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How THQ and Yukes Ruined The WWE Smackdown Vs Raw Series

With October and the Fall season literally right around the corner, Yukes and THQ are once again preparing to satisfy every wresting aficionado’s heart and desire with the latest WWE inspired video game. The only problem with this notion is that the franchise as a whole has grown stale and predictable over the years. This has lead to a watered down product that now resembles the lame guidelines originally set by live WWE programming. Recently I had a conversation with my trusted colleague, Gary A. Swaby, who offered up this complaint on the franchise:

I feel like it shows real laziness from the developer that they still have not revamped the engine since the last generation. I know this is mainly because they still want to profit from PS2 and PSP sales, and upgrading the engine to a current gen level would phase out last generation production. But when you have a great franchise like UFC Undisputed coming from the same publisher, it’s kind of like a slap in the face for the real wrestling fans who wants new experiences gaming wise. I feel like the only way the Smackdown Vs Raw series will progress is if they give the game a complete overhaul.

Further analyzing this comment along with the way that THQ and Yukes handled the actual marketing strategies throughout the years has lead me to believe that they have ruined this genre indefinitely. Here are a few detailed arguments to back up my claims. If you would like to elaborate further on these facts please feel free to comment below and let your voice be heard.

3) Less Coverage:

One of the strongest statements echoed by World Wrestling Entertainment is that it’s an ongoing sport where there is no offseason. Due to the consistent schedule, news is constantly overflowing and thus keeps fans up to speed on current events. When it comes to the promotional efforts of this franchise though, THQ has declined significantly in updating the public on the production status of each title. The perfect example lies in the coverage IGN used to have exclusively with THQ. Each week a pack of superstars would be showcased along with their bios and videos of their in-game introductions. There would also be mention of new modes along with demonstration footage.

This popular trend has now become a thing of the past as the focus has shifted more towards rushing a title to retail and throwing a brief mention of the roster in at the last minute. This is a negative tactic because it gives the impression that the game is nothing more then a copy & paste version of the previous year’s edition. One can easily debate that the deal between IGN and THQ probably soured because of the critical review that the game would receive every year. To add insult to injury we had an opportunity to approach the creative team at E3 and they declined to comment on game features and specifics. In a way it’s as if the cockiness of the WWE has brushed off on THQ in the sense that they figure they have no competition and can therefore put in a half ass effort and still manage to sell well. It’s always been said that pride comes before a fall and in this case just as WWE will eventually fall by the wayside, so too will this franchise.

2) Eliminating Key Game Modes:

One of the best additions to the series came in the clever, yet flawed GM Mode. The philosophy behind running your show as a real business and managing feuds, contracts, and injuries added realism to the sports title. This concept put the game on par with sports titles like Madden and NBA 2k. Previous editions before that also introduced both Create a PPV and Create A Belt modes respectively. Smackdown Vs Raw 2010 scrapped those ideas in favor of the infamous Story Designer mode. While the mode was a smart idea, the amount of time it takes to craft great stories can easily make this a tedious process. The new WWE Universe mode in this year’s edition has the power to make or break the series by shaping what’s possible in future sequels.

Initially THQ has a bad habit of coming up with great ideas then ditching them without fully seeing how fans will react. A majority of the fans loved the GM mode feature because it added a strategic element of balancing power among each brand. It is absolutely possible to include all of these customizable features within the game to enhance the user experience and add replay value. For example, the online gameplay elements have needed an overhaul for a while now and implementing the Create A Belt feature into this could up the ante. Of course it’s worth noting though that if this were to happen then THQ would need to address the problem of people boosting attributes and cheating online. The policy could include a timed suspension similar to what happens when wrestlers are caught using performance enhancers. However, I fully expect these suggestions to fall on deaf ears as it’s more then likely THQ will play the safe card and stick to doing the same unconventional thing year in and year out.

1) Outdated Roster and Lack Of DLC:

One of the main reasons that THQ has singlehandedly ruined the franchise is in the controversial roster that’s announced every year. It’s been debated in the past that the company works extensively with WWE reps to get a final roster. However, given the timeframe of production put into the game it’s been the running argument that some wrestler models just aren’t created in time for launch. That concept was illustrated last year when Sheamus and Drew McIntyre (current champions at the time) didn’t make the cut. Even if this is an issue though, what’s stopping the company from making these characters available as Downloadable content?

It’s a known fact that virtually every year Madden NFL adds a few key features to go along with the updated rosters. Having to wait a whole year just to play with superstars that were long introduced seems cruel especially if you already invested money into a copy of the latest version. So with that in mind, if you’re a fan of Alberto Del Rio or Daniel Bryan then your better off waiting until Smackdown Vs Raw 2012. Of course if you’re impatient then you can always create these athletes but with a title being praised as an accurate update, then it’s expected that the game should perform as such and be as current as possible.

Final Verdict:

Upon looking at the full scope of the Smackdown Vs Raw Series over the last decade, it’s easy to see how each version has had significant hits and misses. THQ has been given the ability to make a license the best it can be and has only managed to run it systematically into the ground. More then likely the lack of communication between Yukes and THQ could be the main reason as to why the game has suffered for some time now. It’s obvious at this point that a fierce kick to the skull by Randy Orton is what would be needed to put the entire series out of it’s own misery. However, just as powerful as Vince McMahon is I guarantee that people will still buy and support the game holding out hope that every release will get better. I on the other hand have two strong words for  the Yukes and THQ team… START OVER.

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