The relationship between WWE and Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Sports, may be coming to an end. And it could result in WWE moving their games to a competing publisher for the first time ever.
Multiple sources have stated that WWE has had preliminary discussions with Electronic Arts (EA) about bringing the WWE Games line over to one of the top gaming publishers in the world.
Viewed as a “make or break” release for the series, there is a lot riding on the launch of WWE 2K22 and the following weeks and months.The last contract between the two parties was signed in 2016. Though no official details were made public, sources indicate that it was a six year agreement with options to extend it. Should the game be well received by the public and sales be around expectations, an extension could be not far behind. Should it be deemed a failure, a move to EA could become a greater possibility than ever before.
While the talks between WWE and EA have been on and off for years, including prior to the 2016 extension, the two recently began talking about an agreement as far back as early 2021. The sources say that the talks began after the disappointment that was WWE 2K20 and the lackluster reception to WWE 2K Battlegrounds.
“WWE has shown a lot of frustration with the reception and lack of success of recent games,” one source said. “The gaming market is a major selling point for them, and they believe they’ve fallen behind the competition.”
That competition are the other sports games available. Despite wrestling having a passionate and dedicated fan base, WWE feels that players are making decisions to purchase other sports titles instead of theirs. With game prices increasing on the new generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series XS, WWE internally believes that games need to provide more reasons than ever to justify cost. Many have felt the WWE 2K games haven’t done that.
Those within WWE feel that the company’s games have unfairly, in their mind, been given less resources than the other major 2K Sports title, NBA 2K. Despite NBA 2K sales and revenue being far greater than that of WWE 2K, the company feels it’s more due to the cutting of resources towards development than a general interest in the game.
Since WWE 2K15, the first game to be on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, the budget allocated to the development of the game has gone down year over year. Whether it be in the animation, art, or even quality testing areas, not a single area was left untouched during cutbacks towards the series. When pressed about why this continued to happen, those asked didn’t have specific reasoning though some did suggest the increase in sports titles in development at the company didn’t help things.
If WWE 2K22 is the “make or break” title that many have indicated it to be, things haven’t been going well in the build up to the game’s release. The team had promised more behind-the-scenes looks at the game than before as well as more information for fans, but that seemed to go out the window as the months got closer.
Instead, members of the WWE 2K22 team spread conflicting information regarding things like multiplayer in MyGM. On top of that it took until just before the game’s launch for fans to know the full launch roster, details about the MyRise career mode, the new MyFaction mode, Showcase, and the Creation Suite. Larger talking points like Universe Mode and online Multiplayer options were also left unmentioned by the WWE 2K22 team.
Even content creators – specifically, ones partnered with the WWE Games team to help promote the game in exchange for access – felt the pinch of cuts with the build up to WWE 2K22. From lack of events, late access to the game, higher restrictions on what they can show, and even a basic custom MyFaction card as a gift, things haven’t been what many would have expected. That’s especially the case with the large NDA creators within the 2K Next Makers program have to sign. It’s been so poor from a communication standpoint that some current members of the program have expressed ideas privately of leaving the program once commitments for this year’s game comes to a close.
In what is probably nothing more than coincidental, it has been noticed that both executive staff of EA and WWE have been showering each other with various praise on the LinkedIn platform. Two such examples were WWE CBO Stephanie McMahon complimenting EA on the inclusion of women in EA Sports NHL while EA COO Laura Miele praised WWE for the featuring of women of the company on a billboard in Saudi Arabia.
Again, it’s likely pure coincidence, said one source. Though, with a potential relationship, there always might be some underlying meaning behind it all that no one knows about just yet.
A Complicated History Between WWE and 2K
Back in 2013, the WWE 2K series was born out of the bankruptcy and shutdown of former publisher THQ. Since then the series has seen eight mainline WWE 2K entries, one spinoff (WWE 2K Battlegrounds), and a popular mobile entry (WWE Supercard). And while some were much more well received than others, the WWE 2K franchise has continued on for nearly a decade.
While the game was published by 2K Sports in the early days of the partnership, long-time WWE Games developer Yuke’s remained a major part of the development alongside 2K developer Visual Concepts (VC). In fact, it wasn’t until the development of WWE 2K20 in 2019 that Yuke’s left the series after 20 years.
Reports at the time insisted that conflicts between Yuke’s and VC led to the split. However, Yuke’s repeatedly claimed that there were no hard feelings between the companies, rather it was just the right time to move on. That said, the same wasn’t reciprocated on the other side with Visual Concepts Creative Director Lynell Jinks saying in an interview with DualShockers that the split was forced by 2K.
“When you have an outside person coming in and telling you how they want the game to be, and when you’ve been working on the game for so long, it’s going to create some friction. It’s going to create some back and forth. It’s hard to be a really cohesive unit in that way, especially that first year when we’re coming in and asking them to get out of their comfort zone. We realized from that point on, it was like, 'All right, we know what we got, we know what their strengths are, and we have to play to their strengths,' and add features here and there to try to get us there over time.”
With every relationship in gaming, though,nothing is over until it’s official. There is still the possibility of the series continuing with a new agreement. What’s more is that not everyone expects a breakup between Take-Two and WWE.
“The development team at VC is of the belief things will continue as normal,” one source close to the game said. “If anything is changing, no one’s been given even a hint of it.
“2K is confident in it continuing,” they said.
Another person within the WWE 2K22 team feels the team has put so much effort into improving the game that it’ll convince those making the decisions to move forward together.
“It’s basically a brand new game in a lot of areas,” the person said. “There is a new foundation laid out to make this a series that everyone wants. It just needs to be understood that it won’t happen in one year.”
Should a move to EA happen for the WWE series, there were a few who suggested that the game would be developed at EA Vancouver, the same studio in charge of the EA Sports UFC series. It was also said that it would be another “multi-year wait” for the first game to come out.
“One of the biggest questions, among so many, is whether WWE wants to wait years for a new game to be developed or stick with what’s already been being built.”
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