Yuke’s Co. is no longer developing WWE video games. 2K Games, the publisher of licensed WWE titles since 2013, confirmed on Tuesday that its in-house studio Visual Concepts is now solely in charge of the franchise, cutting out a developer whose history in making pro wrestling games goes back almost 20 years.
“We thank Yuke’s for their years of partnership and are excited to see what the Visual Concepts team brings to the franchise moving forward,” 2K said in a statement to Polygon. The news was first reported Tuesday by Video Games Chronicle.
Yuke’s, which earlier this year announced it was developing an original pro wrestling title, also acknowledged the split in its own statement to VGC, though it said it would “continue providing support to 2K with regard to the game engine.”
Osaka, Japan-based Yuke’s has been a maker of wrestling and fighting games since the early 1990s. It delivered annual titles for the WWE’s SmackDown! and Raw TV events from 2000 to 2012, under publisher THQ. The companies also created a surprisingly successful series of Ultimate Fighting Championship games, UFC Undisputed; the UFC license is now held by EA Sports.
THQ’s bankruptcy and liquidation dispersed numerous big-name properties in 2012 and 2013, and 2K Sports parent Take-Two Interactive picked up the WWE license at a fire-sale price. In the years since, the series — rebranded WWE 2K, with Yuke’s and Visual Concepts working jointly on it — has steadily changed to reflect the priorities of its new publisher, particularly with the introduction of premium downloadable content and a story-based career suite evocative of NBA 2K’s MyCareer mode.
In other words, Yuke’s lost its patron in 2012, and its relevance to this series has been bleeding out ever since. In May, the studio revealed in an interview with Video Games Chronicle that it was developing a new, unlicensed wrestling video game, acknowledging that the deteriorating relationship with 2K Sports was part of the decision to do so.
“Players are expecting something new every time we release a game and we feel like we haven’t achieved what we’ve really wanted to do,” Hiromi Furuta, senior vice president and producer at Yuke’s, said at the time. “In many cases we’re still using old assets and we’re not able to do some things in the way that we want to.”
The original wrestling project from Yuke’s so far has no name, launch window, or publishing partner. Furuta has said that the studio spun up an entirely new development team to build it, though. Her company has made professional wrestling video games for four generations of consoles going back to 1995; its history with the WWE dates to 2000’s WWF SmackDown! and WWF Royal Rumble for the PlayStation and Dreamcast.
WWE 2K20, developed by Novato, California-based Visual Concepts, is set to be released Oct. 22 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.