The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough for game developers of all sizes and across all stages of production, but those working on annual franchises may face especially tough decisions. Time lost in an already tight schedule to adjusting to remote work could be a huge hurdle to many, and some likely won't clear it. On a call to investors, the WWE announced that 2K's annual franchise would be skipping a 2020 release—there'll be no WWE 2K21.
Kotaku reports that the announcement was made by Frank Riddick, the WWE's interim chief financial officer. 2K has yet to release a statement regarding a cancellation of WWE 2K21, but it did issue a message from the official WWE 2K Twitter account promising it will share "details on the future of the WWE 2K franchise" and "some exciting news" on the morning of Monday, April 27.
Neither 2K nor the WWE have explicitly mentioned the pandemic as a reason why the two are skipping an installment this year. Regardless, the decision to do so almost certainly factors in the brutally poor response WWE 2K20 received last year.
Visual Concepts, the long-time assist studio for WWE 2K's previous chief developers Yuke's, took over WWE 2K20 after Yuke's split with 2K in August of 2019, just under three months before the game's launch. With its release in October, fans found WWE 2K20 to be a buggy, crash-prone mess. WWE2K20 suffered another round of criticism and ridicule after the discovery of a bug that prevented many features from working after the year changed from 2019 to 2020.
Earlier this month, a report emerged claiming that while 2020's standard installment in the WWE 2K series would be canceled, another licensed WWE game could appear in its stead. Justin Leeper, a former writer for WWE video games, says that while sources told him WWE 2K21 was not moving forward, 2K looks to publish "a different kind of WWE game [not developed by] Visual Concepts."
Meanwhile, the pandemic has taken a toll on WWE's other operations. The WWE has managed to secure an essential business classification from the office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, meaning it can continue to produce events from its Performance Center in Orlando. Just two days later, the WWE announced massive layoffs and released 22 wrestlers from their contracts. WWE's main pay-per-view event of the year, WrestleMania, had to be produced late last month with a minimal crew and no audience, leading to a bizarre show—the WWE will continue to produce its events in a similar manner moving forward.