No WWE 2K 2021 title as headline franchise is furloughed for a year – 2K posts apologetically-toned open letter to fans

Publisher 2K has taken the unusual move of posting an open letter to the community of its WWE 2K wrestling franchise. The letter addresses player concerns about the current WWE 2K20 title (released in October 2019), and furlough’s this year’s release, while also announces the launch of a new game in the form of WWE 2K Battlegrounds.

WWE 2K20, the most recent release in the long-running annual franchise, has been beset with criticism from launch, with poor a Metacritic score and Steam review average. An initially buggy release, along with fan criticism of art assets, hasn’t been mollified by recent updates, with underlying gameplay still an issue for fans.

The letter stops short of an outright apology, but says the company has “heard and appreciate[s] your feedback.” it also details the way that the company is planning on reacting to the issue.

Most notably the franchise will take a year out in 2020/21, the first time it’s missed a year since 2K took over the license in 2014. And to our reckoning the first year without a headline wrestling franchise title since at least 2000.

For wrestling fans, this is like FIFA 2021 getting cancelled. And it’s bad news for retail too, for which the title has been a perennial performer.

The break will allow the developer Visual Concepts to concentrate on the following year’s iteration: “We are applying what we’ve learned to the next WWE 2K simulation game with a renewed focus on quality and fun. As part of that commitment, we are extending the production timeline and will not be releasing a WWE 2K simulation game in 2020 (T2 fiscal year 2021). We want to ensure the development team at Visual Concepts can create a great game that will entertain grizzled WWE 2K veterans, as well as newcomers who want to climb through the ropes and step into the ring for the very first time,” said the letter.

“We are extending the production timeline and will not be releasing a WWE 2K simulation game in 2020”

To help do that the series has a new executive producer leading the team: Patrick Gilmore. “Patrick has over 25 years of experience in video games, reaching all the way back to Disney’s Aladdin on Sega Genesis, and including franchises like Killer Instinct, Medal of Honor, and, most recently, Amazon’s New World. He will be overseeing WWE 2K development, and you’ll be hearing more from him and the team in the months to come.”

Beyond that, 2K will keep the WWE 2K19 servers running, for those who wish to stick with the previous iteration of the franchise “for the time being.”

It’s hard to say how well-received all that will be by the community, or how much impact coronavirus had on the studio’s ability to turn the franchise around for this year. It certainly sounds like the right choice though, both for the developer and the fanbase.

2K and Take-Two, like many publishers has become increasingly keen to highlight its post-launch digital revenue, on titles such as NBA 2K and of course GTA Online. It’s always possible then, that a two-year cycle for a title such as WWE may prove to be a good strategy, though of course it wouldn’t have wanted to enter into such a strategy in such circumstances.

In addition to the changes to the headline WWE franchise, 2K also announced a new game in the letter: WWE 2K Battlegrounds. Describing it as “a completely new WWE gaming experience that will feature arcade-style action and over-the-top Superstar designs, environments and moves. We’re focusing on social pick-up-and-play fun, but with plenty of depth for those who want to get way into it.” It’s coming from Saber Interactive, the studio behind NBA 2K Playgrounds.

Of course, announcing a new game without addressing the issues with the current title would have likely gone down very badly with the community, so this looks to be a sensible joint announcement from 2K to take the WWE license forward.

All this will likely settle any worries over at the WWE itself, which must have had a say on such a momentous decision. However, it will again remain a major blow to retailers, who will not have a game to put on shelves come Q4.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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