Jumping the Soapbox: AEW Games Special Event – Is This The Future of Wrestling Games!?

All Elite Wrestling is owned by Tony Khan and Shahid Khan

From the beginning AEW has promised that at some point in the future they would have an official video game for us all to enjoy so that we can stop trying to recreate the roster in WWE 2K19 or in Fire Pro Wrestling World.  Now, just over a year after they debuted on TNT, we are finally getting the first pieces of information regarding their plans for the world of gamers in this video presentation they uploaded to YouTube!  Let’s take a look!!

Before anything got announced, they made sure to make this as fun as possible with the whole thing a mock Steve Jobs presentation.  Well-trodden territory to be sure, but it was still fun to see and there were some decent jokes throughout like the bit where they showed a mock-up of a supposed early version of the game.

Hey, it still looks better than WCW Backstage Assault!

Hey, Kenny can have ALL the goofy sketches he wants, as long as they have something worth showing us!  So what was ultimately revealed; besides of course a new AEW Games T-Shirt for the website? 

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AEW Wrestling Game developed by Yuke’s (Console)

The first and biggest announcement is that AEW is making a wrestling game with developer Yuke’s who have made… well basically ALL of the WWE games since the early 2000s.  Say what you will about some of the changes throughout the series (especially when Publishing rights switched from THQ to 2K), but there were some real gems there and you couldn’t ask for a more experienced developer to bring this new project to life!  The footage that they showed, which Kenny assured us multiple times is VERY early, doesn’t show us much more than the art style being used and that it will be a 3D wrestling game as opposed to something more like Fire Pro Wrestling which uses sprites.  Aesthetically it looks comparable to the recently released WWE Battlegrounds, but there’s a lot more to look forward to here than in that game.  First and foremost, it’s a proper wrestling game released by a veteran developer instead of something slapped together because 2K lost all confidence with consumers after its terrible 2K20 WWE game; the first game by the way released after they got rid of Yuke’s.  Reception on Battlegrounds hasn’t been AWFUL, but the end product was ultimately quite shallow which we can only hope won’t be the case with Yuke’s heading up development.  I mean they certainly won’t have the budgeting and resources that WWE and 2K gave them, but good studios can do more with less as long as they have a better environment to work in.  No release date has been announced, nor should there be at this stage and we can only hope AEW doesn’t make the same mistake that WWE did by making this a yearly franchise and putting the developers through the ringer to get it done.  The biggest news however is that the game will include inter-gender matches which hasn’t been a feature in the WWE games since SmackDown Vs. Raw 2009 and is something that Kenny himself has been a big proponent of given his participation in the company’s only inter-gender match last year during the Jericho cruise.  I couldn’t tell you if that will be a BIG motivation for people to buy this game, but it’ll certainly help with some fans.

They better add Haruka, the nine year old Kenny fought in DDT to the roster!  I’d love to see her wail on MJF!!

The only thing that gives me pause is the announcement of Hideyuki Iwashita (aka Geta) as being part of the project.  I don’t know if he’s done a lot of work outside of games, but from what I can tell the man’s only credits as Director are WWE No Mercy from 2000 and Def Jam Vendetta from 2003; both good games to be sure, but we’ve been burned before on developers of classic games coming back years later and being put on a pedestal despite not having done much in the intervening years.  I’m looking at you, Yu Suzuki!

“Our game will be better than anything that WWF is releasing right now!”     “It’s uh… it’s called WWE now.”     “Really?  That doesn’t sound nearly as cool…”

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AEW: Elite General Manager (Mobile)

Next up is a game where you play as the general manager of AEW and try to book the best matches to maximize the profitability and success of the company.  Sounds riveting, right?  Well it kind of is when it’s done right and there are PLENTY of fans out there who would love nothing more than to have something that will let them play Fantasy Booker for a while.  The developers of this game, Crystalized Games, is a bit of a mystery as their website won’t even list the games they’ve developed for and as far as I can tell they’ve only developed one about three years ago; Relic Raiders.  I’m honestly surprised that it ISN’T being developed by Checkmate Creative as the footage we’ve seen looks very similar to their Mania Wrestling games; down to the art style being used.

Granted it’s hard NOT to be a knock off of something when it comes to the bloated app market, but still!

We’ll have to keep an eye on this one as I’ve been in the market for a good General Manager wrestling game but the Mania Wrestling series just didn’t scratch that itch for me and it wasn’t because they were using generic wrestlers instead of licensed stars. 

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AEW Casino: Double or Nothing (Mobile)

The last game that was announced was a Double or Nothing casino game for mobile devices which should release later this year.  We didn’t get any gameplay footage on this one, but it was by far the best trailer as we see all the AEW wrestlers partying at a casino.  The best part is that everyone there is wearing swanky clothes and acting with a modicum of class… except for John Silver who’s very excited to play Roulette and somehow forgot to put a shirt on.

“I may have lost my shirt, but these pants are staying RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE!  COME ON, TWENTY-FOUR!!”

The developers of this game were much easier to find information on than the previous mobile developer as KamaGames has been making casino games for a while so while I’m glad that they’re going with another developer that has clear experience, casino games are always dubious to me; especially on the mobile market.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love to play a good game of Texas Hold’em and I’d love to play a few rounds with AEW branded cards, but the mobile market being what it is means that there’s plenty of room for exploitation in regards to micropayments and whatnot.  If it was up to me (and it most certainly is not), I’d have gone for something more like the Poker Night model with some added online features.  Even if the AI is suspect at points (I never had much of a problem with it), those games provided the perfect poker experience which is just as much about who you’re playing with as it is how well you’re playing.  Imagine playing a Poker game with Chris Jericho, John Moxley, MJF, and Evil Uno and tell me that wouldn’t sell a million copies!

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Not To Rain On The Parade, But…

It’s a small thing and there’s no proof that this is ACTUALLY the case, but Kenny saying more than once that their developers are working “around the clock” to bring these experiences to the fans did make me bristle a bit.  I certainly HOPE he was merely doing a bit here and was being intentionally hyperbolic, but the fact is that labor practices in the game industry have been in the spotlight for a while now, and even making light of it in this manner isn’t exactly THE BEST look.  You always hope that the things you enjoy are made as ethically as possible and that having so many wrestlers clued into gaming culture would give them enough foresight to avoid such controversies, but then again this is ALSO the company that has definitely fallen short in regards to the safety of its wrestlers whenever fan enjoyment (or more likely just plain ego) was on the line.  Alex Reynolds getting knocked out and no one realizing it, Matt Jackson working the PPV with a bad leg, freaking Matt Hardy finishing a match after he was knocked unconscious and bleeding from the head, these are not moments they should ever be proud of and I can only hope they don’t have similar expectations for the developers.

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Overall, it wasn’t exactly a Nintendo Direct caliber reveal, but the announcement of Yuke’s being involved with AEW is going to certainly catch people’s attention as it is yet one more thing that WWE squandered which will hopefully find more success elsewhere.  The other games are ones I’ll certainly keep an eye on as I’d certainly like to see how their take on a GM game differs from others out there and I could always go for a decent (if not exploitative) game of poker, but hopefully they do more than just the bare minimum which is often the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the mobile market.  In any case, we’ve got a while to go before we learn anything substantive about the Yuke’s game, so until then I guess I’ll check out that T-Shirt they were hocking.  At least I can buy that TODAY!

TWENTY FIVE BUCKS FOR JUST A LOGO ON A PLAIN BLACK TEE!?

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