AEW is Out to Reinvigorate the Wrestling Game Genre

All Elite Wrestling recently dropped the first video on its AEW Games Youtube channel, announcing that three games are in development. The video itself is a relatively successful attempt at parodying the typical insipid tech seminars that popular companies drop on a regular basis. But the content presented is nothing to be sniffed at.

For those not in the know, AEW has exploded onto the pro wrestling scene as a viable competitor to industry titan WWE. Frontloaded by talents like Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes, who both appeared in today’s faux-seminar, the company offers what many believe to be a higher standard of sports entertainment. But do they have what it takes to break into the video game industry?

The presentation began with Omega revealing the self-titled console game. In the accompanying trailer, Omega himself wrestles Chris Jericho. The game looks like typical fare for titles in the genre. They throw each other around cinematically, Jericho performs a reversal on Omega’s finishing move, etc. Standard stuff.

The big wham moment comes when AEW Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida delivers a big boot to Omegas chest. “Expect the Unexpected” indeed. Mixed-gender matches haven’t been a thing in wrestling games since WWE 2K16, and it’s a feature that many fans have been clamouring to see make a return. AEW seems to be jumping on that train, bolstered seemingly by the art style on show here.

The wrestlers are slightly caricatured versions of themselves. While they are still instantly recognisable, the slight step away from reality may be alleviating some of the uncomfortable aspects of a 200-pound muscle-man potentially throwing around a female counterpart that’s half his height and weight. On top of this, the footage shows early tech footage of tag team matches in action. While the game is still in the early stages, this seems to be AEW telling us that all the expected functionality will be intact.

AEW is claiming to be developing the best game ever, and with the director of WWF No Mercy and Virtual Pro Wrestling on their side, that’s entirely possible within their genre confines. WWE 2K20 is legitimately one of the most poorly made games I’ve ever had the misfortune of playing, with fan reactions reflecting this. In its stead, there is a vacuum that AEW wouldn’t even have to try very hard to fill. It’s entirely possible that the company will usurp the wrestling game championship belt in the coming years. If nothing else, All Elite Wrestling is definitely one for fans of wrestling games to keep their eyes on.

Later in the show, it’s revealed that Hideyuki Iwashita is also working on the game. The legendary director of WWF No Mercy, which Omega boldly namedropped earlier, appears to reassure us that he’s creating the “dream wrestling game for fans around the world.” While the teaser only features early tech footage (the majority of the content seems to be pre-rendered), this alleviates a lot of the apprehension one could have about their foray into the wrestling game genre. No Mercy is widely hailed as one of the best wrestling games of all time. AEW claiming to be making the best game of all time may not entirely be smoke and mirrors.

Following the explosive main title reveal, the company presented two other games that are currently in development: AEW Elite General Manager and AEW Casino: Double or Nothing. Both titles are phone games, the former allowing the player to be the general manager of their own wrestling league. The latter, meanwhile, is some kind of casino-type game, although no footage was shown of Double or Nothing to confirm this one way or the other.

These titles have decidedly less hype around them due to the standard practice of games for phones and tablets. Elite General Manager appears to be some kind of standard Gacha style, star-based collect-em-up. So it’s probably safe to assume that it’ll be thick with pay-to-win microtransactions, albeit with a slick UI and what appears to be an actual wrestling mechanic. But it remains to be seen how it actually plays in motion. It is worth mentioning that AEW refrains from milking the fans quite as badly as their main titanic competitor. We could be surprised when the game is actually released.

AEW Casino: Double or Nothing is slated for release this winter, which makes it extremely bizarre that no actual gameplay footage was shown. It’s entirely possible that I’ve been punked here, and that this was just a funny bit presented by Rhodes. But nothing about the show made it seem like this wasn’t any less of a legitimate venture than the others. There’s nothing really to describe the game besides the title. Is it a legitimate attempt at a casino game? Will real money be on the table? AEW Games hasn’t given us any of the answers. However, further digging online reveals that it does seem to be an actual casino game, with AEW-themed variations on typical casino fare. It’s doubtful that real money will be involved, as that would probably be an absolute PR nightmare. But anything is possible nowadays, so we’ll have to wait and see.

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