Criterion Games (Officially called Criterion Software) is a Guildford, England based video game developer. It is best known for its work on the award-winning, multi-platform Burnout series, the PS2 and Xbox first-person shooter Black, and the RenderWare middleware game engine, created by Criterion Software.
Criterion Software Ltd was created to commercialise 3D graphics rendering technology. It was set up by David Lau-Kee and Adam Billyard within Canon's European Research Lab, before being spun out as a majority Canon-owned startup. Criterion Software is a game company specialising in the development of the RenderWare family of middleware technology, including graphics, AI, audio and physics components. RenderWare is used in such games as Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which are developed by Rockstar Games, and the successful Burnout series, developed in house by Criterion Games.
In August 2004, Electronic Arts announced they had acquired Criterion Games and Criterion Software for a rumoured £40 million, taking into account the purchase price and existing debt. This was followed by the release of Black, a first-person shooter set in Eastern Europe, to which they applied the action movie sensibilities characteristic of the Burnout series.
After the purchase, both Criterion and EA declared that RenderWare would continue to be made available to third party customers. However, some clients decided it was too risky to rely on technology owned by a competitor. EA has since withdrawn RenderWare from the commercial middleware market, although it is increasingly used by EA's internal developers.
In the summer of 2006, the company closed its Derby satellite office, making all its programmers and support staff redundant. In early March 2007, EA combined its Chertsey-based UK development studio and Criterion Games to a new building in central Guildford, creating a single studio that now has approximately 500 full-time developers.