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.