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WWE and UFC: Which Franchise Has the Best Chance for Success? Stuck
Posted on February 26, 2013 at 09:10 AM.
As I've pontificated on here before, all three of the "big" fighting franchises are at a crossroads. Boxing, wrestling and MMA have all had some successful games in recent years, but each franchise currently sits in limbo, with future titles of each announced but with very little known about them. It's painful to say, but boxing will probably be on the shelf for a while, so that leaves UFC and WWE.



In that case, I thought it would be interesting to speculate on which of the two games releasing this year -- EA's UFC game and 2K's WWE '14 -- has the best chance of carrying forward momentum from past successes into the new development reality. The categories I'm comparing each game in are arbitrarily chosen by me, but I figure it will give a fairly good breakdown of where each brand is at and where they might be heading.

Critical Success

Checking out Metacritic, the WWE games have consistently scored moderately well, but only with the release of WWE '13 did the brand experience some meaningful press love. WWE '12 received scores in the low and mid-70s, averaging around 72 for the current generation systems. WWE All Stars improved somewhat with its crazy style, netting a couple of 75 averages for Xbox 360 and PS3, but it did have some lower scores for Wii and portables.



WWE '13 scored only a 74 on the Wii, but PS3 averaged a 76, and the Xbox 360 version shook out at 78, which is frankly pretty good growth for a franchise that had been kind of stagnating. This holding pattern was reflected in the increasingly disinterested critical opinion on the series over the last few years.

Over on the UFC side of things, the "Undisputed" brand has been quite highly praised all throughout its three iterations. The 2009 release scored 83 and 84, proving itself to be one of the strongest starts for a new franchise. The 2010 sequel crept up to 84 and 85, showing that critics were happy with the changes but not seeing the necessary improvements required in an annual franchise to give it top marks. For UFC Undisputed 3, it reached a bit higher, hitting 85 and 86 on current-gen consoles, once again showing solid improvement but not quite hitting critics hard enough to be declared something truly great.

Verdict: I'd say UFC's constant upswing bodes well for the future, more than even the recent success of WWE '13. While sales are important (as I'll show below), it helps to be able to point to accolades and pull quotes to sell a brand, whoever is developing it.

Commercial Success

I figured I'd look back at the last three releases for each franchise and see what kind of number they've been pulling. Consulting VGChartz, WWE '13 has sold a combined 1.93 million units on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. Pretty respectable numbers for a sports franchise that's been annually churning out similar games for years now. Also, it's trending higher than WWE '12 did, so that's great for the brand.

Before this release, it was WWE All Stars, and it didn't fair as well, only selling just 1.16 million copies across all platforms, including mobile and PS2. Previous to that, WWE '12 sold 2.43 million copies worldwide on all current gen platforms, which is a pretty good number.

On the whole, that's close to 5 million units for the last three WWE releases, and that's an encouraging sign. With a fresh start and considerably more resources behind the brand going forward, these are decent numbers.



For UFC, the last three versions have sold fairly well, but they are trending in the opposite direction to that of WWE games. UFC 2009 Undisputed had a crazy debut, selling 3.7 million copies across Xbox 360 and PS3. After that, UFC Undisputed 2010 sold considerably less across those platforms, ending up just shy of 2.6 million copies (plus another 150-200k for PSP). Finally, UFC Undisputed 3, which took its time with a longer development cycle that actually produced a better product, only sold 1.35 million copies across PS3 and 360, which is definitely a disappointment.

All told, the UFC brand has sold around 7.8 million copies for all three of its releases, which is still pretty impressive, but the steady trend downwards has to be a big concern for EA.

Verdict: I'd say that although UFC has had good lifetime sales, WWE is riding more momentum right now, and wrestling consistently enjoys a much wider appeal. WWE gets the nod here.

