After the disastrous launch of WWE 2K20, it’s safe to say that the game’s developer, Visual Concepts, have a gargantuan struggle on their hands with the next entry in the series.
Early marketing promises that WWE 2K22 will ‘hit different’ but many wrestling fans will be dubious, not least because the technically broken 2K20 entry garnered one of the lowest Metacritic scores in the franchise’s long and storied history. So bad was the reception in fact, that the decision was made to take a break from 2K’s annual release schedule to ensure ample time to actually make a decent wrestling game.
Following the most recent SummerSlam, we now know that WWE 2K22 won’t be launching this year. Uncharacteristically, this new entry will launch in the year of its namesake with a March 2022 release window given.
Development certainly seems to be heading in a promising direction; Brian Mazique, a writer for Forbes, recently declared on a YouTube stream:
“I have actually spoken with people who have good knowledge of the game and understand what’s happening from a developmental standpoint, and what I’m told about gameplay at this point is that it is fantastic. That is actually the word that was used for the latest build. The people who were playing the latest build have said the gameplay is fantastic.”
So, that’s good news then. It’s just unfortunate that the recent actions of WWE seem intent on undoing all this positive progress and making life for Visual Concepts as difficult as possible in the process. For those who don’t keep track of the latest grap news, allow me to explain.
In the last few months, WWE has made wrestling headlines by releasing copious amounts of in-ring talent. Over its recent history, WWE management has opted for a hoovering tactic when it comes to talent acquisition. Anyone and everyone was hired. Even if the wrestler in question went on to do absolutely nothing, they were kept on contract to prevent any other wrestling promotions having access to their services.
This approach has now clearly been abandoned, as WWE have been releasing talent with ruthless aggression. Recent releases have seen talented wrestlers such as Aleister Black, Ruby Riott, Killian Dane, Peyton Royce, and Murphy all get the boot. Not even big-name stars have proven safe from this culling spree, as Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman and ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt have all made a sharp exit with ‘budget cuts’ being the reasoning from WWE management.
Where does this all leave WWE 2K22 and its development? Surely, in an absolute stress mess.
Think of the countless hours that must go into the creation of just one character model of a wrestler. Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman – who were both featured prominently on WrestleMania earlier this year no less – were likely to have have been amongst the first wresters programmed into the new gameplay build. There’s a chance these superstars will still make an appearance but the alternative is unimaginable.
In the current climate, who knows which wrestlers will be next? With several big name talents like Daniel Bryan, Andrade and The Big Show all having let their contracts expire this year, rather than continue working for WWE, that’s even more of Visual Concepts’ hard work potentially at risk. The development of any video game can be brutal, let alone one the scale of WWE 2K22. It’s just a shame then, that the current state of the WWE could see the studio tiptoeing through a minefield.