EA has admitted that the decline in both sales and quality of the Need for Speed franchise was its own fault - for overworking one of its studios.
EA's John Riccitiello declared that the firm sent Vancouver studio Black Box on a "death march" between 2004 and 2007 - when its team was expected to work "24 hours a day".
Black box created NFS titles including Most Wanted, Carbon and ProStreet in the period.
However, Riccitiello said there was better news coming from this year's NFS: Hot Pursuit - due for release on 360, PS3 and PC in November - as the publisher had now sorted out its previously gruelling work schedule.
"I'll tell you a story," Riccitiello told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2010 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference. "If you went back to when I first got into the games industry, 1997, Need For Speed was a really strong title.
"I'd come into EA just after we'd shipped a couple of relatively miserable ones. Our Need For Speed business was off... dramatically. We came up with this idea of putting a cop in the game. Suddenly this whole cat and mouse, cops and chasing thing blew the roof off.
"We had several consecutive years of growth. We reached a bit of a lull period and came up with Underground which has sort of that night-time vibe and lightning which brought it to new heights - north of 10 million units for the franchise.
He added: "In the '04 to '07 period, we had a single studio, Black Box, up in Vancouver, building our [NFS games]. And we literally had them on a death march building for five years in a row. [They were] annual iterations, they had to put it out; no rest for the weary.
"It'd happened before - games publishers do this from time to time. We should have put them on two-year alternating cycles but we didn't. And the title declined dramatically. We started to lose people. they didn't want to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
"It was definitely our fault. Those days are gone. We're back in two studios and we've got them on bi-annual cycles. We made really great progress... with a strong entry last year, which was more of a simulation game.
"This year [with Hot Pursuit, NFS] is right back in the core action driving... it's had a two-year dev cycle... I feel great about it."