New Developer Pedigree

WWE will be leaning on 2K for marketing and Yuke's, once again, for development. With Yuke's, you've got a known commodity. They did end up spearheading the phenomenal attitude era content in WWE '13, and they have released consistently solid games. However, I think they actually creeped closer to top-level gameplay with their work on the UFC games. I'm not saying either product got the gameplay perfect, but I think Yuke's got closer with the UFC brand. As for 2K, they can help with their relatively decent marketing muscle, but it seems unclear as to how much steam they'll really put behind this game. We'll likely know more at E3 as to where WWE '14 will sit amongst 2k's other products.



For the UFC game, it gets the best of both worlds. From EA, they have a marketing partner that produces tons of sports product, and they know how to do it, user feedback be damned. While EA deserves some criticism for how they do business, like or not, they release games each year, and many of their franchises are winners.

On the development end, EA is using the Fight Night team to help make the transition for this MMA product. The Fight Night series has generally been seen as critically and commercially successful, even if it's simulation-style gameplay veers into arcade territory sometimes. Still, EA has a deep bench of development talent who know how to make games on a deadline.

Verdict: For just straight developers, I'd say it's close to a push, but when you add in EA's marketing prowess, it's UFC all the way.

Final Outlook

I'm going to give the narrow victory to UFC for my "optimism award." I just think EA brings a little more to the table in terms of marketing, and the UFC continues to thrive as a brand, even though the previous THQ games flagged in sales.

Even though this is a razor-thin decision for UFC, I'm still optimistic for both titles. UFC has to reverse the trend of sagging sales, but it can lean on EA's considerable marketing muscle and large development resources. 2K can build off what WWE '13 brought to the table, but I sort of wonder if they'll have the time to build on that good faith when a new game is coming out so soon.
Comments
# 1 SHAKYR @ Feb 26
I'm going to go with boxing. I feel a company hasn't putting enough effort into making a boxing. They going into making a boxing game as a casual fan and the idea that boxing is a dying or dead sport. When the mindset and enthusiasm the product reflects.
MMA has done well in the pass but it hasn't done a whole lot better from game to game. Many fans aren't fans. The experience dies quickly. Many fans like the striking and hate the grappling parts. WWE has depth in the overall game and when 2K/Visual Concepts team finally get it, it will gain a bigger fan base just on what 2k/Visual Concepts can bring to the table.
 
# 2 Wiggy @ Feb 26
Quote:
SHAKYR @ Feb 26 (1 Hour Ago)
I'm going to go with boxing. I feel a company hasn't putting enough effort into making a boxing. They going into making a boxing game as a casual fan and the idea that boxing is a dying or dead sport. When the mindset and enthusiasm the product reflects.
MMA has done well in the pass but it hasn't done a whole lot better from game to game. Many fans aren't fans. The experience dies quickly. Many fans like the striking and hate the grappling parts. WWE has depth in the overall game and when 2K/Visual Concepts team finally get it, it will gain a bigger fan base just on what 2k/Visual Concepts can bring to the table.
Oh, I agree. I think boxing could be something truly special if done right. For the purpose of this blog, I was just comparing the viability of the two franchises that we know about right now. Boxing, sadly, has some uncertainty around it in the game space.
 
# 3 mpt54 @ Feb 26
I'm also excited about both series in the future. But I think WWE will become the bigger hit because as mentioned above the fanbase. Also with WWE having more weekly TV programs that's a great way to promote the game.
 
# 4 Simple Mathematics @ Feb 26
WWE hands down.
 
# 5 DBMcGee3 @ Feb 27
WWE definitely has a marketing edge with their massive fan base, especially considering that a large portion of those fans are kids. I have pretty much enjoyed the past few WWE titles, but THQ just dropped the ball in too many key areas, namely the online and the glitches. I could see 2k throwing some real money into this franchise and coming out with something special. Hopefully the game is closer to the NBA 2k end of the spectrum than the dreaded MLB 2k end.

With the UFC, I'm actually really excited for this next game. I LOVED the MMA game EA made a few years back, even more so than the most recent THQ game. I just love the controls, and the animations just felt better to me. I expect this game to be a far more advanced version of that game, given the time they've had to develop the product, and when you throw in the UFC license and presumably a massive roster, how can you go wrong?
 
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