Mat Dickie celebrates 20 years as an independent game developer with a new video game release that sees his official debut on Nintendo Switch and may soon be available elsewhere.
While the wrestling video game space has been dominated by WWE games for the better part of the last two decades, there have been other video games released through the years that have tried to provide an alternative to the yearly WWE release that, over time, has become more simulation-based.
MDickie Games, in many ways, has consistently provided a uniquely independent take on the wrestling genre for the last 20 years. Starting with games made in Flash and released for early Windows computers and evolving along with technology to seeing a full-blown Nintendo console release in 2021, MDickie’s journey over the last 20 years has been a story of ingenuity, passion, a dedicated fan-base, and at its core, a desire to see a total control in the hands of the players.
How it started: How it’s going: pic.twitter.com/XHjwz0mU83— MDickie (@MDickieDotcom) January 11, 2021
Following the release of Wrestling Empire for the Nintendo Switch, Mat Dickie spoke with Fightful about the long journey he has taken en-route to a full console release, saying twenty years ago. saying 20 years ago, he would have been happy playing WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64 and now there is a space for him on the Nintendo platform.
“It was practically my 20-year anniversary last autumn. That meant a lot to me because I really wanted [the release of Wrestling Empire to coincide with] the 20-year anniversary of No Mercy because that was also my 20-year anniversary as a developer, coincidentally enough. I didn't quite hit it, though. I missed it by a couple of months.”
20 years ago, his first complete independent game release was a flash game entitled “Federation Online.” An unlicensed game that featured his personal takes on stars such as Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, The Ultimate Warrior, The Rock, Steve Austin, and others.
Later, his games would be taken from 2D to 3D with his 2008 release Wrestling MPire, keeping his legacy alive for an extended period of time thanks to a dedicated community of modders. Oftentimes, especially in the world of PC gaming, the modding community can keep a game alive decades after its release. WWF No Mercy is a game that continues to be modded to this day to keep up with modern rosters and new move sets.
When asked about his dedicated community keeping his previous releases alive for so long, Mat expressed regret and not being able to do more for the community because of the razor-thin line between modding and piracy.
“Oh, I wish I could do more to support [the modding community] because I know that they are the biggest fans. There's no getting around the fact that the people that edit the games that much are the biggest fans, but there is also that thin line between modding and piracy that I could never come to terms with where, you know, it sounds like they're supporting the game and that bringing the best out in the game and bring bringing longevity to the game, but the sad truth is that it often resulted in a decline in sales. So from their perspective, they think they're helping the game. From my perspective, I'm seeing this X-shape around [sales]. As a businessman and as a developer, you can't be entirely emotional where you don't care at all whether your intellectual property is keeping the lights on. So it's always a balance. It's my responsibility now to build an environment where people can edit the official game, which is how WWE does it and how Fire Pro does it. They've done a good job of that and I haven't. I don't have the infrastructure to do a good job of bridging those two worlds of modders and developers.”
Sadly, 2020 did not go according to plan for many people. A global pandemic and a shift in overall day-to-day living forced a lot of projects to be restructured and the development of Wrestling Empire on the Nintendo Switch is no different.
Mat revealed that thus far, he is only put one-third of what he intended to be in the official release of the Nintendo Switch game, saying that, at no extra cost, there will be major updates to the overall game with an extended career mode, and an entire booking mode, a staple of his original games which stems from his longtime love of the behind-the-scenes structure of professional wrestling.
“This is only one-third of what I had planned for 2020, but 2020 didn't pan out for a lot of people and I'm one of them, and I only got one-third of what I wanted to get done. So, this is the career mode,” Dickie says of the current game available on Nintendo eShop. “Well, it's not even the full career mode. It's half the career mode, it's the full exhibition experience, and it's going to evolve into a little bit of free roam. Then, there's going to be a booking mode, a very ambitious new interpretation of the booking mode added on top of it.”
While Wrestling Empire was the first wrestling game to release in 2021, it certainly will not be the last. RetroMania Wrestling is set to release on February 26, WWE is expected to release a new Mainline Council game this year, AEW has multiple games in the works, and Virtual Basement he's working on their own console video game with an extensive roster of all-time legends and the independent wrestling stars of today.
Mat is very pleased to be able to kick-off this year in what looks to be a renaissance for the wrestling video game genre, revealing back he does stay in touch with other developers as they all work on their own projects to help flourish a genre that has been devoid of independent titles for some time.
“Yeah, I'm happy to kick start 2021 that is going to tag in all these other attempts to rejuvenate the genre, because I do feel the rising tides lift all boats and all that. I do think we're all in this together," said Mat. “There is a brotherhood among anyone who's ever tried to make a wrestling game because we all know for a fact how difficult it is. So I'm in communication with Mike Hermann, who is making RetroMania Wrestling, and we do exchange emails and things like that and we are a very close-knit community looking out for each other, because, the days of it being competitive are over. There's enough for everybody because there are so many different platforms and not to mention different styles. We're talking about 2D and 3D. We're talking about big next-gen consoles, which is what Virtual Basement will be targeting versus me on mobiles and possibly the switch. There's no competition. It's entirely positive from my perspective.”
While RetroMania is set to join Wrestling Empire on the Switch on February 26, Wrestling Empire will also be joining RetroMania Wrestling on the PC via Steam if Mat has his way.
“I'd like to because I don't want to be remembered by that Wrestling Revolution 3D with a low frame rate, which was a mobile port to a PC. This game could look and work very well on a PC and I'd like to see it. So we're just gonna have to see.
“I'd like to give Nintendo a bit more time to itself, a bit more time to be the only way of playing a controlled version of it. But once it's had enough time to itself, I think by the end of the year, I'd like to bring it to the PC for old time's sake and just for the legacy, just to send out the right message.”
Fightful Gaming will continue to bring the latest news on any and all updates coming to Wrestling Empire and the additions to the wrestling video game space as 2021 rolls on.