DETROIT–When you think of sports games, “WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2007” on Xbox 360 might not jump to the front of your mind. After all, professional wrestling is sports entertainment. But THQ’s “WWE Smackdown” franchise has sold over 30 million copies and generated over $980 million in revenue over the past eight years. That actually tops EA Sports’ “Madden NFL 07” in sales. Now, for the first time ever, THQ is bringing “WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008” to all next gen consoles this fall. In all, the game will ship on seven platforms, including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii.
THQ hosted the fifth annual WWE Superstar Challenge in Detroit a few days beforeWrestlemania 23 captivated the city. Over 750 fans paid to watch 16 pro wrestlers play the Xbox 360 version of “WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2007.” Anyone who’s experienced this game knows how lifelike the wrestlers look. Seeing the real wrestlers playing as themselves on HD monitors is quite an experience, especially in front of such a rowdy crowd of wrestling fans. For those who follow WWE programming, which seems to be on every night of the week, ECW’s Elijah Burke walked away with the crystal THQ trophy and $2,000 cash prize.
For the assembled journalists who attended the event, it was the next day that really showed the potential of next generation systems. THQ actually announced a PS3 WWE game last year at a Chicago event, but then canceled it. This year marks the first time that a new WWE game will debut on both Xbox 360 and PS3. THQ basically told me that the PS2 is tapped out graphically. Although they’re still supporting that platform and its 100 million gamers, all of their resources are going to developing Xbox 360, PS3 and the innovative Wii games.
This is something I’m seeing more of with a lot of companies as the true transition from old consoles to current consoles (we can cut out next gen now unless we’re referring to PlayStation 4) really kicks into high gear. There’s still a lot of room to move toward even more lifelike wrestlers in high def games. THQ and developer Yukes are focusing on more fluid animation, so the new wrestlers (there are over 50 in the upcoming game) will not appear to hover over the ring. There will also be much less collision detection in the new game, something that was a problem with a lot of early next gen games.
The more time development teams get to work on a console, the more secrets they learn and the more power they can pull from the systems. And these systems have a lot of power left to harness. Just look at what they were able to do with PS2. Up until last year, THQ was able to increase the graphics potential of the system every year. And anyone that’s played the latest game will be impressed with the graphics. Of course, they pale in comparison to Xbox 360 or PS3, but we’ll be saying the same thing five years from now when looking at the next consoles and their potential.