It’s that time of the year where we would usually be talking about the latest WWE game by 2K Games. WWE 2K22, however, is not going to get released for another six months, and the situation might be even direr than that.
On Sunday’s WWE Summerslam, WWE showcased a new teaser trailer for their usually annual series of wrestling simulation games, WWE 2K22. The trailer looked fine enough, but in the end, the release date turned out to be much farther than most people were expecting. This might hint towards certain problems during development that will almost certainly be the end of the franchise.
The trouble for the franchise began with the release of WWE 2K20 in October 2019. Ever since 2K took over the franchise from THQ in 2013, the games had been steady in quality. No major improvements were ever visible, but the games were always well built and fun to play. The best thing about the games was that 2K couldn’t just turn them into loot box-filled gambling simulators due to WWE’s involvement since the wrestling company was so against them.
There were still some aspects of loot box-style progressions, but you could even disable them in some games. Even if you couldn’t, they were so easy to earn that you needn’t spend a single penny on the game except buying it. This alone turned the games into real diamonds in the rough for whoever was a fan of the genre. WWE 2K19 was genuinely a great game that some called the best of 2K’s lifecycle. Then came WWE 2K20.
WWE 2K20 was an atrocious game. So bad that it dumped all of the goodwill that 2K19 had earned 2K games and flushed it down a toilet. The game had a terrible career mode with ridiculous storylines such as Samoa Joe turning into a robot and some The Fiend shenanigans that would make the Rollins-Fiend match look like a five-star classic. All of this is applicable only if you could make the game function in the first place, as the game was in an unplayable state upon release due to the Cyberpunk 2077-like bugs.
WWE 2K20 was slaughtered in reviews and fan opinions alike, with creators like MoistCritikal placing it on their lists of worst games of the year. The game caused the development team to go into damage control mode, and there were many excuses throughout the game’s life cycle. 2K blamed crunch, bad management, and many other things for the state of the game. Nothing helped, though, and the franchise was nearly dead in the water.
So dead, in fact, that for the first time in literal decades, WWE didn’t release a simulation game for a calendar year. The notoriety of 2K20 had seen the end of those plans, and the pandemic certainly didn’t help. There was still a game, WWE 2K Battlegrounds, but the less said about that, the better. That game also wasn’t very good, although it at least ran properly, unlike WWE 2K20. There was no WWE 2K21, for better or for worse.
Then comes the start of this year, and rumours start circulating about a new game in the franchise, a WWE 2K22, if you will. The company had spent two years developing a game that was supposed to have a brand new engine, fresh graphics, and all-new move recordings. Then a WWE 2K22 was confirmed existing in some new trailers, alongside new promotion in WWE programming. Things were looking up. Then they went downhill again.
This time, though, the trouble was on WWE’s side of things. The company changed its hiring policies overnight and released almost 50 contacted talent and wrestlers over six months. No one was safe as former world champions Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt were among those released, alongside fresh new faces such as Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy. The entire roster was thinned out to the extent that for the first time in 6byears, there were gaps in entire divisions inside WWE.
This wasn’t good for WWE 2K22 in a variety of ways. The effort the developers had made to scan so many superstars, and their moves were going to go to waste, alongside any other content they had planned for them inside the universe and career modes. The roster would also be much smaller than WWE 2K19, which had boasted the largest roster ever in any WWE game.
After all this came the rumour of friction between 2K games and WWE regarding the franchise. WWE 2K22 had to work for the future of the franchise. One source even commented about the game- “this is shaping up to be the most outdated roster a game has seen”. Rumours of the creative tussle between WWE and 2K games began to take the ground as WWE 2K22 became a literal battleground of ideas and directions.
Then came Summerslam, and along with it came the trailer. WWE 2K22 finally had a release date, which was six months later than what people expected and the previous release dates of the franchise. The reason for that was very visible in the trailer, though. It was as obvious as it can be. WWE 2K22 didn’t look very different from 2K20 at all.
The graphics looked the same, and the engine was just as slow and “realistic” as all the previous games in the franchise. The dead facial expressions were the same as well, making the wrestlers look like they had a bad case of diarrhoea while competing. If this took 2K and Visual Concepts two years to develop, this franchise was never getting better.
The worst thing any form of media can generate for itself is apathy, and WWE 2K22 has failed to realise that. To make people care about the franchise again, they had to knock it out of the park. The game was supposed to be flawless and different, not the same game we have seen for the past nine years. I know people will call these statements premature because we haven’t seen much of the game right now, but all the signs indicate the same thing.
The troubled development, the delay, and the similar-looking gameplay all point towards a game that isn’t going to be the groundbreaking success that WWE, 2K, or the fans want it to be. It might just be as good as WWE 2K19, but that isn’t enough at this point. WWE 2K22 needs to be a rousing success to save the franchise at this point, and it doesn’t look to be the case for now.
I could be wrong, and WWE 2K22 could turn out to be a masterpiece. You could all have my head on a pike then, and I shall happily give it to you. For now, I’ll stick with my opinion. I want WWE 2K22 to do well as a fan of the franchise, but things aren’t looking good. We’ll see what the future holds, and you can be sure that I’ll be here with any news that comes by.