WWE 2K22 is looking to reboot the WWE Games and 2K Games franchise for a new era and move on from the mistakes of the past.
With WWE seeing major corporate reshuffling, WWE 2K22 may be the last chance to save the struggling series and a failure could spell the end.
WWE has been undergoing major corporate changes
While still just speculation, the potential impact of a company sale by WWE to a larger media conglomerate like NBC Universal or FOX can't be overstated.
Even in the years since it became more global at every level, WWE has always been a fairly insular company with Vince McMahon dictating the final say in just about everything.
That's started to shift somewhat when Vince McMahon made the shocking call to fire co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, who had each been with the company for over a decade.
Following that change, they eventually hired Nick Khan, the former co-head of television with the Creative Artists Agency, to become the new president and chief revenue officer of WWE.
Since arriving, Nick Khan has become increasingly present in the conversation about changes to the company and the releases of talent.
Shrinking roster must look pristine in WWE 2K22
One of the ways Nick Khan has made his presence felt is by releasing dozens of notable wrestlers on the WWE roster and citing "budget cuts" as the reasoning.
Samoa Joe, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mickie James, Chelsea Green, Tucker, Kalisto, Bo Dallas, Mojo Rawley and Wesley Blake were all released from their contracts back in April.
Just last week, the list continued to grow when WWE shockingly cut ties with Aleister Black, Lana, Ruby Riott, Santana Garrett, Buddy Murphy, and even recent Universal Champion and main event star Braun Strowman.
These changes could have lasting impacts on the WWE product itself, but they also affect the eventual roster that gets included in WWE 2K22.
It's almost guaranteed that many of those names, especially returning ones from WWE 2K20 like Strowman, Samoa Joe, and Aleister Black, were all going to be part of WWE 2K22 and may already be in the developmental build of the game.
With more and more names being removed from WWE and by proxy removed from this upcoming game, Visual Concepts needs to blow things out of the park when it comes to how the remaining roster looks in WWE 2K22.
WWE 2K series has seen steadily declining sales for years
On top of all of the potential challenges that WWE 2K22 would normally be facing, they're in many ways trying to repair damage done in previous years.
While most of the attention for that may turn to WWE 2K20, the issues with the franchise as a whole go back several years.
According to a report by VGChartz, first week sales of WWE 2K19 dipped to just 364,738 copies sold compared to the 577,195 sold in the first week by WWE 2K15.
- WWE 2K15 - 577,195
- WWE 2K16 - 531,926
- WWE 2K17 - 447,001
- WWE 2K18 - 396,640
- WWE 2K14 - 394,822
- WWE 2K19 - 364,738
Exact figures for total sales are not known, but this steady decline over more than half a decade is a very ominous sign for the series.
First week sales are not known for WWE 2K20, but Take-Two Interactive Executive Chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said during an earnings call last year that "WWE 2K20 did not meet our expectations, both in terms of sales and quality."
Many are convinced WWE is preparing to sell the company
The final piece of the puzzle that puts WWE 2K22 and the franchise as a whole at risk is speculation that WWE is making financial moves to clean up the company ahead of a sale to a major media conglomerate.
Exactly which company that might be or when such a sale could happen is still entirely unknown, and there's nothing official yet confirming it's even on the horizon.
Despite that, the belief among the talent themselves within WWE seems to have shifted more and more towards the expectation that WWE is going to be sold.
Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select reported just over a week ago that "there is a lot of speculating within about a potential sale down the line, but [Fightful Select has] not heard that from WWE officials."
In addition to that, Bryan Alvarez stated on Wrestling Observer Live that "everybody believes" actions by Nick Khan are to set the company up for a future sale.
One specific reasoning Alvarez mentions is the fact that multiple talents released by WWE were told the reason for their firing was "budget cuts," despite the company making record profits in the last two years.
If WWE is indeed preparing for a potential sale, it would make sense for Nick Khan to want things cleaned up as much as he can, and reducing their talent budget and lowering costs across the company is part of that.
WWE Games could be the next division on the chopping block
If WWE 2K22 fails to deliver in the way that many are hoping, both as an improvement over WWE 2K20 in gameplay and quality but in terms of pure sales figures, it could spell disaster for the franchise.
The moment that the WWE 2K series looks unprofitable or doesn't appear financially beneficial, it could see the same kinds of layoffs that WWE Studios saw a few weeks ago.
WWE 2K20 struggled to make the game ready for release due to the loss of part of their team when Yuke's departed as a partner, and any potential layoffs at WWE Games would put them right on track for the same issues.
With mobile titles like WWE Champions and WWE SuperCard potentially still making WWE revenue, a failure by WWE 2K22 could easily convince Nick Khan the series is no longer viable and to refocus all of WWE Games on microtransaction-fueled mobile games.
Of course, should WWE 2K22 see major success, it could also help solidify the WWE 2K series as a major part of the company for the coming years.
Even with so many facets of the company still in flux and many of these potential changes unconfirmed, it's clear that the pressure is higher than ever for WWE 2K22 to deliver when it releases later this year.