Criterion Games creative director Alex Ward and studio director Fiona Sperry have decided to leave the studio, EA confirmed to Polygon today. Criterion's last released title was 2012's Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
"Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry have decided to leave EA," an EA spokesperson said. "We appreciate their many contributions through the years and wish them well in their future endeavors. The incredibly creative and talented team at Criterion are hard at work on a new project for next-gen consoles as new IP continues to be a major priority across EA. Matt Webster is leading development of the new game and the Criterion studio moving forward. Matt has been part of Criterion for years and has an exciting vision for this new game."
Work on the new IP was revealed after Criterion handed the Need for Speed franchise and most of its staff over to Need for Speed: Rivals developer Ghost Games. Three months ago, Ward said that Criterion was working on "something new" after slimming down to 15 employees.
"We would rather work a small team all focused on gameplay rather than a huge team split by discipline," Ward said at the time. "We didn't want to take on 50 people when they are not needed. Too many folks too soon dilutes solving gameplay problems. 15 of us retain the Criterion identity and work in a new location. We're fortunate to be part of a big organisation that curates and invests in new intellectual properties."
"It's completely our choice and by design," he added. "Small teams do way more these days. A small team where everyone focuses on gameplay first is better than 140 people. We have felt this way for years."
Neither Ward or Sperry are saying what happened, but Criterion's small team is now down two more people. The two departing developers have already tweeted about the beginning of a new studio, so perhaps there was some clash with EA over the direction of the new game.
"Just decided to start afresh and form a new games company with Fiona Sperry," tweeted Ward.
Criterion Games losing two talented people is sad, but I look forward to seeing what they can do on their own. Ward will also be writing a monthly column for Develop Magazine.