What is going on at Criterion? A speculative guide

Yesterday, Criterion showcased its top secret new project to EA’s new CEO, Andrew Wilson.

No-one outside the studio exactly what it is, but we do know it’s certainly not a new Burnout or another shooter, like PS2 title Black; the ‘new‘ Criterion is smaller (currently just 17 people), developing something entirely new and working “in a totally different way”.

It has become EA’s own game ideas incubator, and Criterion staff now refer to each other as Team Zero – the vast majority of the people at old Criterion having moved on to work at Ghost, on Need For Speed Rivals. It is fully future-facing – next gen consoles don’t appear to be part of its thinking – and it intends to release smaller games more regularly. It wants its games to reach the widest audience possible – that potentiually means mobile and free-to-play. It is prototyping new game ideas in Unity, and could use DICE’s Frostbite engine for its next game. It’s also fascinated by new tech; staffers love the potential of Kinect and have been playing around with Oculus Rift. Its forthcoming projects will be digital-only, socially connected and dynamic – scripted in-game events are considered old hat. We could see the fruits of this new way of working next year, and certainly won’t see anything in 2013.

That is, at least, the sum of what we can ascertain from a little internet detective work. Criterion’s parent company EA has been in media blackout mode on what the studio is doing next, so it falls to Criterion staffers’ Twitter accounts to fill in the blanks. This is what we can glean from the tweets of creative director Alex Ward, studio director Fiona Sperry, and others at the ‘new’ studio.

It was Criterion’s choice to start again, and it has EA’s full backing

It held a gamejam in February to get the creative juices flowing

Next-gen consoles don’t quite feel new enough

The future is digital and multiplayer

The studio pitched its ideas to EA management in April for funding

Criterion has been playing around with Oculus Rift

Free-to-play is the future

We might see something in 2014

The new game won’t have guns in it

Small is good

Its new game won’t be on Vita, but might be on mobile

It wants to release its work more regularly – that means smaller games

It is prototyping projects in Unity

It could use the Frostbite engine for its next game

The future is free, dynamic and connected

EA and Criterion declined to contribute to this article.