Back in January when THQ finally – and sadly, for many of us – closed their doors for good, those fans who religiously purchased a certain game from the doomed studio had just one question. A question that an immediate answer was needed for.
What’s going to happen to the WWE videogame franchise?
A staple of the THQ library since 1999, the WWF (later WWE) series underwent several changes along the way, constantly evolving to consistently provide wrestling fans with as lifelike realism as was possible in a videogame. Sure, there were always complaints; due to the time it takes to make the game it meant that rosters would never be up to date, there were glitches and bugs. But at the end of the day, THQ still gave us a damn good WWE game. But in the videoame Royal Rumble, THQ had been eliminated. And a new entrant had drawn it’s number.
Signing a deal in February, 2K Games was announced as the new home of the WWE game series.
Longtime fans began to wonder – worry, even – that this would mean a radical departure from the game they knew and loved. From the original Smackdown series (including the classic Know Your Role, a game this writer believes might still be the best WWE game ever released), to Smackdown vs. Raw, moving onto the current WWE Games collection, fans had become accustomed to their game being done in a certain way, and now there was uncertainty over what the future held. Of course, fans of the NBA and MLB series’ by 2K knew exactly what WWE fans were in for, as their games had been established for years and showed that 2K had what it took to publish sports titles.
But those wrestling fans, you just can’t please them. When the first trailer landed, it was quickly pointed out that visually not much had changed. Of course, given that the WWE series had always looked pretty good, this was not necessarily a bad thing. Besides, those who regularly played the games knew that the changes you look for most happen underneath, in the technical aspects. The main thing was, nothing bad came out of that first look. 2K were playing safe, it seems. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
The next thing 2K needed to do was offer gamers a reason to stick with the series. And this comes in the marketing. Over the last few years, THQ dressed up that year’s latest offering with special editions; from the Hit Man version of Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 for Bret Hart fans, to the Austin 3:16 edition of WWE ’13 that our very own Mr Coleman travelled to the farther reaches of London to track down, there was always something unique to grab the attention. What marketing ploy would come this year. What did 2K have up their sleeves?
Wresting fans had not seen The Ultimate Warrior on WWE TV since the infamous ‘Self Destruction of‘ DVD released in 2005, a shameless and unnecessary hatchet job by the company. And now here he was promoting a WWE product, though it should be pointed out that Warrior did the deal with 2K and not with WWE directly. However, it was still a pretty good feather in 2K’s cap, and not a bad way to introduce yourself as the WWE game’s new developer. With Warrior leading the game’s early marketing push, interest was high and the public were waiting for more information to come out. The next announcement regarded not the roster, but the packaging. As with the earlier Austin and Hart editions, WWE 2K14 would have a special edition also; The Phenom Edition.
The ‘30 Years of WrestleMania‘ mode spans three decades, bringing more than 45 matches starting with WrestleMania 1 and going all the way up to number 29, featuring matches such as Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant, The Rock vs Hollywood Hogan and John Cena vs The Rock, to name just a few. And it’s not just the matches that will take gamers back in time, as the game will also have entrances, attires and graphics specific to that era, including screen filters. This looked good. It appeared 2K had delivered the hook, the element that would go a long way to winning over those skeptical about a new developer taking what THQ had spent years honing and perfecting. But there were still one or two things that were still to be announced, and if people were still waiting for something to attract them into purchasing the game other than Warrior, or the Undertaker-branded packaging, or ’30 Years of WrestleMania’, this would be it.
A game is made on it’s characters. And every year THQ packed the WWE games with superstars from today and yesteryear. Sure, there were always grumbles, whether it be someone not in the game or why someone was still in the game, but one of the main reasons was the deadline element, something totally understandable and admittedly out of the developer’s control. All eyes were on what 2K had to work with, and then they revealed exactly what they had. Thanks to the ‘WrestleMania’ mode, superstars like Hogan, Goldberg, Andre, King Kong Bundy, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna and so many others were now included. And it got even better when 2K announced full details of the DLC that would be available in the coming months;
An nWo pack – featuring Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Syxx, Curt Hennig, Scott Steiner and The Giant – coming in November, the WWE Superstars pack in December with Fandango, Big E Langston, Brie Bella, Nikki Bella and Summer Rae, and lastly the WWE Legends and Creation package – with Bruno Sammartino and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, “Ravishing” Rick Rude and Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Virgil – available in January.
This clinched it. The announcement coming in the week of the game’s release caused more pre-orders and even higher excitement.
Time to see if 2K can deliver and fulfill the expectation.