Patrick Soderlund is a busy man. He's in charge of EA's driving and shooting games. Think about that workload for a second.
Battlefield (and all that involves), Medal of Honor, Mirror's Edge, Need for Speed (itself a spiralling franchise made up of numerous titles), Burnout and more are under his jurisdiction. And so, as the launch of Criterion's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit nears, Eurogamer catches up with Soderlund to ask about the future of not only NFS, but... Well, everything.
Eurogamer: Is Criterion now exclusively working on NFS?
Patrick Soderlund: Not necessarily. What happens to Criterion in the future, we'll see. Obviously they're a brilliant studio we're going to put against something that makes sense for EA and them. We're not ready to talk about exactly what that is at this point.
My vision for NFS is it will be a brand the consumer can enjoy on an annual basis, and he can look at that game and say, "I know this is going to be a high quality entertainment experience." That is a must for us.
I'll be honest with you, if you look at some of the previous games we made in the last couple of years, we haven't been doing that. We haven't been true to those words. There's no blame on the developer there. It's unfortunate we were in a situation where a developer had to make a game in eight to 10 months. You can't make a quality experience in that time.
What I can do is change that. Now we have multiple studios building NFS products. That will mean you'll get a slightly different touch on NFS on an annual basis, but hopefully a much higher-quality experience.
Eurogamer: So an arcade action NFS every year?
Patrick Soderlund: We want to reach a mass-market audience, and Hot Pursuit is a more mass-market appealing product than Shift. We want to come back with an action adventure type of product on an annual basis, but from a developer that's been working on it for a couple of years.
Maybe there are two or three developers going at it every second year. Then, when the market permits and when we feel ready, we'll put our side genre, the Shift brand, the more authentic motorsports segment - we'll come up with Shift versions as well.
There are two main parts. Action and authentic. Authentic will come when we feel like we can put it in the market and when we're done with it. Then the action adventure products are going to be on an annual basis.
Eurogamer: Is Burnout dead?
Patrick Soderlund: No. The way we look at it is Burnout is an IP EA owns. I hope to see more Burnout games in the future. But it's about prioritising what we want to do. At this point we haven't made a decision to whether Burnout does this or that, but it's not dead for sure, no.
Eurogamer: How do you feel Paradise turned out?
Patrick Soderlund: Paradise was a strong game. I liked it. One of the most incredible things about Paradise is what the team did after launch and how they supported the game for a year with continuous DLC and PDLC. That to me was industry-leading at the time, and something we've learned a whole lot from.
There's a bunch of that that's going to go into this series and learning that goes into other products as well.
Eurogamer: Does Gran Turismo 5's delay have any impact on the potential success of Hot Pursuit?
Patrick Soderlund: It's delayed. I can't lie, That could potentially be good for us. That's the way it is. But we'll see what happens in the market.
Eurogamer: You say there will be an arcade NFS game every year in November, but next year's game won't be developed by Criterion. Is it Black Box?
Patrick Soderlund: You can assume that, yes.
Eurogamer: Safely assume?
Patrick Soderlund: Yes. I would say so, yes.
Eurogamer: You want to alternate developers to give them time to make a good game. Is Criterion on a two-year schedule?
Patrick Soderlund: What developers do what, we haven't made official. But the whole idea for NFS as a brand is to have different developers work on different things, absolutely.
Eurogamer: Will it be just Criterion, Black Box and Slightly Mad Studios that tackle the NFS IP?
Patrick Soderlund: We're not ready to talk about that specifically, more than the fact we have a strategy that goes after a two-year development cycle and alternating studios. I'm sorry but I can't talk more deeply about that.
Eurogamer: Was Activision's two-studio Call of Duty model inspirational?
Patrick Soderlund: Not necessarily. I thought it would be a stronger offering if we could have a slightly different flavour of NFS, still well within the franchise parameters, but have that on an annual basis.
Let's say this year you have a Criterion version of NFS that's still true to what NFS is, then obviously next year we can come back with something that's still true to NFS but maybe a slightly different approach on NFS.
That can be a stronger long-term proposition for consumers than if you have the same developer make basically the same game every year. That's where the idea came from.
Of course we looked at our internal strategies as well as what works for external companies. The one thing that's very important though is you crisply identify what your chief tenets are for the brand, so people have parameters to stay within, so you don't get a NFS game one year and then the next year something that is completely different and has nothing to do with the other one, then the only thing they share is the brand – that's obviously not the intent.
We want Autolog to be something that follows with the consumer to the next NFS product. We want them to use their log-in and their details they had from the previous game into the next. If they're a loyal consumer to us we would obviously want to reward them for that.
