Yuke’s Tags out of WWE Development Partnership with 2K

Don't get too excited, there's context.

2K’s long-running WWE 2k wrasslin’ simulator franchise is no longer the responsibility of mainstay series developer Yuke’s. Starting with this year’s WWE 2k20 installment, development is now handled completely in house, by 2K subsidiary Visual Concepts. Visual Concepts is primarily known for developing 2K’s NBA 2k series, though it has also served in a support capacity for every installment of WWE 2k since 2K bought the publishing rights in 2013.

Now, before you go and get too excited that this year’s game might finally be good, a statement from Yuke’s heavily implies that WWE 2k games will continue to use Yuke’s engine, at least for now. Despite the fact that Visual Concepts now handles production whole cloth, Yuke’s will “continue providing support to 2K with regard to the game engine,” according to a statement made to Video Games Chronicle. This indicates that Yuke’s engine forms the foundation of WWE 2k20 at minimum, which is bad news for WWE 2k20. WWE 2k games have a long history of being buggy as hell, and while this makes for good Youtube, it’s been a constant source of consternation for consumers.

Yuke’s has been developing these games since the series’ inception in 2000, back when it was the WWF SmackDown! series published under THQ’s banner. After THQ closed the blinds in 2013, 2K purchased the publishing rights to the franchise and rebranded it, starting with WWE 2k14. Yuke’s stayed on as lead developer for all subsequent titles, with Visual Concepts acting as a support studio. Some (read: me) would argue that these games have never been good, but most would agree that they’ve been especially poor since 2K took the reigns from THQ. The extent to which Visual Concepts has contributed to that steady decline in quality is anybody’s guess, so we’ll just have to see how WWE 2k20 shakes out when it drops from the top rope on October 22.

wwe 2k19Yuke’s, for its part, will continue development on a new, original wrestling IP, according to a Video Games Chronicle interview with producer Hiromi Furuta. “We are trying to launch a new wrestling game,” Furuta said last May. “Our creators are beginning to lose sight of their passion and confidence and becoming focused only on completing assigned tasks. That’s not the direction Yuke’s wants to go in. So, in order to compensate, we’re going to start a new wrestling project.”

This new IP was still in pre-production as of that interview, to such a degree that it was still undecided whether the new game would go for realism or fantasy. The game also had no fixed lead, though Furuta was certain that it’ll end up being successful “as long as whoever leads the project has enough passion.”

This won’t be the first time Yuke’s has dipped a toe into non-WWE wrestling waters — it was also responsible for Rumble Roses, a cheesecake PlayStation 2 exclusive that dared to ask “what if Dead or Alive was wrestling?” Since then, the developer also meddled in robot-based movie tie-in games, such as 2011’s video game adaptation of Hugh Jackman vehicle Real Steel, or 2013’s Kaiju love letter Pacific Rim.