So there is still a lot of hype and speculation swirling around in response to the WWE license moving from THQ and Yukes to Take-Two and 2k Games with still no word from 2k on the acquisition and no real clue how the WWE license will move forward. As someone who has been purchasing wrestling games since my youth — even when I don’t even watch wrestling anymore — I can vouch for the fact that fans of wrestling games will probably always be fans of wrestling games and will always want more. It just is how it is. The N64 saw the much-beloved AKI titles which helped to bring “simulation style” gameplay to the masses in a big, big way.
For me, wrestling gaming became more than just something I did for fun when I discovered Super Fire Pro X Premium for Super Nintendo. The series was still a bit rough around the edges at the time, but was completely engrossing. The fact that I could go in and make my own character and customize it in every which way was just mind-boggling. It was something that really took the wrestling game world and opened it up to a new and amazing future. We saw the Western world delve into the “Create a Wrestler” feature with Acclaim’s WWF Warzone, although the features were bare bones in comparison to Japan’s Fire Pro Wrestling.
Fans may look at Yukes and THQ’s WWE series and call them modern-day wrestling simulations, but the reality behind that series is that at the time, the Smackdown series (or in Japan the Exciting Pro series) were initially labeled as arcade titles. Based on the Yukes Toukon Retsuden games, Smackdown emphasized gameplay that was a lot faster than fans saw in the AKI games and lacked a lot of the small touches. Over the years there have been many new layers of paint and some duct tape used to tack on new “simulation” features, but at its core it was still closer to an arcade game than a simulation.
So when Owen Good at Kotaku began predicting — and laying out a rather well-thought out argument — that 2k Games could possibly consider moving forward with an arcade game, wrestling gamers started buzzing online. It makes sense, in a way, as 2k mostly handle their own games and it seems unlikely that they’d bring Yukes and their work so-far aboard, even if it made sense. Chances are that a part of WWE’s negotiations for the license involved them not wanting to lose out on their yearly cash cow. How could a team possibly put together a true wrestling simulation in just a matter of months?
If the WWE games are considered simulation, what in the name of god would an arcade title be considered? We’ve seen WWE All Stars, which was fun, but considered an “arcade” game and used a lot of on-screen button prompts. Wrestling gamers want and deserve more, that much is true. We’ve heard Yukes discussing bringing back “AKI-style gameplay” for years now and never properly delivering on it. With 2k at the helm of the WWE license there is a chance that we could see something truly new, but for this year? It looks like it won’t be that promising.