This week Creative Director of the brilliance-machine that is Criterion Games, Alex Ward, noted that the studio most recently responsible for Need For Speed: Most Wanted was down to 16 people with one more on the way. What followed was the internet speculating about what was to become of the studio. Surely it’s the end of an era. You can’t possibly make games with 17 people, right? Ward then went into clarification mode, explaining in a tweet that “a small team where everyone focuses on gameplay first is better than 140 people. We have felt this way for years”.
Regardless of this very clear statement from Ward the internet continued to explode as forum posters began writing the eulogy for the studio, and I can see it now: “Criterion were great years ago, then Electronic Arts bought them and killed them. They sold out”.
Suddenly Criterion had become the ‘studio that was’. The dream was over. Forget them and move on. EA were folding them, they were going the way of Bullfrog, they were sh!t anyway. You name it the internet thought of it. All because of a reduction in staff. Of course not one month ago those same people were hailing the achievements of the Fullbright Company, the team of four responsible for indie-darling Gone Home.
There is no reason to think Criterion will falter where that team flourished.
It feels strange to be making this analogy but businesses are like governments, and as such with changes in priorities comes a change in strategy and a change in resourcing requirements. The ‘new’ Criterion is a task-force of the best of the best to move it onto its next big project. The Criterion of 2013 is the think tank, the brains, that will come up with the next industry defining feature. It takes one person to come up with an idea, only many to implement it. A current employee said on the genre-changing Autolog:
— Paul Allen Ross (@PompeyPaulRoss) September 15, 2013
The reality is Criterion will likely continue to be one of the high achievers of the industry. The minds behind some of the greatest games of the last decade, some of my favourite games, will have their names on credits of future games of the year. So let’s be better than this and give these guys the credit and benefit of the doubt they deserve because they have more than earned it.
In other words, internet, shut the f**k up.