination of EA and Codemasters, we can actually expand and extend and enhance an interesting franchise. But those two things together meant that having Criterion work on Battlefield this year was absolutely the right choice for us.
— Andrew Wilson, CEO
|“||Yeah. And Mike, you know that Criterion actually delivered much diving associated with -- or flying associated with Battlefront I and Battlefront II. They've worked very closely with DICE for a long time. And they are experts in driving flying, the things that are really hard to do.
And so it's not the first time that we pulled them into projects and they love it. They love to be able, and this -- we've tried to create a culture where people want to work together. And I think that's what you're seeing here versus some other idea that well, something must be wrong. No, no, this is an opportunity and talent in at the right time.
And we always are measuring how that might impact future schedules. But as Andrew said, with the addition of Codemasters, we have a plethora of driving game opportunities right now that we can go after, and Criterion will continue to work on those going forward.
— Blake Jorgensen, CFO & COO
One Year Delay
On March 1, 2021, Electronic Arts posted that it would be delaying the release of Criterion's in-development Need for Speed into EA's 2023 fiscal year - between April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023 - for the Criterion team to assist DICE's work on the in-development "Battlefield 6",   which would later be announced as Battlefield 2042 on June 9, 2021.
|“||Our upcoming Battlefield™ game is coming together to be an exceptional game, not just for this year but also for the future of this powerful brand. The project is tracking towards the franchise’s earliest Alpha, the gameplay is at an unprecedented scale, and we are taking full advantage of the technology in the next-gen consoles. The team has done an incredible job despite the challenges of working from home. We want to build on our position of strength, focus on the opportunity in front of us, and set our game makers up for success to deliver the best experience possible to our players this fall. So, we are making a bold move - Criterion is joining DICE and DICE L.A. to focus on Battlefield. Criterion and DICE have a strong history of working together, and we’re confident this partnership will make a great game even better.
With the addition of Codemasters, we also have a massive opportunity to expand EA’s racing strategy. Codemasters has several launches coming in the next year, bringing players some outstanding new racing games in our FY22. Criterion is one of the strongest racing studios in the industry, and the work they have accomplished on the next Need For Speed™ is truly inspired and will breathe new life into one of our most storied brands. We’re going to give Criterion the time to reach the game's full promise and deliver it in FY23.
Criterion's work towards their in-development Need for Speed was paused whilst the team aided DICE's work towards their in-development Battlefield game.
On February 2, 2021, Electronics Arts held an earnings call for the third quarter of their 2021 fiscal year.
During the earning call, their nearing acquisition of Codemasters was highlighted - which they had outbid Take-Two Interactive to purchase for $1.2 billion a few weeks prior - and the studio's talents could contribute to the Need for Speed series.
|“||Now Codex (sic) [Codemasters] on its own could be a nice addition to the company. We know that they have some incredible franchises. The F1 franchise is so nascent. It's a new franchise for them. We know if you're based in the U.S., there's very little F1 racing going on in the U.S. And yet we know that the owners of F1 would like to build an F1 business in the U.S.
We know that there's still expansion around the globe. It is probably one of the best growth opportunities there is and the reason that we're willing to pay what we were willing to pay for it, on top of the fact that the DiRT franchise, the GRID franchise, all of their franchises are incredible games, but none of them have actually taken advantage of a large publishing organization and a marketing muscle that we're able to deliver. And we think that has growth to it, not to mention the talent that's in that organization that could continue to help our Need for Speed business or our Real Racing business. It could be very powerful.
— Blake J. Jorgensen, CFO & COO
The acquisition of Codemasters was completed over two weeks later, with Electronic Arts gaining control of the Southam, Birmingham, Cheshire, Slightly Mad, and Kuala Lumpur studios, alongside the DiRT, GRID, Project Cars, Formula 1, and WRC series.
EA Q2 Fiscal 2020 Report
On November 5, 2020, Electronic Art released its second quarter 2021 Fiscal Report. Within the report, it outlines that Criterion's in-development Need for Speed would be releasing within EA's 2022 fiscal year, which is between April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
|“||Looking ahead, I want to offer a few thoughts on our growth drivers for FY22 and beyond. Each previous console generation has grown the global market, and we expect this transition will do the same. We plan to launch at least six new games on the next-gen consoles in FY22.
These will include a new Need for Speed game that is bringing some astounding visual leaps, developed by the Criterion team, who have launched some of the most highly-rated games in franchise history
— Andrew Wilson, CEO
On August 5, 2020, YouTuber LPN05 published a video of leaked pre-alpha gameplay footage of Criterion's in-development Need for Speed.
