WWE 2K20: 2K should give the WWE series a break - and reinvent the wrestling game
It feels like WWE 2K19 just came out yesterday - I haven't even come close to finishing the MyPlayer mode (and I want to, it's really good!) But, the fact of the matter is, we're about five months away from WWE 2K20 and, well... It's kind of hard to get excited about these games anymore.
Look, they're still decent and they are improving year after year, even if it's only incrementally. But, the same problems persist year after year - and they're not going to get solved if they stay on this same development schedule. It's time to rethink this franchise and really make it fantastic.
It's time to Assassin's Creed this thing.
It's time to what now?
Following the release of Assassin's Creed Syndicate in 2015 - and the disastrous launch of Assassin's Creed Unity the year before - Ubisoft announced that the series was shaking things up and not releasing a new game in the series the following year. They planned on giving it an extra year to reexamine the franchise and see what they could do with it. Basically, they wanted to win back the fans who might have left following the disappointment of the last two games.
What we got was Assassin's Creed Origins in 2017. It was nearly universally well received but, most importantly, it looked polished and played that way too. It added new RPG elements to the series which, love them or hate them, you can't exactly throw into a game at the last second. Alongside Origins, they were also developing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which was another leap forward for the series. We can argue all day and night if they still maintained the original spirit of the series (just, you know... somewhere else. Not here), but it's hard to argue that they weren't well-made games.
So, what in the name of cheese sandwiches does this have to do with WWE 2K20 and the WWE series?
Glad you asked...
At its core, the WWE 2K games are sports titles. They have regular rosters, there's competition (even if what its based on technically isn't - Hey, I've been a fan for nearly 30 years, I'm not knocking it), online multiplayer, commentary, all of that. Like a sports game - like Madden NFL or NBA 2K - it's on a yearly release schedule. After all, all the major sports have seasons, and for many of the teams in these sports, a lot can change on these teams when they're not playing.
The thing is, though, pro wrestling doesn't have seasons. Not really. Even as a TV show, WWE's programming doesn't take a break in the summer - it airs every week, fifty-two weeks a year. Heck, there's even the non-televised live shows around the US and the rest of the world.
What I'm saying is, there are no seasons to structure a release and development schedule around. So, why are they treating the game as if there are? (I know there are answers to this - just hold your horses) It seems like they’re trying to shoehorn the games into an existing model instead of creating their own and this is a huge missed opportunity.
If WWE 2K20 is as much of an improvement over WWE 2K19 as that game was over its predecessor, it should be a fun time. But, after that, I really feel the franchise needs to, like Ubisoft did with Assassin’s Creed, take a year off.
Obviously, one of the main reasons we see a yearly WWE game is simple - people buy it year after year. There’s money there. I certainly don’t begrudge them that - these are businesses, doing business things. But, there’s also so much more money to be earned with a different model - and so much money to be saved, too.
In fact, 2K and WWE might be better off following the example of a completely unrelated game. They should really consider taking a cue from - and stick with me here - Destiny 2.
Wait! Come back! Hear me out.
Destiny, but with wrestlers
Destiny 2 has a base game - soon to be subtitled New Light and made free-to-play - that developer Bungie consistently updates and releases expansions for. Essentially, there’s regularly released content - therefore revenue - for the game (plus the occasional free content to keep people invested) and no need to develop and release a whole new title. Of course, players new to the game can purchase the base game with the expansions included, if they wish, or they can stick with the core game and enjoy that.
Now, I’m in no way suggesting that 2K make their WWE game free-to-play. That would be awesome, but that’s not what I’m getting at. What I am saying is that 2K and Yuke’s could take an extra year to really fine-tune their engine and not only make a great wrestling video game but one that’s got the foundation for numerous expansions and updates.
Imagine if instead of having to reanimate new wrestlers and new moves every year, 2K could do it sporadically, as people come and go from the WWE. Players can buy the base game and then subscribe, getting the new characters and game modes as they’re released. For WWE’s benefit, they could also remove wrestlers from the game that no longer work for the company. Yeah, it would suck for the players, but you have to look at this from their point of view, too.
Once released, any improvements to the actual game itself can be added like they add things to any other game - patches and online updates. So, instead of trying to cram new features in following a regular (and probably rushed) schedule, they can add them when they’re ready.
Changes to the wrestlers themselves could be done as happens, as well. Daniel Bryan turns face again? Change his character in the game (while also giving players the option to keep the heel version, too) and release it as an update as it happens. New costume? Wrestler gets a new manager? Update.
Heck, you even call it WWE Universe if you want, since it would be a constantly evolving environment and that sort of... sounds like that... a little bit.
It's time to play the game
A lot of these features are, admittedly, pretty ambitious, I know. But, that’s the beauty about a game like this - the features can be introduced gradually.
All it would take is 2K to give the series a year off. This would give Yuke’s and the rest of the development team time to really design a great base engine as well as procedures to create and add the new game’s new content easily and efficiently. It would also give players time to get excited, knowing what was coming. It doesn’t even exist and I’m already hyped.
Now, obviously, as great an idea as this is (I’m so humble, you guys), there’s plenty involved here that I’m not only considering, but probably not even aware of. There’s, of course, the matter of the wrestlers themselves getting properly compensated for being included in the game. One idea - and we’re kind of getting into the area of microtransactions here - is to sell digital attire for characters designed by the wrestlers (which could be worn by any character in the game, including create-a-wrestlers) and give them revenue from that - much in the same way they do with real-life merchandise.
Switching business models in games like this are not something easily done - that’s why it’s been done the same way for so long. And, there’s nothing saying that any of this would work at all. But, if it did, both WWE and 2K would have a persistent source of revenue, gamers would have a whole new, more interactive wrestling game experience, and it could even change the way sports games, in general, are designed.
What do you guys think? Would you be interested in a wrestling game like this? How do you think it would work? Sound off in the comments further down the page.