It would appear that Electronic Arts is not putting the Need For Speed franchise out to pasture after all, as there's word of three — count 'em — three new entries in the franchise currently in development (or maybe four if extra comments are to be believed) set for release later this year. While my Speed-loving co-worker cringed at this when I first told him the news, I think that EA is being smart about regrouping the franchise. Previous Speed titles were flung across all of the consoles, meaning that the game could not be too technically advanced so as to not play properly on the weakest available hardware. We know all too well the pain of seeing a game designed with, say, the Sony PlayStation 3 in mind stripped down for an appearance on the Nintendo Wii. Now each new game is aimed at specific console technology, meaning that the developers can build the experience to make the most of the target hardware's strengths. Joystiq has the breakdown:
- Need for Speed: Shift (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PSP) -- A "hardcore racing simulation" overseen by Black Box executive producer Michael Mann, and Patrick Soderlund, the co-founder of DICE and current senior vice president of EA Games Europe. External developer Slightly Mad Studios will be responsible for putting a realistic spin on the franchise.
- Need for Speed: Nitro (Wii, DS) -- As you might expect, this one will feature a "unique visual style," courtesy of EA Montreal. Nitro promises to take full advantage of the unique controls on offer for both platforms, but without sacrificing depth. According to Munro, "We do not want to fall into the trap of creating a 'Need for Speed Lite.'"
- Need for Speed: World Online (PC) -- Jointly developed by Black Box and EA Shanghai, this free-to-play online racer is set to launch in Asia this Summer, with a North American release slated for next Winter.
Now the powerhouse consoles can host the core racing enthusiasts while the Nintendo systems offer up casual-based fun for the whole family. Hopefully this will please both audiences, and if it means that we'll never have to suffer through another half-assed watered-down Need For Speed title shoehorned into the Nintendo Wii, then all the better. That PC-exclusive game is the odd one out here, but it sounds as if it's meant more for the Asian markets with other regions brought in as an afterthought. As for that fourth mystery title, my wild guess is something destined for either the Sony PlayStation Network and Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade or Nintendo WiiWare as a downloadable title.