Feature: Need for Speed Shifts into Second Gear

By David Radd

Posted March 11, 2011



The first Need for Speed: Shift was a significant entry for the franchise, marking a change towards realistic racing generally not seen in the series before that. It also scratched a particular itch for simulation driver fans before the release of Gran Turismo 5. Now Sony's venerable series is here, Shift 2: Unleashed looks to take it head on with more cars, more types of races and more online features. We talked with Andrew Hahn, Community Manager at Electronic Arts, about marketing Shift 2: Unleashed.

[a]list: How were you looking to highlight that Shift 2 was a different sort of experience than most NFS titles?

Andrew Hahn: Shift is the realization of plans discussed for NFS over the last 3 years. A single yearly design was not satisfying our own interests to explore automotive culture in all its facets. We knew that racing as a genre was as varied as Mario Kart to Gran Turismo. Fans of ours have grown up with NFS over 16 years; their interests have matured, in some cases towards hardcore motorsports. To create something in the spirit of NFS - a design based on the experience of being a race driver, is a tenet of NFS.

[a]list: How important was Autolog to the overall package of Shift 2?

Andrew Hahn: Autolog is now franchise DNA and is a key feature to all NFS designs. Online competition has always been popular amongst our community of fans. This collection of social features is now combined into one nerve-center, serving up Recommendations based on favorites, and direct challenges via the Speedwall. Regional as well as global leaderboards presented during load screens is a key aspect of bringing personal competition to our racing games.

[a]list: Was there a particular progression of features you were hoping to show with the trailers to Shift 2?

Andrew Hahn: It's been important for us to differentiate Shift from NFS designs in Arcade and Action, as well as other simulation games. The assets being released are meant to show how the overall design is now in direct competition with the best simulation games; how powerful the physics simulator is that SMS has created to power Shift; how much progress is featured in Shift 2 over its predecessor.

[a]list: How did EA try to get the attention of fans of the Gran Turismo and Forza series?

Andrew Hahn: We felt that launching a multi-disciplinary motorsport team that competed in events around the globe was a good first step. We use these expert drivers and first-hand experiences to educate our designs. By participating in real world automotive culture visa-a-vi our vehicle designs, our game designs were better informed in the construct, physics, and aural qualities. A great byproduct has been the communities use of Forza's visual customization to meticulously model our Team NFS cars in their game. In one instance our own NFS liveried BMW GT3 Z4 ran in Gran Turismo's 24hr Nurburgring race, and was then modeled in Forza's own game - two competing products featured in the third due to real world circumstance. Tres chouette!

[a]list: What can we expect from the TV ads for the game?

Andrew Hahn: Like many of the online trailers we’ve already released, our TV ads are will be aimed at presenting the game for what it is, a true-to-life motorsport experience and the best racing simulator.

[a]list: Talk to me about the reception to the “Play a Pro" sweekstakes.

Andrew Hahn: We received over 5000 entries in the first week alone so it’s quite popular. What’s been great about this contest is that we’re seeing entries from a variety of audiences; everyone from gamers to pure motorsport enthusiasts. Not that this wasn’t expected, we wanted to provide a prize that would draw in many different audiences. Who wouldn’t jump at a chance to race against a real world driver in Shift 2: Unleashed?

[a]list: What's the reception been like to the announced pre-order Limited-edition?

Andrew Hahn: With so many games available for pre-order these days it’s tough to get someone to pre-order your game over another. However, the pre-order offer available for Shift 2: Unleashed is very strong with three exclusive cars (the Nissan Silvia spec.R Aero (S15), the Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV, and the Lamborghini Murciélago LP640) and 40 unique career events. Gamers seem to feel the same as we do because a lot of people are pre-ordering and a lot of people are expressing their excitement for the game across all of Need for Speed’s social media sites.

[a]list: Andrew, thanks.

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