Along with the likes of FIFA and Madden, WWE video games have become an annual staple of the gaming calendar. This is nothing new as annual WWE game releases can be traced back as far as the late 1990s. However, things have changed a lot since then. The developers of these games have changed and while some titles are remembered fondly, others aren't seen in such a positive light.
The current developer of the WWE video games is 2K, who is no stranger to the annual sports game with the incredibly successful NBA 2K already under its belt. However, to say wrestling fans are becoming disillusioned with 2K's WWE games would be an understatement. All developers of annual sports games are accused of slapping a new cover on the same game, but WWE 2K appears to take things to the next level in regard to recycled material.
In fact, there's an argument to be made that WWE 2K's offerings are getting worse rather than staying the same. The technical issues raised by numerous fans aren't fixed, and features we love are inexplicably removed. We're assuming that, like many things, 2K thinks we will keep coming back regardless of its misgivings and hand over our hard-earned money each year. To an extent that is sadly true, but something has to change.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, let us highlight some of its issues. First, let's talk about the two things that any and all games are judged on, graphics and gameplay. When not compared to anything, WWE 2K's graphics appear to be quite impressive. However, if you play almost anything else, it quickly becomes clear that they are miles behind the rest of the industry.
We have always been willing to overlook poor graphics if the gameplay is good. Sadly, WWE 2K doesn't have that either. Some opponents feel as if they are impossible to beat, if you try to edit the Universe Mode to suit your storylines things will quickly unravel and become downright bizarre, and the recycled and repetitive commentary will have you reaching for the mute button quicker than Michael Cole can annoyingly scream "IT'S BOSS TIME!"
As if releasing a worse game with each passing year and charging us $60 for the privilege isn't bad enough, WWE 2K has also jumped on the microtransactions bandwagon. Every year, 2K boasts that its latest WWE game features the largest roster of all time. While that's true, you'll have to pay extra if you want it to be complete. During the months after the game's initial release, various DLC will be released featuring extra Superstars. It would be annoying enough if these packs only featured legends and Hall of Famers, but some include current stars too.
Wrestling games haven't always been this bad, though. Back when THQ was in charge, we usually looked forward to the release of new WWE games. The SmackDown series of the early 2000s was a personal highlight for us. That era ended with SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain in 2003. THQ remained in charge of the franchise until 2013, which is when 2K took over.
While we will likely be served up more of the same via WWE 2K20, there is hope. There are currently various rumors swirling regarding a rival to WWE 2K. That could mean a number of things. Yukes, who worked alongside both THQ and 2K on WWE games for years, recently parted ways with the latter. That could mean it has something in the pipeline. There's also been talk of the aforementioned Here Comes The Pain becoming the first WWE game to receive the remaster treatment.
Whatever the future holds for the WWE video game world, it doesn't seem as if 2K will be the answer to the problems it has created. Just like WWE in general, we may have to wait for AEW to offer up a video game alternative. Even though Kenny Omega has hinted we could hear news about a potential AEW video game project very soon, chances are we will have to settle for another 2K offering or two before we are given a worthy rival title to play.