Some of my favorite childhood memories involve me playing Burnout at a friend’s house or Crash Bandicoot all on my lonesome. The developers behind the most recent entries for both series have more in common than you may think, too. They’re both now support studios for rival FPS games.
EA Entertainment announced yesterday that it was welcoming Burnout developer Criterion to the family. Criterion has been owned by EA since 2004 but was under its Sports umbrella. Unfortunately, the Entertainment family business is Battlefield, and the racing studio will now be “dedicated to ushering in a new era for the franchise.” This is terrible news.
We keep seeing successful studios be rewarded for their efforts by being swallowed up by larger companies and turned into support on live-service, flagship franchises. Toys For Bob, developer of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remaster trilogies, and the original Crash Bandicoot 4, is now one of the billion studios working on Call of Duty. How does that make any sense?
Video games are absurdly expensive and take years to make, so one flop can shut down a studio, meaning even the biggest don’t want to take risks anymore. Just look at Callisto Protocol. It was met with middling reviews and sold two million copies, well short of publisher Krafton’s five million expectation, and now creator Glen Schofield has stepped down as the CEO of the studio he founded to make the game, along with a handful of other execs.
Need For Speed Unbound, the most recent NFS game developed by Criterion, is the best the series has been in a decade, but it’s still not enough. Criterion is being shipped off to work on Battlefield, a series that hasn’t had a great entry since Battlefield 3.
This industry is punishing success and creativity by forcing talented developers to feed the live-service machine of juggernaut FPS games. I’m sure there are plenty of devs working on CoD and Battlefield who love what they do, but I’d rather have more memories of slamming my mate’s car to pieces or collecting wumpa fruit than another Warzone operator skin.