GameSpot reports that despite recent mass layoffs at EA Black Box, Electronic Arts trifurcating its street racing franchise into trio of new properties: the MMOG NFS World Online, the Nintendo-only NFS: Nitro, and NFS: Shift for the PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, and PC:
Indeed, not only will the street-racing series carry on, it will be expanded and split into three different franchises. The first, Need for Speed Shift, is a hardcore racing simulation in the works for the PC, PSP, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It is being developed by a hybrid team of internal and external developers in the UK, including Black Box executive producer Michael Mann and EA Games Europe senior vice president--and Digital Illusions CE co-founder--Patrick Soderlund. The outside help comes from Slightly Mad Studios, which was co-founded earlier this month by former GT Legends developer Ian Bell.
The second NFS franchise to rise from Black Box's ashes is Need for Speed Nitro (working title), an arcade racer being crafted by the Boogie-makers at EA Montreal. Set for release exclusively on the Wii and DS, the game will sport a "unique visual style" and, like Need for Speed Shift, will sport many real-world automotive licenses. Also like Shift, it will ship out in North American this fall.
Finally, six years after EA shut down its first car-based massively multiplayer game, Motor City Online, the publisher is backing the auto MMOG genre out of the garage again. Jointly developed by Black Box and EA Shanghai, Need for Speed World Online is a PC only, free-to-play title set to launch in Asia this coming summer. A North American release is scheduled for "winter 2009," which could potentially mean an early 2010 release.
Gamespot also has posted an interview with Keith Munro, Electronic Arts' vice president of marketing:
GS: Shift development is being overseen by EA Games SVP Europe Patrick Soderlund and EA Black Box's Michael Mann--where is it being developed?
KM: Shift is being developed in the UK by a collaborative team including Slightly Mad Studios, senior vice president Patrick Soderlund from EA Games Europe, and exec producer Mike Mann from Black Box. Slightly Mad Studios includes developers that worked on highly acclaimed PC simulation racing titles GT Legends and GTR 2.
GS: You say the game is "built by racers for racers." Does that mean this game will be EA"s Gran Turismo or Forza?
KM: There are a couple of levels to this. First, we have a number of people working on Shift that have real racing and motorsport backgrounds. We'll get into more details on this later, but as an example Patrick Soderlund is a driver and part of the racing team that recently competed in the 4th edition of the Toyo Tires 24H Dubai 2009, the first major race event of the year. His team ranked 5th in this high-profile race. He is very passionate about and committed to bringing the on-the-track experience to players around the world.
Second, regarding other games in the sim racing genre. We see Shift joining the ranks of the world's top simulation racing games with authentic cars and tracks but it definitely offers its own signature look and feel. Shift represents the true driver's experience. Traditional simulation driving games tend to focus on replicating a car's performance, Shift moves beyond that by combining a players unique driving style with accurately modeled cars to really drive home what it feels like to be behind the wheel.
We're also bringing the built-by-racers authenticity via core technology. Need for Speed is renowned for capturing speed and a unique style of racing, Shift continues that through an all-new sophisticated visual interface. For example, there is a three-dimensional HUD that mimics driver head movement, inertia and G-forces. The depth of field also adjusts based on the speed of the car; so when the car is travelling at high speeds the perspective will shift to the distance putting the car/****pit out of focus.
And we're bringing a brand new perspective to the action with a ****pit view. This view highlights the authenticity and lavish detail on the vehicles and provides a more realistic and immersive vantage point of the action. This 'first-person mode' also comes with a free-look camera on the right thumbstick so the player can really appreciate their surroundings and also get the low-down on their on-track competition.
EA lost their ****ing mind