They say all good things come to an end, but sometimes bad things come to an end, too. In news that will come as a disappointment to a few die-hard wrestling fans and collectors, but shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, there will be no new game in WWE’s 2K series released this year. Instead of providing us with another installment in the long-running series, the company is going to provide us with a different kind of wrestling game instead. We’ve got all the news you need to know right here in this article.
Very few games in history have endured a launch as bad as WWE2K20, the most recent game in the series, endured last year. The normal process for the release of a new game in the series is two to three months of trailers followed by a high-profile launch event. Suspicion about the quality of the game began to grow when we reached August of 2019, and there was still no solid announcement about the game. A split between 2K and Yukes, the companies that had worked on the games together for over a decade, had already been confirmed, and there was speculation that 2K was struggling to get the game finished on time without them. When October arrived, people no longer had to speculate.
WWE2K20 was an atrocity. It wasn’t even fit for a beta release, let alone a full release at full price. It didn’t just come with a few glitches; the game just didn’t work. It repeatedly crashed in ways not heard of since the 1990s. Graphics were distorted so badly that hair was ripped away from heads, and eyes sank through faces in grotesque scenes worthy of any horror movie. Wrestlers sank through the ring, and collision detection was laughably bad. Additional features that were supposed to be available upon launch – such as the popular ‘Fiend’ character – weren’t there. The online modes didn’t work at all. 2K had released a game that wasn’t just slightly broken – it was completely unplayable. It was so bad that it managed to do something that no other game in the history of the series has done – it made international news.
Even if the game hadn’t been so badly botched, it still contained elements unworthy of a modern-day game release. For one, it made progress its career mode dependant on picking up new wrestling moves from loot boxes. We don’t need to start another conversation on why loot boxes are a bad idea. They’re online slots disguised as video game features. When you pay for a loot box in a game, you’re spending money on something you don’t know the value of until you’ve paid for it, and that’s exactly how online slots work. We would never dream of allowing minors or vulnerable people to play slots, and so it’s unforgivable that they’re still included in some video games. Even if no ‘real’ money is spent on them, they’re still a system that rewards luck and chance above effort and achievement.
The announcement that there would be no sequel to the game made this year came during an earnings call between WWE and its investors at the end of May. No specific reason was given for the cancellation, but the overwhelmingly negative reviews, coupled with poor sales figures and bad publicity, can’t have pleased the company. A bad game reflects poorly on the company associated with it, and WWE was inundated with complaints from unhappy players in the weeks after the game’s release despite having no hands-on role in its development. What this means for the future of the series is unclear, but for now, the company is saying that there will be a WWE2K22 released in 2021 – albeit for current-generation consoles only. By that point, the next-gen consoles will have been around for at least ten months. That doesn’t bode well for the long term prospects of the once-popular franchise.
Despite their catastrophic failure with WWE2K20, 2K is still being given a chance to redeem themselves by releasing an alternative wrestling game for WWE this year – one that appears to have a totally different emphasis to the simulation style of the existing series. Coming complete with cartoon-style graphics and, for some reason, enormous heads on the wrestlers, it’s called WWE 2K Battlegrounds, and it’s scheduled to arrive somewhere between September and December this year. That’s the territory that the 2K series usually lands within, and so it might be the case that development has been ongoing with this game ever since the reviews for the last one came in. From the trailers that have been released, it appears to be at an advanced stage of development already – but it won’t appeal to everybody.
Even with a more cartoonish style, the graphics of the game look decidedly-last gen, and might even be a step down from the popular arcade-style ‘WWE All-Stars’ game that became a surprise hit when it was launched in 2011. With long-range weapon attacks and super-human jumps and strikes, the game is more akin to a ‘Street Fighter’ or ‘Mortal Kombat’ release than a pro wrestling game, but if it’s fun to play it might repair at least some of the damage done to 2K’s reputation during the past year. While players occupy themselves with that, they can take advantage of the extra year of development time that they now have to create the 2022 version of the ‘main’ game in the franchise. That extra time comes with a drawback, though. With so much time to work on it, players will expect significant improvements. If the game falls even slightly short of those expectations, the franchise is likely to be finished.
There’s a further wrinkle in the tale to think about, too. WWE is no longer the only major professional wrestling company on the block in the United States of America. All Elite Wrestling began in 2019 and has a prime-time television spot on a major network, an official line of action figures, and a video game in development. If that game is as good as those associated with it keep claiming that it will be, it could be curtains for WWE video games for quite a while. There’s a lot of work for 2K to do in the next year. Let’s hope they’re up to the task.