So there are certain things NFS needs to have, but a different take on that on an annual basis because of different developers is a good win for us.
Eurogamer: Will Criterion and Black Box work together?
Patrick Soderlund: There have been people on Black Box that have helped Criterion with this particular game. Some of the rendering has been helped. There's always more overlap than you would normally imagine among all studios. There's always something that's a little bit late and then someone needs to come in and help.
DICE people helped BioWare guys building Dragon Age. Small things. You'll see a couple of DICE people appearing in the Dragon Age credits. You'll see some Army of Two guys from Montreal appearing in Medal of Honor credits. That always happens at a big company.
There's obviously a more natural overlap between a Criterion and a Black Box because they do the same type of job.
Eurogamer: What are the DICE guys making for Dragon Age?
Patrick Soderlund: I don't have the details. We let them borrow two guys for a month. They may have done some art or programming. I wouldn't say DICE as a brand had a significant impact on it, more than the fact we helped them.
Eurogamer: How does NFS Shift slot into the NFS plan?
Patrick Soderlund: The idea for us is to come out with a holiday product, around Christmas time every year, that is true to the core tenets of an action NFS game, which is usually what most of our consumers are after.
We also think we can compete and ultimately become market-leading in the simulation authentic motorsport segment. One of the strongest points we have is, apart from the fact we have a very talented developer working with us and we now have an established brand underneath the NFS umbrella in that segment, we also have the advantage of being a multi-platform offering.
Forza can only be bought on Xbox and Gran Turismo is only available on PlayStation. We're the only one right now that is of a significant weight that can offer something up on all those platforms.
Eurogamer: We've heard mixed messages about the sales success of Medal of Honor. What's the reaction internally?
Patrick Soderlund: I'm not going to comment on the sales because EA has an earnings report going out next week and we will unveil sales in that meeting. What I can say is the game didn't meet our quality expectations. In order to be successful in that space, we're going to have to have a game that is really, really strong.
Medal of Honor is to some extent judged harsher than it should be. The game is better than today's reviews are indicating.
Eurogamer: What would you have given it out of 10?
Patrick Soderlund: I'm not going to say a specific number. I'm proud of what the game is and proud of what the team did. I just think the market is obviously telling us they think the game is X. We need to convince the market we can make something they appreciate more, particularly to be able to compete.
We're looking at that clearly. We're taking that seriously. I'm not at all saying Medal of Honor is a failure. It is a successful reboot of that franchise. We're going to be strong in the future.
Eurogamer: What's next for Danger Close? Are they going to make another Medal of Honor next year?
Patrick Soderlund: I can't talk about that, either. I sound like a broken record!
Eurogamer: Is Danger Close at work on something?
Patrick Soderlund: Of course. Why not? Absolutely they're working on something.
Eurogamer: You don't want to give a developer eight months to make a game, so I assume Danger Close won't have eight months to make a new Medal of Honor.
Patrick Soderlund: No.
Eurogamer: Is there another developer working on the brand?
Patrick Soderlund: I can't comment. That's something you're going to have to wait until we announce whatever information we have on that brand.
Eurogamer: The PC version of Battlefield 1943 didn't happen. What's happening there?
Patrick Soderlund: We are obviously working on the PC platform and we'll be ready to talk about that shortly. You should see information around the PC platform in the not too distant future.
Eurogamer: So the message is the game is not dead?
Patrick Soderlund: We'll comment on it when we have information.
Eurogamer: How's development on Battlefield 3 going?
Patrick Soderlund: It's going well. I'm very happy with what we have and I'm really excited about showing it to the world because we have something that is going to be very, very cool.
Eurogamer: When will you show it?
Patrick Soderlund: You'll see. You'll know probably sooner than I will. You are going to be able to see it in the not too distant future. The marketing guys would kill me if I told you when.
Eurogamer: The Battlefield franchise now is massive. What's next for Bad Company?
Patrick Soderlund: Battlefield 3 will be seen as a true sequel to Battlefield 2. But considering the success of Bad Company, we haven't buried that at all. It's something we're looking at what to do with.
But right now we're focused on making the best possible game for consumers to enjoy, and that's obviously Battlefield 3.
Eurogamer: You've said to press you've got a small team working on Mirrors Edge 2. Can you give us an update on development?
Patrick Soderlund: Mirror's Edge is an IP that's close to my heart and EA's as well. It was a bold move from us. I'm proud we made it. It obviously didn't reach the commercial success we wanted, even though it wasn't bad at all.
I still think as a company we're going to talk about it when we're going to talk about it. What I can say is, we haven't buried it. We're absolutely continuing to support Mirror's Edge as an IP. When we're ready to talk about it, we'll talk about it.