THQ’s WWE SmackDown vs. Raw games to remain annual

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After sales of THQ’s UFC Undisputed franchise fell by 200,000 units year-over-year, the company stated last week that it was thinking about extending the series’ development cycle from one year to 15, 18, or even 21 months. Wondering if the publisher was considering the same approach for its wrestling franchise, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw — which has seen at least one release every year since it debuted on the PlayStation in 2000 as WWF SmackDown! — I mentioned the new UFC Undisputed plan to SvR’s creative director, Cory Ledesma, in a Q&A session at a preview event for SvR 2011 this weekend in Los Angeles.

But Ledesma quickly dismissed the idea, citing THQ’s wrestling pedigree: “We’ve been doing this for 12 years now [ed. note: 1999’s WWF WrestleMania 2000 was THQ’s first WWF/WWE game], so I think we have a pretty good track record of delivering quality each year.” Indeed, the SvR franchise has racked up more than 50 million sales worldwide in its ten years of existence, so the numbers would seem to indicate that WWE fans haven’t yet tired of the annual cycle.

Ledesma pointed out that the same plan isn’t necessarily applicable across the UFC Undisputed and SvR franchises, which are at very different stages:

UFC is a new franchise; it’s still fresh; it’s got some adjustments to make in order to address some of the fans’ requests and to really hit [the developers’] stride as far as the franchise [goes]. I think that strategy makes sense for them.

He did leave open the possibility of discussing an extended development cycle for SvR — if the series ever suffers because of its yearly release schedule. “If it comes to the point that quality ever drops substantially, then of course I think any game developer would look at that strategy. […] But it’s something that we haven’t explored on WWE, and we like to consider our strategy to be the best approach to delivering good content in a timely manner.”

I don’t think he’s wrong when it comes to WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011, the twelfth entry in the franchise, which looks innovative and impressive so far. Check back this afternoon for my full preview.


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