This year's Need for Speed game is a "full reboot" of the iconic racing series, and is due to launch this fall for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, developer Ghost Games announced today, following numerous teases. Ghost isn't sharing much in the way of specifics about the game (look for more at E3, general manager Marcus Nilsson tells GameSpot), but the studio has shared a teaser trailer.
What we do now know are high-level points about the new Need for Speed game. First, the game (which is inspired by the Underground series but doesn't have a name yet) will be an open-world, day-to-night racer featuring "deep customization," car culture by way of a partnership with EA's own Speedhunters, and even an "immersive narrative" that Ghost says will pull players through the game.
We recently had a chance to speak with Nilsson about the new Need for Speed game. Among other things, he talked about how an extra year of development benefited the game, the pressure he feels working on such an iconic series, and why story -- yes, story -- will play a major role in the new title.
The extra year
2014 was the first year in a decade that EA did not release a new, core Need for Speed game. Ghost used the extra development time to think about what the franchise really stands for, and that took time.
"Need for Speed needs to understand what it really is," Nilsson told GameSpot. "What are the core values of the brand, what are the types of experiences that we want to give to gamers? And sometimes it can be hard to do that when you have different development teams in different parts of the world. So the theory, or the strategy, for us was to become the owners of Need for Speed."
After Ghost was finished with Xbox One and PS4 launch title Need for Speed Rivals, the studio formulated an idea for a "very specific game."
"To build that specific game, we needed time and needed to understand from fans: what is the type of game you want us to build?" Nilsson said. "So what we've been doing in this year off is we've been trying to understand what people think Need for Speed should be standing for."
The end result of spending an extra year on development is a better overall product, Nilsson says.
"What people get from this year that we didn't ship a game, is they get a game that delivers on all the core tenets of what Need for Speed should be. And they get that in a very high quality form," he explained.
Need for Speed is one of the most iconic video game franchises in all of gaming. It's been around for two decades and even recently spawned a major blockbuster starring "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul. Given the weight of working on such a massive media property, you might think Nilsson was feeling some pressure.
"Not really, if I'm perfectly honest with you. Need for Speed, 10 years ago, sold a lot more copies than it sells now," Nilsson said. "Which means we have a lot of room to move up. We have a global, known brand; it's strong. But I think we have a lot of upside for this franchise based upon getting our details and information and features in order. I don't feel pressure by it. I feel humbled to be associated with it."
The missing piece: Story
Need for Speed games are known for their white-knuckle action and lovely visuals, not usually story. But the new Need for Speed, surprisingly, will place a major emphasis on narrative. Nilsson says more details on the game's "innovative" story will be revealed later, but he shared some thoughts on how a strong story could make all the difference in helping revitalize the Need for Speed brand.
"We are taking a very innovative approach to how we tell a story. That's actually probably as much as I can say at this time," Nilsson explained. "If you just go back three years with Need for Speed: The Run, there were stories in Need for Speed. Absolutely not the best executed stories. But we had stories. And I think a missing piece from the last games we had has been narrative. I think we can deliver a better game to our fans if we connect to them emotionally through story."
Nilsson also stressed that the new Need for Speed will advance the seamless online mode from Rivals, AllDrive, offering players a range of new tools to help them start playing with friends and groups.
"We're doing a lot more with that now," Nilsson said about the new Need for Speed's online mode.
In the single-player story, other people can enter your game and interact with you. "So it creates a very almost distraction-based gameplay for you as you play in this world," he said.
Standing out in an increasingly crowded racing genre
"Quite clearly, there's more interest in the genre. I've seen some numbers from the industry saying it's growing again. I quite frankly think that as we move to new consoles, new games try new ways...even if it's just pushing graphics, or pushing more polygons, or better physics in the cars," Nilsson said. "You can give more to the user on these more powerful hardware consoles. Having said that, I think each game will have to find its niche and it's more about quality execution than ever. So you need to be able to deliver really high quality, because of the competition we now have, which is far more than just games. TV, Facebook, whatever it is. But I am very happy to see more energy and interest in the racing genre."
Ghost Games, based in Sweden, is a subsidiary of EA. More information about the game will be announced during EA's E3 briefing, which is scheduled for Monday, June 15, at 1 p.m. PDT.