EA’s Codemasters takeover could see Need for Speed: Shift return
NFS’ sim racing series can come back under Codies’ new owners but what exactly would it look like?
EA’s takeover of Codemasters appears to be going ahead. With the Codies’ shareholders voting in favour of the move last week, it looks inevitable.
We’ve been pondering what games made by Codemasters will look like with EA. EA’s biggest racing franchise is Need for Speed, and Codemasters already make some of the best racing games around.
So, it would make sense for EA to consider passing NFS to Codies, but what would this look like?
Slightly Mad Studios & Shift
Slightly Mad Studios was founded in 2009 and their first game was Need for Speed: Shift in the same year. EA never owned Slightly Mad, they contracted Slightly Mad to develop the Shift series, and the American giants distributed it.
This is the same system that EA have used for almost every NFS game throughout the series’ existence.
While Shift and Shift 2 didn’t match those giants of the sim world, they did sell well and received plaudits from the fans and critics.
Later on, Slightly Mad Studios created the Project CARS series, producing three titles under this name. Project CARS 3 has been said to be the “spiritual successor to NFS Shift 2”.
And Who owned Slightly Mad when PC3 was released? None other than Codemasters themselves.
Shift could never return as things are now, as EA own the licencing for the series but Codemasters own Slightly Mad. When EA complete their takeover, though, the situation will be simpler.
Tale of two developers
The most recent main Need for Speed entry was Heat in 2019. Heat was a decent game, but years of the series being average ended Ghost Games’ NFS contract with EA.
This led EA to bring back Criterion as developers for NFS for their rumoured 2021 title. Criterion has experience in developing NFS titles too, having been onboard for Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted, and Rivals.
Before that, Criterion developed the Burnout series, also under the stewardship of EA.
There’s no way that EA will kick Criterion off NFS when they complete the Codemasters takeover. Criterion specialise in arcade racers, while Codies and Slightly Mad are more experienced in developing racing sims.
In theory, Codies could develop a more conventional arcade NFS, but this is doubtful as EA will want them to stick to what they’re good at.
NFS 2021 will be developed by Criterion, that’s been agreed for some time now. Going forward though, we could see Shift 3 be released in 2023 either by Slightly Mad or Codies.
What could happen is that NFS returns to being released annually, with Criterion and Codemasters swapping duties each year. This allows more time to be spent on each game and quality to remain high.
This has worked wonders for series like Call of Duty, where Activision alternates the developer between Treyarch, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer each year.
What will Shift 3 be like?
The last Shift title, Shift 2: Unleashed, was released ten years ago. Needless to say, a lot has changed in this time.
Shift 3 would be released on the next-gen consoles and make full use of the PS5’s DualSense controller’s haptic feedback.
Codemasters and Slightly Mad Studios should galvanise the teams behind the GRID and Project CARS series to create Shift 3.
Shift 3 should combine the sim elements of PC1 and PC2 as well as the more arcade elements of GRID, such as the game’s “Nemesis” feature.
Nemesis mode meant you formed rivalries with the AI depending on who you banged wheels with. This really helped to humanise the computer-controller cars, something we haven’t seen anywhere else.
Shift 3 shouldn’t be as sim-orientated as Forza and GT, but more like the official F1 games that have some more arcade elements.
Perhaps Shift 3 could even incorporate free-roaming elements like the Forza Horizon series.
Maybe there will be a new sim series entirely that Codemasters will create under EA, but there’s definitely potential for Shift to be revived.