Mega-publisher Electronic Arts holds the rights to some of the world’s most successful videogame series. One of their oldest and most iconic, “Need For Speed,” has always been top of mind when one thinks of racing titles, but the series’ popularity has sunk as new entrants invade the scene. Now, it seems like EA is ready to get back in the game, by going back to its most beloved formula.
Enter “Need For Speed 2015,” as it’s currently being called. EA released a teaser trailer ahead of E3 2015 showing off about 20 seconds of in-game footage, dominated by street racers and police officers in hot pursuit.
The racers have customized cars, with parts from some of today’s popular tuning companies like RWB and RocketBunny, and are making a getaway at night time. All of this together, combined with EA’s official classification for this game -- “reboot” -- suggests that EA will be giving us a new “Underground” title. This is a very, very good thing.
This is your ONE WEEK warning to E3, new trailer incoming! pic.twitter.com/miBsdrYweE
— Need for Speed (@NeedforSpeed) June 8, 2015
While EA has become a massive company with a seemingly unlimited budget for games, the Need For Speed titles it has published in recent years have been disappointing commercially. The last release, 2013’s “Need For Speed Rivals,” sold around 4 million copies. While that is generally a laudable market performance, it pales in comparison to the height of the series. From 2003 to 2005, EA released two games, showcases of then-current street tuner culture: "Need For Speed Underground" and "Need For Speed Underground 2". Instead of focusing on the fanciest, most expensive cars, EA and developer Black Box featured the same cars that enthusiasts were driving and gave players a city to explore at night.
The two Underground titles sold over 22 million copies, each selling about an equal 11 million. Those numbers are monumental -- to put that into perspective, one of the most popular games in recent memory, "Destiny", has sold about 10 million physical copies (though publisher Activision claims that 16 million unique players have accessed the game). If EA can harness the same magic they did over a decade ago and take cues from some other fan-favorites, the Need For Speed franchise might be at the forefront of car culture once more.
Need For Speed In Car Culture
The Underground series was wildly successful for a variety of reasons, chief among them is its status as a portrayal of car culture. Underground and Underground 2 came fresh off the heels of the original "Fast & Furious" and "2Fast 2Furious", which introduced the idea of American street racing culture to the masses. In the Underground series, gamers could drive and customize the same cars they saw in the movies, be the street racer flying through city in the middle of the night to a killer soundtrack. Outrageous body kits, tuning company stickers, and vinyl graphics were everywhere; the games encapsulated a lot of what current car culture was -- and that resonated with consumers of racing games.
Subsequent Need For Speed titles flirted with both open-world environments akin to Underground's ("Carbon", "Most Wanted", etc.) and track-focused ("Shift", "ProStreet", etc.) but nothing’s ever stuck with gamers quite as strongly (though the original Most Wanted is a personal favorite). This new reboot of the franchise, developed by Swedish developer Ghost Games, if the cars and environment in the trailer are anything to go on, will be much in the same spirit as the Underground series -- something Need For Speed fans have wanted for years.
If EA and Ghost Games can capture that same feeling of current car culture, with a library of endlessly customizable, popular machines, all within a memorable city at night, Need For Speed may just recapture the success it once had. The newest Need For Speed will launch on PS4, XB1, and PC. EA has yet to announce a release date.