WWE 2K20 Creative Director Explains the Split Between Yuke's and Visual Concepts
Visual Concepts creative director Lynell Jinks discusses the recent decision to split from Yuke's and take the reigns beginning with WWE 2K20.
Back in August, 2K announced that WWE 2K20 would be developed solely by Visual Concepts, ending their partnership with Yuke’s. While it may have been a shock for WWE 2K players initially, it was by no means a surprise. The wrestling game franchise has had its problems since WWE 2K15, with each entry improving on some aspects but taking steps back on others.
Now that Visual Concepts have full control of WWE 2K’s development, the team has a single vision and plan on bringing that vision to life beginning with WWE 2K20. Speaking with DualShockers, WWE 2K20 creative director Lynell Jinks discussed the departure of Yuke’s, the reasoning behind the departure, and what the future holds for the WWE 2K franchise moving forward.
With Yuke’s stating they would be creating a new wrestling game IP back in May, I thought maybe this departure between the Japanese game studio and Visual Concepts could have been mutual. According to Jinks, it is pretty apparent it was not.
“I wouldn’t say it was mutual. It’s one of those things I think we’ve always hinted at when we took this thing over,” says Jinks. “We wanted to make sure it felt like a Visual Concepts game.”
So, what does it mean to feel like a Visual Concepts game? Well, recently, it probably means it feels like walking around a Las Vegas casino. But before that, the NBA 2K series was regarded as one of the greatest modern sports franchises. It brought incredible gameplay and awesome features that no other sports franchises could match.
“We saw what the rest of the market was doing, what NBA was doing upstairs, and we wanted to have those types of features or bring the game up to a certain level. And when we did that, that was the year where it was just not that good.”
That is what Jinks and crew want to bring to the WWE 2K franchise, but have had trouble doing with Yuke’s since WWE 2K15. “We saw what the rest of the market was doing, what NBA was doing upstairs, and we wanted to have those types of features or bring the game up to a certain level,” says Jinks regarding the development of WWE 2K15. “And when we did that, that was the year where it was just not that good.”
Jinks describes that time as a “learning process,” as Visual Concepts was figuring out how they could partner with Yuke’s and create the best product possible. But as time went on, the strengths and weaknesses of Yuke’s were apparent. In a way, it slowed the process of bringing Visual Concepts’ vision for the WWE 2K franchise to life:
“When you have an outside person coming in and telling you how they want the game to be, and when you’ve been working on the game for so long, it’s going to create some friction. It’s going to create some back and forth. It’s hard to be a really cohesive unit in that way, especially that first year when we’re coming in and asking them to get out of their comfort zone. We realized from that point on, it was like, ‘All right, we know what we got, we know what their strengths are, and we have to play to their strengths,’ and add features here and there to try to get us there over time. Now for us, it felt like we had to be very careful about what we asked for because we didn’t want another [WWE] 2K15 situation.”
The tip-toeing nature of developing a WWE 2K game with Yuke’s was the reason behind this split. If you’ve read either my WWE 2K18 or WWE 2K19 reviews, I always mention how there are so many great ideas but they just were not executed well. Now that Visual Concepts is in full control of the franchise’s development, Jinks believes they are in the best place to create the wrestling game the WWE Universe has been clamoring for.
“But to me, now that we have it – like [WWE] 2K20, 2K21, and beyond – I think we’re going to give you our vision, and it’s more in line with what 2K and Visual Concepts fans are more aligned with.”
“Now that we have the keys to the car, we feel like we can get there. This is our first iteration of it, and I think you’re starting to see it,” says Jinks about WWE 2K20. “This includes the level of detail that we’re able to put in environments, and tweaks to the gameplay, the MyCareer story with the females, and the showcase with the Four Horsewomen. All this stuff we put in, there is a lot of things in each one of these modes that just was not possible before.”
While there seems to have been some tension between the two studios, Jinks does say that he “liked working with those guys a lot.” However, both teams had separate visions for the franchise, resulting in a disjointed product both teams were not thrilled working on. “I think, at the end of the day, when you have two different visions of the game, it’s really hard to make a game that everyone is happy about making,” says Jinks. “I think [WWE 2K]19 was the closest we all got. But to me, now that we have it – like [WWE] 2K20, 2K21, and beyond – I think we’re going to give you our vision, and it’s more in line with what 2K and Visual Concepts fans are more aligned with.”
After speaking with Jinks, it is clear the Visual Concepts team is excited for the future of the WWE 2K franchise. They have always had a vision for the franchise. But now, with Yuke’s no longer holding them back, they can create the game they have been wanting to since 2014. This new journey for Visual Concepts all begins with WWE 2K20.