If there’s any lesson to take from the rocky existence of the WWE, it’s that competition is good for business. That same lesson applies to the WWE’s line of popular video games produced by 2K studios. 2K annually pump out new editions of the franchise, relying on the continuity of the fanbase purchasing a copy each year despite the very little changes made to keep the series feeling fresh. Senior VP and Producer at Yuke’s, Hiromi Furuta, admitted to the developers “losing sight of their passion and confidence”, failing to provide fans with something innovative enough to bring them back for another year on the trot.
Confirmed by Furuta himself, a new team has been put together at Yuke’s to start work on a new wrestling franchise, with the mindset of creating internal competition with developers from WWE 2K. This is possibly the moment that we as gamers have been waiting for, something to push the 2K devs to up the ante in their own franchise, whilst having another wrestling game on the market that offers a completely different experience. Furuta claimed that they aren’t committed to any genre or style of wrestling game, stating that “we’ll go in whatever direction we feel is most interesting”.
2018 was a pretty strong year for wrestling games, having not only WWE 2K19 release but also Fire Pro Wrestling World, which featured wrestling in more of an arcade-like game. Fire Pro Wrestling was popular in some circles, but not nearly mainstream enough for it to be considered competition for WWE 2K. 2K19 wasn’t anywhere near a bad game, but it wasn’t nearly as fun as Fire Pro — it’s unfortunate that the NJPW affiliated title couldn’t break out of the niche and carve itself out as a threat to 2K’s market dominance.
One of the biggest issues with the yearly 2K games is the lack of fresh ideas. Each year we’ll see the same recycled game modes with the same recycled models, minus a few tweaks in the design. The game itself is pretty much identical to the previous year, which on paper, would put anyone off spending another 50+. Quite frankly, the game takes itself too seriously and doesn’t do nearly enough to keep the fun, fun.
Wrestling games have the potential to be an absolute blast. Looking back on previous titles that have competed with either a 2K or SmackDown vs Raw title, wrestling games don’t really need to fit into the realistic sports simulator category in order to sell. They can branch into the cartoonish and fantastical, where gamers can watch The Undertaker nail John Cena with a tombstone with a 30-foot drop. They can even take the action out of the ring and into the destruction derby, as gamers drive around in Rikishi’s steam roller with the intention of murdering opponent’s cars with rockets and flamethrowers. With games such as All Stars and Crush Hour, players could find their wrestling fix elsewhere and have a hell of a lot of fun whilst doing so.
Wrestling isn’t something that needs to be contained in its own genre. Much like The Simpsons or South Park, its characters can transcend into just about anything. With endless possibilities available to Yuke’s studios, there’s no limitation to what projects they could start developing, whether they be new concepts or even ones that have been dropped in the past. WWE have had several drafted ideas that never quite made it off the drawing board, ideas which could have been ideal competition to the monotony of 2K games.
One of the most well-known cancelled titles was WWE Brawl, a beat-em-up style game that was inspired by the Def Jam franchise. Gamers could take on a larger-than-life version of their favourite superstars and do battle in an explosive, no-holds-barred environment. It drew from the gameplay of All Stars, giving fans an over-the-top reimagination of the world of wrestling which could be easy to pick up and enjoy on a Friday night in with the lads. Even though this project never came to light, the concept art and gameplay footage released looked like a lot of fun. If Yuke’s were able to unearth Brawl and remodel it with a modernised roster and a handful of features to keep the game fresh, then it would do big numbers for sure.
Giving fans this alternative would not only be great business for Yuke’s and 2K but also would be great for the wrestling game industry. If competition is being encouraged internally then what’s to stop it inspiring other developers and other wrestling brands uniting to create their own interpretations of what a wrestling game should be? It doesn’t have to be realistic, and it doesn’t have to be serious. Ultimately, it just needs to be fun.
What features would you like to see in Yuke’s new wrestling game? What mistakes should they avoid? Let us know in the comments below.