Criterion Games

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Criterion Games
Industry Computer and video games
Interactive entertainment
Founded 1993
Founder Alex Ward
Fiona Sperry
Headquarters Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
Key people
Matt Webster (General Manager and Executive Producer)
Alan McDairmant (Director of Product Development)
Steve Cuss (Senior Producer)
Alex Mole (Technical Director)
Products Chameleon
Burnout series (2001–10)
Need for Speed series (2010–13)
Number of employees
25 (2014)[1]
Parent Electronic Arts
Website Criterion Games

Criterion Games (officially called Criterion Software) is a British video game developer based in Guildford, Surrey that are best known for their work on the award-winning racing video game series Burnout and various Need for Speed games.


Criterion Software Ltd was created in 1993 to commercialise 3D graphics rendering technology. It was set up by David Lau-Kee and Adam Billyard within Canon's European Research Lab, before being spun out as a majority Canon-owned startup. Criterion Software was a technology company specialising in the development of the RenderWare family of middleware technology, including graphics, AI, audio and physics components. Originally Criterion Games was a division within Criterion Software, set up to develop games, using the Renderware engine, which would act as show cases as to what was possible with the platform. RenderWare is used in such games as Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which are developed by Rockstar North, and the successful Burnout series, developed in-house by Criterion Games.

In August 2004, Electronic Arts announced they had acquired Criterion Games and Criterion Software for a rumored GB£40 million, taking into account the purchase price and existing debt. This was followed by the release of Black, a first-person shooter set in Eastern Europe, to which they applied the action movie sensibilities characteristic of the Burnout series.

After the purchase, both Criterion and Electronic Arts declared that RenderWare would continue to be made available to third party customers. However, some clients decided it was too risky to rely on technology owned by a competitor. Electronic Arts has since withdrawn RenderWare from the commercial middleware market, although remnants are still used by internal developers.

In mid 2006, the company closed its Derby satellite office, making all of its programmers and support staff redundant. In early March 2007, Electronic Arts combined its Chertsey-based UK development studio and Criterion Games into a new building in central Guildford. Integration of the teams did not occur and the location housed two very separate development studios: Criterion Games and EA Bright Light before Bright Light was shut permanently in 2011. Despite being housed in the same building, Criterion Games still acts entirely independently from the rest of the Electronic Arts workforce located at Guildford.

On 14 June 2010, Criterion announced that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was set for release in November 2010.[2] The software utilizes a new game engine named Chameleon.[3] On 1 June 2012, Electronic Arts announced Criterion's second Need for Speed title, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, only a few days prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012, which was released on 30 October 2012.[4] At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012, Criterion Games announced that it had taken sole ownership of the Need for Speed franchise.[5]

On 28 April 2013, Alex Ward announced via Twitter that the studio is planning to steer away from its tradition in developing racing games and are instead focusing on other genres for future projects.[6] On 13 September 2013, Criterion elected to cut its staff numbers to 17 people total, as 80% (70 people) of the studio moved over to Ghost Games UK to work with Need for Speed games.[7][8]

On 3 January 2014, it was announced that co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry have left Criterion to found a new studio,[9] Three Fields Entertainment. Their first game Dangerous Golf, slated for release in May 2016, combined ideas from Burnout and Black and is to lead them throws a spiritual successor to Burnout.[10]

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014, the company announced a new racing project. However, the project was cancelled as Criterion is now focusing on providing additional support to other EA studios in creating future Star Wars games. Criterion is now working on Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission, a new virtual reality mission for Star Wars Battlefront.[11]

In June 2015, news site Nintendo Life reveals that in early 2011 Nintendo of Europe approached Criterion to work on a pitch for a new F-Zero game which they hoped to unveil at E3 that same year alongside the then-unreleased Wii U console, and potentially release the game during the console's launch period. However, the developer was unable to handle the pitch as, at the time, they devoted much of their resources into the development of Need for Speed: Most Wanted for multiple platforms. The site was tipped by an anonymous, yet "reliable" source, but they had confirmed this information when Criterion co-founder Alex Ward (who left the company in 2014) admitted that Nintendo of Europe did indeed approach the company for a potential F-Zero game on the Wii U.[12] Alex Ward also noted on Twitter that Criterion was also offered the opportunity to work on the first Forza, Mad Max, a Vauxhall only racer, a Command & Conquer first-person shooter and a Gone in 60 Seconds game.[13]

Games developed[edit]

Year Game Platform(s)
1996 Scorched Planet Microsoft Windows
1997 SpeedBoat Attack
Sub Culture
1998 Redline Racer
1999 TrickStyle Dreamcast, Microsoft Windows
Suzuki Alstare Racing
2000 Deep Fighter
2001 AirBlade PlayStation 2
Burnout PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox
2002 Burnout 2: Point of Impact
2004 Burnout 3: Takedown PlayStation 2, Xbox
2005 Burnout Legends PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS
Burnout Revenge PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360
2006 Black PlayStation 2, Xbox
2008 Burnout Paradise PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
2010 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
2011 Burnout Crash! PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS
2012 Need for Speed: Most Wanted Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Wii U
2013 Need for Speed: Rivals[14] Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
2015 Battlefield Hardline[15]
TBA Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission[16] PlayStation VR


  1. ^ Robinson, Martin (17 July 2014). "What's going on at Criterion?". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Electronic Arts revs up new Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit". GameSpot. 14 June 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Tech Interview: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit". Eurogamer. 31 July 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Most Wanted is out today". Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Criterion Takes Over Entire Need For Speed Series". Game Informer. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Criterion Games not planning new a 'Need For Speed' or 'Burnout'". Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Criterion Games staff reduced to 17 as 60-65 people move over to Ghost Games". 
  8. ^ Scamell, David. "The Ghost Of Criterions past.". 
  9. ^ Crecente, Brian (3 January 2014). "Co-founders of Criterion Games, creators of Burnout, leave studio [update]". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  10. ^ Wawro, Alex (26 January 2016). "'You've got to make something that you love' - Designing Dangerous Golf". Gamasutra. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  11. ^ Makuch, Eddie (21 June 2016). "Burnout Dev's Extreme Sports Game Canceled and Here's Why". GameSpot. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  12. ^ Robertson, Liam (23 June 2015). "Exclusive: We Almost Got A Wii U F-Zero Created By Burnout Studio Criterion". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Phillips, Tom (23 June 2015). "Nintendo asked Burnout dev to make Wii U F-Zero". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Need for Speed Rivals Speeds to Xbox One, PS4 and Current Gen This November". Joystiq. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  15. ^ McMurtrie, James (25 March 2015). "We asked a player with 800 hours of Battlefield experience to review Hardline. This is what he had to say". Financial Post. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  16. ^ Dunning, Jason (12 June 2016). "E3 2016 – Criterion Working on the Star Wars Battlefront VR Mission for PlayStation VR". PlayStation LifeStyle. Retrieved 12 June 2016. 

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