TAMPA, Florida (Reuters Life!) - Wrestling fans tired of watching from the sidelines can get into a virtual ring with their idols when THQ launches its newest videogame “WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 this week.
Virtual wrestling is big business and a perennial best seller among gamers. THQ Inc enlisted top talent including World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame member Dusty “The American Dream” Rhodes and current superstars Randy Orton, Johnny Swagger and Beth Phoenix for the latest game.
“The first time I saw myself in the game I was excited but I didn’t realize the importance of videogames within the history of WWE at the time,” said Rhodes, who is now a trainer.
Since acquiring the WWE license in 1999, THQ and partner JAKKS Pacific have shipped nearly 40 million copies of the game worldwide. Last year’s game was the 13th best-selling game in the United States.
“This is the first time I’ve been in a videogame and it’s been great, as a gamer, to learn about the entire process from the facial scanning to voice acting,” said Phoenix.
She is one of the 60-plus wrestlers in the newest videogame. Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) Tag Team Champion Sebastian Slater was one of five FCW wrestlers who provided motion-captured wrestling moves for this year’s WWE game.
“We had the easy part because we had to put on the suits and go out there and do moves that we practice every day,” said Slater.
Although his physical movements have been captured, Slater has to create his own wrestler in the new WWE game just like other fans.
“A lot of my friends get into creating their own characters,” said Orton. “The fact that you can now create your own finishing moves is amazing.”
In addition to creating custom finishing moves and assigning them to created or real wrestlers, THQ allows fans to take game pictures and post them online. They can also create highlight reels from in-game matches and share them with the world.
THQ is expanding its WWE offerings next April with the launch of “WWE Legends of Wrestlemania.” The new game, which will tie into the Wrestlemania 25 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, will feature 40 legendary superstars and managers, including Rhodes.
“This is a completely different game than ‘SmackDown,’ which is more of a simulation game,” said Corey Ledesma, senior creative manager of the WWE games at THQ.
“We want the controls to be very easy and accessible. We’re not complicating things so that this will appeal to the casual fan with arcade-style, authentic gameplay.”
THQ faces new competition in the virtual ring. Midway Games shipped its first game, “TNA iMPACT!”, based on Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and PlayStation 2.
As wrestling fans know, competition is a good thing, so Midway’s entry into this lucrative space should entice both companies to push the virtual action even further.