EA used to catch a lot of flak for putting out annual iterations of their core franchises. One could argue that people still hold the publisher in contempt for annual releases, but I would argue back that they have improved how they handle annual releases. One of those improvements came in the form of the Need for Speed franchise, but it might be going back to how it used to be.
EA has always put out a new Need for Speed game ever year, but they increased the quality of the games by putting two different developers on the franchise with the games being made by both studios alternating release every other year. Criterion Games, developer of the Burnout franchise, jumped behind the wheel of the Need for Speed franchise in 2010 with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. The studio revealed that they would be making this year's Need for Speed: Most Wanted. It seems that from here on out, they will be in charge of every game in the franchise.
Speaking to Game Informer, Criterion Vice President Alex Ward said that his studio would be taking over the entire franchise. He said that fans shouldn't be worried about the annual releases for the franchise now that they're involved.
"Going forward now, with Most Wanted and what we'll do in the future [will have], shall we say, a strong Criterion involvement. I'm personally involved in how the cars drive, how the game will play out, how connected they are, and what the features are."
It would appear that Criterion will not be outright developing every title, but they will definitely be in charge. Ward said that the studio now gets to choose which Need for Speed title comes out each year. It's a good move considering that Criterion knows racing games better than anybody else in the genre. With Criterion in charge, we might be able to avoid games like Need for Speed: The Run. With the studio revisiting the excellent Most Wanted brand this year, I think we can safely assume that the franchise is in good hands.
Of course, people are going to be obviously concerned about the future of the Burnout franchise. Criterion's flagship racing game has not seen a new release since 2008's Burnout Paradise. Need for Speed: Most Wanted has been seen as as a remake of Paradise, but it lacks the focus on crashes and high-speed arcade racing that the original series was known for. Ward says that the studio definitely hasn't forgotten Burnout, but that something "big" will have to happen before they will do something. Perhaps the next generation of consoles will see a proper return for the excellent Burnout franchise. We can only hope.
Here's the first trailer for this year's Need for Speed: Most Wanted: