Need for Speed: Shift 2, Black Box-developed NFS both hinted for 2011

A pair of LinkedIn profiles suggests that at least two Need for Speed titles will be released next year. According to the profile page of programmer Chris Mcclure, he was at NFS: Shift developer Sightly Mad Studios from August 2009 – February 2010 where he "worked on new open world technology but also worked on Need For Speed Shift too." Cleverly, Mcclure altered this statement today from "... but also worked on Need For Speed Shift 2" after his apparent reveal was spotted by superannuation (and preserved by Google's cache).

The original Shift was released in September 2009, and if Mcclure is covering his tracks, then a sequel was likely underway as work on the first game wrapped, which would allow roughly the minimum development time necessary to release Shift 2 some time during the first quarter of 2011. Recall that in February, during an earnings call, EA dated a Need for Speed game for that period. COO John Schappert described the unnamed iteration as "another big driving simulation" (Conference Call Script [PDF]). "Need For Speed: Shift 2" would be a good fit for that description and time frame.

This brings us to the LinkedIn résumé of Rees Savidis, a writer and assistant producer at EA. Savidis notes, "Recently, I've worked on world concepts and narrative fiction for a new IP at Electronic Arts Blackbox and helped to develop the fiction and characters for the 2011 instalment [sic] in the AAA 'Need For Speed' franchise." Savidis seems to indicate that Black Box is developing a new story-driven version of Need for Speed due out next year, which is unlikely to be the "simulation" installment pegged for Q1. (The franchise has steered clear of the street racer plot line since 2008's Undercover, traversing a sort of reboot effort that has lead to the Shift sim, the casual crack-up Nitro and the soon to be launched Need for Speed: World MMO; along with Criterion's Hot Pursuit effort coming this November.)

While Black Box has a hand in a few of these new iterations, especially World, the team was given "an extended development window," as stated by EA marketing VP Keith Munro in a January 2009 GameSpot interview, "so that their next Need for Speed action game could really blow the doors off the category." Assuming that Black Box's next Need for Speed is going to be the franchise's key holiday 2011 installment, then that would be a generous three-year development cycle since the release of the developer's Undercover entry. At the least, it's plenty of time to choose the right name.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.