What will EA do to save their failing franchise
1991 was a big year for Electronic Arts, purchasing Distinctive Software (the company originally credited with beginning the "Test Drive" series) for $11 million USD, a decision that would ultimately lead the gaming developer to sell over an estimated 150 million copies worldwide making it the most successful racing franchise of all time. The Need For Speed came out in 1994 on 3DO under EA Canada (Distinctive Software was renamed) and later came out in 1995 on PC (running in DOS mode) and 1996 on the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. EA Canada continued to produce NFS games until 2002 when EA Black Box had their release of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2; Hot Pursuit 2 changed the shift from realistic styled racing to more arcade, by ditching the interior view and by ramming other racers to stop them when playing as a cop.
And then 2003 happened...
November 17th, 2003 became a focus point in the history of the Need For Speed franchise; the launch of Need For Speed: Underground by EA Black Box would change the focus of the franchise forever and is the defining point where the fans of Need For Speed split in two, forever. Long gone were the days of isolated circuits and interior cockpit viewpoint, Underground proposed a new style of racing game, something called "open world". Alongside the new open world city, was a story line told in pre-rendered videos, another first for the franchise. The game capitalized on the success of Fast and the Furious, implementing street racing with tuner cars and the ability to customize them visually and mechanically. The trend of car customization and street racing continued until 2009 when a brand new Developer called Slightly Mad Studios took Need For Speed in an entirely different direction. Need For Speed: Shift released on September 15th, 2009 and was focused on a more authentic, simulation experience; real tracks were added and the cockpit view made a triumphant return, thus bringing back many loyal fans of the original NFS games.
New iterations of the series have come out on a yearly basis, much the same attitude as Call of Duty... and this has produced quite the problem. A sharp decline in sales has had the publisher set the series to Ghost Games - which consists of many members of the Criterion team. The reviews for the games have been above average but it appears that the series has dropped into a mediocre status among fans, who give the games much lower scores than the media. Rumours have circulated regarding Ghost rebooting the "Underground" games in 2014, with a return to a start of lower tier cars and full car customization. What we do know, is that with Need For Speed coming to theatres on March 14th, 2014, Electronic Arts is looking to expand and revive the gaming franchise in a very, very big way. No matter the future of the series, it has changed racing games forever and has been with us for 20 years. Love it or hate it (or both) it will leave a lasting impression upon gamers and has left it's mark upon the gaming industry to stand the test of time.
*NFS Underground 3 image by gyroxopex.deviantart.com
[gallery size=gallery-thumbnail" itemtag="div" icontag="span" link="file" ids="2502,2503,2504]