The published footage was taken from an in-development build, of which the environments shown are in an early greybox state meant for level design and testing, with only the Porsche 911 GT2 RS being driven by either the player or any A.I. opponents.
Within the published video, various unique visual effects shown throughout the leaked footage are utilised to create an emphasised look of visual narrative through pop art elements against a realistic world. This includes thick contrails from spoilers, tail light streaks, long flame streaks from exhausts, ground shockwaves when landing jumps, flat coloured tyre smoke, fluidic motion lines, tyre flame trails, and exclamative pops for exhaust backfire.
The car being driven by the player has a licence plate reading "EXC" referring to the game's development codename: "Excalibur".
EA Play Live 2020
On June 18, 2020, Criterion's in-development Need for Speed was first officially announcement during the "Next Gen Teaser" section of Electronic Arts' "EA Play Live June 2020" presentation, in which a scene of a customised Nissan 180SX (S13) and a stock Porsche 911 GT3 RS were shown against an HDRI backdrop.
|“||Criterion is known for how their games feel. From superior physics to nuanced details of gameplay, this team hand curates the moment-to-moment experience.||”|
— Laura Miele, Chief Studios Officer
Ghost Games Closure
On February 12, 2020, Electronic Arts announced that Criterion Games would become the franchise leader of the Need for Speed series, a position it was initially given in 2012 following on from EA Black Box's long stewardship of the series, and was passed onto Ghost Games in 2013.
With Criterion taking ownership of the series back from Ghost Games, all of the studios under Ghost Games were reverted to their prior duties within Electronic Arts. Ghost Games became EA Gothenburg again, Ghost Games UK was reintegrated into Criterion following its split in 2013 as well as a consultation period for some job roles in 2014, and Ghost Games Romania becoming EA Romania.
During the transition, an EA representative highlighted that while those in roles for engineering and planned transfers would be retained, a remaining thirty roles within Ghost Games in Sweden would hopefully be transferred within the company.
|“||Outside of the engineers and those that we plan to transfer to other positions, there would be 30 additional staff in Gothenburg, and we would hope to place as many of them as possible into other roles in the company.||”|
As a reason for the series' transition from Ghost Games back to Criterion, it was outlined that Electronic Arts was struggling to attract the wanted and needed talent to Gothenburg.
|“||Ghost Games have helped to bring some great Need for Speed experiences to our players. Consistently delivering that at AAA levels means we need teams with diverse skills in locations where we can continually support them and bring in new team members to join.
Despite our best efforts to establish an independent development group in Gothenburg over several years, it's become clear that the breadth of talent we need to maintain a full AAA studio is just not available to us there. Criterion can also provide the consistent leadership that we need to continue creating and delivering new Need for Speed experiences for a long time to come.
The changing of leading studios for the series came four months after the release of Ghost Games' final game in the series under their name: Need for Speed: Heat, of which had its post-launch content reduced, with its fifth and final update being released on June 9, 2020.
- Excalibur is a mythological sword in Arthurian tale of which could only be pulled out of a stone by the true king of Britain.
- Website: ea.com (2022, p. 10) Electronic Arts Inc. Q4 FY 2022 Results. Available at: https://s22.q4cdn.com/894350492/files/doc_financials/2022/q4/Q4-FY22-Earnings-Slides-Final.pdf
- Tweet: @_Tom_Henderson_ "EA is expecting Need for Speed by Criterion Games to release in September/October 2022. Need for Speed development had to be paused in summer 2021 as Criterion Games needed to help with the development of Battlefield 2042." Available at: https://twitter.com/_Tom_Henderson_/status/1484255649764622340
- Tweet: @Codemasters "We can confirm Criterion Games and the development team at Codemasters Cheshire are officially coming together to create the future of @NeedforSpeed, forming one Criterion studio with two location hubs. [1/3]." Available at: https://twitter.com/Codemasters/status/1524704763010502657
- Tweet: @Codemasters "This integration builds off the close partnership the two studios have developed over the past few months. [2/3]" Available at: https://twitter.com/Codemasters/status/1524704765078294529
- Tweet: @Codemasters "Sharing common values and similar cultures, we strongly believe unifying the huge wealth of expertise across both teams will help us to deliver the best racing experiences we can for our players. [3/3]" Available at: https://twitter.com/Codemasters/status/1524704766567370752
- Website: reddit.com/r/needforspeed (2022) NFS 2022 Map, Screenshot, and UI leaked by notorious NFS insider, ynk, on Kuru's server. Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/needforspeed/comments/u9j1ja/nfs_2022_map_screenshot_and_ui_leaked_by/
- gfycat.com (2022) SPOILER SPOILER VID-20220410-WA0008 GIF. Available at: https://gfycat.com/everlastinggoldenhairstreakbutterfly
- Video: Giant Bomb (2022) GrubbSnax 42: Need For Speed, PlayStation Banners, and More!. Available at: https://youtu.be/Dq8Ly2s87-Q?t=99
- Video: 不明_02 (2020) NFS 2021 Alpha Gameplay footage. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl36PPtdwUw
- Tweet: @_Tom_Henderson_ "SCOOP - Codemasters Cheshire is to become a support studio for the next Need For Speed title." Available at: https://twitter.com/_Tom_Henderson_/status/1491731460235083788
- Website: gameranx.com (2022) Codemasters Cheshire Reportedly Working On Need For Speed 2022. Available at: https://gameranx.com/updates/id/288057/article/codemasters-cheshire-reportedly-working-on-need-for-speed-2022/
- Website: reddit.com/r/needforspeed (2021) Potential NFS 2022 Leaks From Criterion Producer (Twitter). Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/needforspeed/comments/r93n3n/potential_nfs_2022_leaks_from_criterion_producer/
- Website: imgur.com (2021) Available at: https://i.imgur.com/ov4pmwX.png
- Website: vg47.com Codemasters is hiring staff for its "most ambitious and biggest game" yet. Available art: https://www.vg247.com/codemasters-chesire-hiring-job-ad-biggest-game
- Website: ea.gr8people.com Development Manager. Available at: https://ea.gr8people.com/jobs/167857/development-manager
- Video: AlphaStreet (2021) EA Stock | Electronic Arts Q4 2021 Earnings Call. Available at: https://youtu.be/uF_rQWTTIaE?t=2513
- Website: polygon.com (2021) EA delays new Need for Speed, shifts Criterion to support Battlefield 6. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2021/3/1/22307226/battlefield-6-release-date-need-for-speed-2021-delayed-ea-dice-criterion-codemasters
- Website: ea.com (2021) A Bold Move For Battlefield. Available at: https://www.ea.com/en-gb/news/a-bold-move-for-battlefield
- Website: gamesindustry.biz Take-Two withdraws bid for Codemasters following EA offer of $1.2bn. Available at: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2021-01-13-take-two-withdraws-bid-for-codemasters-following-ea-offer-of-usd1-2bn
- Website: ea.com (2021, p. 4) Q3 2021 Electronic Arts Inc Earnings Call. Available at: https://s22.q4cdn.com/894350492/files/doc_financials/2021/q3/EA-Transcript.pdf
- Website: gamesinduatry.biz (2021) EA completes $1.2bn Codemasters acquisition and hopes to "revolutionise" racing games. Available at: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2021-02-18-ea-completes-codemasters-acquisition-and-hopes-to-revolutionise-racing-games
- Website: ea.com (2020, p. 5) Prepared remarks - Q2 Fiscal 2021. Avilable at: https://s22.q4cdn.com/894350492/files/doc_financials/2021/q2/Q2-FY21-Prepared-Remarks-Final.pdf
- Video: LPN05 (2020) NEED FOR SPEED 2021 - ALPHA GAMEPLAY LEAK! / MEIN EINDRUCK!. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2tItQt4ZLI
- Video: GameSpot (2020) EA Play 2020 Next Gen Games Teaser. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMQ4n2922qI
- Website: wegotthiscovered.com (2012) Criterion Behind The Wheel Of The Entire Need For Speed Franchise. Available at: https://wegotthiscovered.com/gaming/criterion-wheel-entire-speed-franchise/
- Website: polygon.com (2013) Need For Speed Rivals is a living game, and a sign of things to come. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2013/8/22/4646854/need-for-speed-rivals-is-a-living-game-and-a-sign-of-things-to-come
- Website: polygon.com (2013) Majority of Criterion staff now Ghost Games UK, core team down to 16 people. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2013/9/13/4728044/majority-of-criterion-staff-now-ghost-games-uk-core-team-down-to-16
- Website: polygon.com (2014) Layoffs hit Ghost Games' UK office, unannounced NFS title mothballed. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2014/2/1/5360976/layoffs-hit-ghost-games-uk-office-unannounced-nfs-title-mothballed
- Website: gamesindustry.biz (2020) EA will move Need for Speed development back to Criterion. Avilable at: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-02-12-ea-will-move-need-for-speed-development-back-to-criterion