When it comes to wrestling games, it is difficult sometimes not to be alarmist or a bit heavy-handed when it comes to talking about them. Maybe that just comes with the territory as the genre at one time was chock-full of quality titles (involving a lot of importing, mind you) to only having very few options to choose from. Over the past few years THQ has had exclusive rights to the WWE license with developer Yukes at the helm and produced a lot of titles that you either loved or hated, but no matter which side of the coin you were on, you were probably complaining.
There was a time where multiple developers had their hands in the WWE (nee: WWF) pot and each console would have its own unique titles and series. For the past few years the Smackdown, Smackdown vs. Raw and WWE games were produced one title a year, feeding out into every major console. They were all based upon the same engine, as well, so there really wasn’t a ton of growth year-to-year, although if you compare to the original Smackdown game, WWE ‘13 will seem vastly different. There were, of course, a few exceptions to the rule, like WWE All Stars, but gamers were subjected to pretty much an all-Yukes, all-Smackdown menu for years and one size did not fit all.
Since Yukes took over the WWE games there have been calls from pockets of wrestling gamers for WWE to move the license to another developer and to move the series more towards the AKI games of old. The truth is, at this point there aren’t a lot of new, exciting wrestling titles being produced in the world and the THQ/Yukes WWE games have been the only game in town. So when the talk of THQ’s imminent shutdown and Yukes getting the heave-ho came around, some rejoiced at the idea of someone new behind the WWE license.
All signs seem to be pointing towards Take-Two Interactive, whose 2k line would most likely handle the WWE license. I think that it is fairly safe to say that if you’ve played any of the 2k sports titles over the past few years, you’ll see a lot of the same stagnation that we’ve seen in the THQ/Yukes-produced WWE games, which is to say that fans might be in for a very similar bumpy ride. The WWE license might have slipped through the hands of one publisher who was contented in pushing out a mildly-updated title year-after-year to yet another publisher whose track record sees them following a very similar path.
Chances are that the first Take-Two/2k-published WWE game will feel and look a bit different than the THQ/Yukes titles, but will the team in charge of the game know wrestling as well as someone like Yukes who at one point owned a controlling interest in New Japan Pro Wrestling and even before the Smackdown and WWE games were known for the Toukon Retsuden series? There are a lot of questions to be answered and hopefully we get those answers in coming weeks, but for now, everything seems uncertain.