The WWE franchise has been like all other franchises that we come across regularly.Its seen numerous ups as well as downs.But there is one thing that has been clear from the starting,WWE always had plenty of brand value as a gaming franchise.That is exactly what made THQ acquire a license from WWE to make their games in 2000.The potential was never worrying,but the questions regarding the execution were there from the very beginning.
WWF SmackDown started it all in the year 2000 and the sales figures speak louder than words.The game became an instant bestseller in UK and sold well throughout the globe.WWF Smackdown 2:Know Your Role continued the success adding a whole lot of new features including Create Your Superstar and more intense storylines.
With time,THQ also started publishing games on multiple platforms rather than just sticking with PlayStation.And without a single doubt,the success followed.
The legacy continued on the PlayStation 2 with WWF Smackdown:Just Bring It.This game became an instant bestseller too selling more than 400,000 copies in North America alone.
Then came the lawsuit which our beloved brand(intended sarcasm) lost leading to a change in the name from WWF to WWE.The campaign Get The F Out really helped WWE establish itself as a youth-oriented brand.WWE Smackdown:Shut Your Mouth was not only an instant success like all other games,but it also brought with itself several new game mechanics that we now consider for granted in a WWE game nowdays.The soundtrack of this game also got highly appreciated by most people.New game mechanics like grappling and submission helped the game to differentiate itself from its predecessors while establishing a foundation to future WWE games.This was also the first game which did not feature Dwayne Johnson(The Rock) as the cover superstar.
Then in the latter part of 2003,WWE Smackdown:Here Comes The Pain came and like all others,became a bestseller.It featured Brock Lesnar as the cover superstar.This game was praised for everything from better combat mechanics to a better visual engine.It also won 2 Spike Video Game Awards.One for the best sports game of the year and the other for being the best fighting game of the year.While websites like IGN continued to appreciate what the WWE gaming franchise was developing into,1UP severely criticized these WWE games calling them good,but accusing them of not being able to bring the same quality back to the table for which it was known.
In 2005,WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw came out with much hype featuring Vince McMahon as the cover superstar.Above everything else,it bragged of being superior to the previous installments due to its superior graphics and voice-overs in Season Mode.However,it did not sell too well and wasnt even able to sell well among its core buyers in the market.
But what neither us nor THQ knew was the turn that the franchise was going to take.Be it for the good or bad.The franchise was destined to never be the same again.We shall have a look at this rather unexpected turn and shift in gravity that started with WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 in the next part of this two-part blog series.
Next time,we shall evaluate the turn that the franchise took,the change that the developer(THQ) itself took,the present state of the franchise and what lies in the future for it with 2K Games acquiring WWE franchise rights.
Hope all of you liked the blog and stay tuned for Part 2 in this in-depth analysis of the WWE franchise.