At one point in time, WWE wrestling video games were the hottest thing in town. You couldn’t get enough of games like WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64, as well as the WWF Smackdown! games on the PlayStation 2. And then there was the THQ “golden era,” which not only gave us great wrestling sims, but also fun off-shoots like the arcade style WWE All Stars and the ridiculous sleeper WWE Crush Hour.
But then, in 2013, a jarring change took place. Following the closure (at the time) of THQ, 2K Games acquired the license to WWE games. And instead of simply branching out and making a variety of titles based on the brand, it focused on singular, yearly releases in the WWE 2K series. It did have its spin-off WWE Supercard series for mobile, but, outside of that, it was status quo for a number of years, with the talented team at Yuke’s making each entry.
But then something happened – something bad. In 2019, 2K released WWE 2K20, the first game to be produced solely by Visual Concepts, removing Yuke’s from the development picture. And many things went wrong with the game, from a poor DLC model featuring Halloween-style costumes to terrible control issues to the worst kind of glitches you can imagine. We actually included a highlight (lowlight?) reel below, to give you an idea of just how screwed up things got.
As a result of poor sales and a whopping amount of negative feedback from fans, 2K put the brakes on WWE 2K21, opting to work with Saber Interactive on the arcade-style WWE 2K Battlegrounds instead. Though not entirely universally acclaimed, it was a modest hit for the company, possibly hinting at future entries down the road.
With that, 2K is at a crossroads. There are reports that it plans to release WWE 2K22 later this year, as it’s already begun recording with a number of superstars with this past weekend’s Royal Rumble. But this seems like as good a time as any for the company to get creative, and not necessarily stick with the yearly game plan – especially if it ends up being as bad as WWE 2K20 was.
So what can it do? Well, we have some suggestions.
Arcade-style is working
Considering that WWE 2K Battlegrounds is pretty well received – despite its microtransactions to unlock certain wrestlers in the game (though you can use currency) – it’s time for 2K Sports to stick with that plan. This seems like a good a time as any to consider a re-release of WWE All Stars.
Let’s explain why that works. The game was a hit when it was released in 2012, with a number of buff superstars duking it out in over-the-top fashion. And 2K does have the rights to the series, since it still kind of makes the rounds digitally. Not to mention that, with its current pay structure, it could easily reform the THQ San Diego studio that worked on the original, implementing a new roster and maybe even some new tricks up its sleeve.
While an arcade-style game might compete with the likes of Battlegrounds to some extent, it would also be a hit with old-school gamers. And it’d sell like hotcakes on the Switch, just as Saber Interactive’s game has. Something to consider.
Speaking of old-school games that deserve a second chance to shine – what about WWE Wrestlefest? The original WWF version released in arcades under Technos back in 1991, becoming a huge arcade hit. In 2013, THQ attempted to rejuvenate the brand with a mobile-only release, featuring an updated roster and old-school style gameplay.
This seems like a perfect opportunity for 2K to consider a comeback of sorts for the brand, getting together a team of developers that understand the old-school nature. What’s more, it could be offered for a lower price, and maybe even for mobile like the last Wrestlefest was. Of course, we have to have Switch as well, just because.
Another good game to consider, especially since it was so much fun the last couple of times around. And, hey, no heavy mechanics necessary – Visual Concepts can rest easy on this one.
Other great ideas
In the past, we’ve seen WWE Crush Hour light things up pretty nicely; and there was talk about a cancelled game called WWE Brawl that featured insane one-on-one fighting mechanics. We’re not sure why it didn’t come out – lack of interest, maybe? – but it should’ve been given a chance. Maybe this is a good time for 2K to consider its resurrection, based on what we’ve seen in the video below. And keep its separate from the sim stuff, obviously.
For that matter, 2K could also bring its existing mobile properties to the console front to see how they fare. Supercard, for example, could easily be a huge sim title, especially with online play. And there’s also WWE Champions, which could be fun for a few rounds as well.
These are just some quick ideas, but it gives you an idea of the diversity that 2K could easily go for when it comes to all things WWE. It shouldn’t just stick to the straight and narrow because, as we’ve seen in the past, that isn’t always the best way to go. Diversification and invention can go a long way for the WWE games here. They just need to give them a chance.