WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 Q&A

We talk Yuke's, THQ, and the future of the SmackDown! vs Raw series in our latest Q&A with the folks behind SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007.

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For years now, THQ's WWE games and the Yuke's development studio have been almost synonymous with one another. In addition to creating popular wrestling games based on the Japanese wrestling scene, Yuke's has become the sole developer of WWE console games in the US as well. Recently, THQ, which owns a minority stake in Yuke's, entered into a long-term agreement with the developer, sustaining an already successful relationship for several more years. To get some perspective on this deal, and what it will mean for the future of the SmackDown! vs. Raw franchise, we spoke with both Hiromi Furuta, producer at Yuke's for the series, and Mr. Yuke himself, Yukinori Taniguchi, the founder and CEO of the company.

GameSpot: What does this long-term strategic agreement with THQ mean for your development studio?

Don't sweat it, Cena. Yuke's and THQ aren't going anywhere.
Don't sweat it, Cena. Yuke's and THQ aren't going anywhere.

Yukinori Taniguchi: The long-term strategic agreement means that we can do more [research and development] than before and [it] makes it easier to plan for not only next-generation technology but also next-generation gameplay. Some of the features that we have on the list to implement into the future sequels require more than one year of development time. Since we made a long-term agreement with THQ, we can start early development on future projects. This will help us to create even higher-quality titles.

GS: With this deal in place, do you expect Yuke's to grow in terms of development staff, or are you happy with the current size of the studio?

YT: Yuke's is consistently growing and started to concentrate on wrestling titles a couple of years ago. In this current market situation, I think it is very important to be the best in at least one genre.

GS: The tastes of American and Japanese wrestling fans often vary wildly. What do you think the Yuke's development studio has learned about wrestling while working on the WWE series for so long? Conversely, what do you think a Japanese development team adds to such an "American" brand of gaming?

YT: The team is organized with only creators who are true fans of WWE, which means they know why WWE attracts so many people. We are aware of the differences between WWE and Japanese wrestling and have worked hard to show Japanese wrestling fans the greatness of WWE. Entertainment wrestling has recently become a huge trend in Japan, and it is mostly because of WWE.

GS: Can you characterize where you think Yuke's fits in the overall history of wrestling video games?

Hiromi Furuta: Yuke's is very proud of its place in the history of wrestling games. We have created many things that are unique or new to wrestling games. In our WWE games, we take advantage of our graphics capabilities and have high-polygon counts for our superstars and divas. In addition, we have created popular new features like season mode and create-a-superstar, expanded the backstage areas of the game, and added many new weapons.

GS: Has the studio come to terms with the complexity of developing games for next-generation consoles and, if so, how long before we see simultaneous development of WWE titles from Yuke's as you did with the SmackDown! vs. Raw and Day of Reckoning series?

HF: Developing games for next-generation consoles has not been a big hurdle for us. We think it's a great opportunity to introduce amazing new features that we have never been able to create before. We also want to make sure people who are playing our next-generation games are also having a similar experience on PlayStation 2 and PSP.

HF:We are excited about simultaneous development of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007 on multiple systems. It's a huge challenge for us and there are not many Japanese developers capable of working this way. However, we can take advantage of each platform's characteristics. In order to do this, we need outstanding ideas that are going to be fun to play. We have to combine wisdom and continue improving our technology and resources to make everything possible.

The interactive crowd element is just one of the cool new features the Yuke's crew is adding in SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007.
The interactive crowd element is just one of the cool new features the Yuke's crew is adding in SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007.

GS: In your opinion, what are the essential ingredients to a good wrestling game?

HF: As simple as it seems, a good wrestling game should offer a realistic wrestling experience and also be a lot of fun. In our games, we try very hard to reflect each superstar's unique personality and convey the full experience of World Wrestling Entertainment in a way that is easy to play and understand for our users. Finally, as an annual franchise, it's important to offer current rosters and new storylines for our fans.

GS: Give us your thoughts on the last SmackDown! vs. Raw game, and what you hope to achieve with WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007.

HF: We were very pleased with WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006. We think our superstar model quality, cutscenes in season mode, addition of general manager mode, full superstar voice-overs, and connectivity to the PSP version make it a near-perfect product. In terms of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007, we have a big challenge ahead of us, as we are in development for multiple systems at the same time. We want to provide a game with more excitement in addition to visual improvements. When users play the game, we want to convince them that they are experiencing the future course of WWE video games.

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