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Making EA Skate Again: The Future of Skate - Two Left Sticks

Making EA Skate Again: The Future of Skate

Nostalgia can be a powerful tool and a dangerous element at the same time. If a player has a dated perception of a game or their expectations are too high it’ll lead to disappointment. Despite being away for six years, the Skate franchise is still going strong. This longstanding strength is due to strong sales and the sheer desire fans have to see a fourth entry appear.

MAKE EA SKATE AGAIN

Past comments by EA execs such as Peter Moore have been mildly hopeful that perhaps some day Skate will return. Though for others the wait has been too long. The Berrics, the private skate park owned by Pro skaters Steve Berra and Eric Koston, have demanded a fourth Skate entry. A campaign launched on the Berrics’ website details why they believe EA should produce a new Skate game. The key question is if EA should actually bother to produce a new Skate game in the current climate.

Berrics Skate Campaign

For what it did in 2007 the first Skate game was truly groundbreaking. Shedding the arcade skin of the genre, Skate was a sim that demanded skill, patience, and a bit of luck as players explored the fictional streets of San Vanelona. The sim basis coupled with the unique control scheme made Skate a standout since it was unlike other games in the genre.

The Skate formula was further iterated upon with the sequel in 2009.  Once again providing an entertaining dose of skateboarding, Skate 2 proved as balanced and fun as the original. Ultimately, the decline of the franchise was in part due to the slight downturn the public had in skateboarding in general as the years continued. The sloppily executed Skate 3 was also to blame due to questionable design choices and an uneven thematic tone.

There’s no doubt that skateboarding still has a sizeable audience as evident by the X-Games and titles such as OlliOlli. However, when looking at what made the Skate games so good, it was a perfect storm of ingredients ranging from the climate of the games industry and the development culture EA had.

These days, nearly every key console game has some sort of sandbox/open-world element to it. So that once unique selling point can’t be ticked off anymore when looking at a fourth Skate game. Secondly, the team behind the Skate games, Blackbox, is effectively dead at EA. Central figures of Blackbox are now at other companies such as Kabam (Marvel: Contest of Champions) or new teams within EA. The folks responsible for nurturing the Skate franchise are now spread apart at the far reaches of the development community like long sought after relic pieces.

A STALEMATE

EA could assemble to a new team to create Skate 4, but would that please fans?  In the past fans reacted poorly when a new team was brought in to handle the Tony Hawk games. By all accounts, the Tony Hawk situation was a no win battle as to what sort of refinements could have made since people cherish that series so much. Change something, the fans flip out. Leave something out, the fans flip out. It’s this battle of tug and war, which makes developing a new entry in a dormant franchise difficult at times.

Given the entitled nature of players, if a new Skate game doesn’t wow them at first then it’s DOA. With how niche the skating genre a new Skate looks less appealing to the financial eyes of EA. There’s also the possibility EA may be tepid on action sports since Criterion’s Beyond Cars was cancelled after debuting at E3 2014.  There are essentially no major publishers making action sports games today other than what Ubisoft is attempting with Steep which shows some promise. So there isn’t a race within publishers to tap a hungry market since skating is much smaller these days compared to the late 1990s boom.

A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY

In four years a perfect opportunity will present itself which could make EA skate once more; the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. Making its Olympic debut will be none other than skateboarding, thus marking the slow modernization of the event. With millions watching the games and seeing the saccharine produced segments narrated by Bob Costas, the iron could be hot to strike and develop a new Skate game.

A render of the 2020 Olympics Skateboarding stadium.
A render of the 2020 Olympics Skateboarding stadium.

Obviously, the slight problem with the Olympics scenario is the four-year wait. One upside to that is how the new Skate would launch on the next PlayStation and Xbox consoles. But again, four years can be a long time to wait. So what avenues could be taken now to make EA take some action?

THE WAITING GAME

Besides the Skate4 hashtag fans have been using on nearly any social media posted by EA, there’s not a lot else to do. EA’s current pattern is producing original properties, publishing indie games, and making new titles in core franchises. But since Mirror’s Edge came back from the dead who knows what EA may be thinking of next.

The important thing about this Skate situation is for fans to temper their expectations. There’s nothing worse than seeing something that’s beloved return in bad form. We haven’t seen many reboots of existing franchises, but those that have appeared received lukewarm receptions from fans.  At its core, Tony Hawk HD wasn’t a bad game in what it delivered.  The problem was fans demanded so much and it didn’t meet their high expectations. This wasn’t the developer’s fault, Robomodo, but just how perception of a beloved game skewed feelings.

A new Skate game can’t take many forms which aren’t derivative or a bad fit.  Fans could be content with another open-world Skate game, though the budget could be too high for EA’s liking.  So what form could a new Skate game take? There’s always the simpler approach of smaller environments, perhaps bolstered by post release content as a bonus revenue stream. Even then, EA may opt to make a new Skate game have a serious approach like the recent dreadful Need For Speed game. Stuff like this is what fans need to be thinking about before fully committing and hoping for a Skate comeback.

TAKING A ROLL AND HITTING THE SLOPES

Players hungry for a new skate game can always go back to the old games or newer action sports games. While it’s not skateboarding, the skiing/snowboarding PC game SNOW from Poppermost Productions has proven to be enjoyable and is coming soon to the PS4.

A screenshot from On A Roll.
A screenshot from On A Roll.

Players looking for something a little closer to home can also scope out the PC/console title On A Roll. Focused on in-line skating, On A Roll features a stick based trick system and pro athletes. So for now fans just need to wait and temper their expectations while they see if EA finally opts to shred once more.

Ian Fisher
A Chicago native, I'm a six year veteran of the game press industry with a deep passion for smaller indie games and all things Sony.

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3 thoughts on “Making EA Skate Again: The Future of Skate

  1. I actually used to work closely with EA’s Blackbox studio’s and had several friends on the dev team and went to Vancouver, Canada for playtest sessions… I would love nothing more for Skate to make a comeback but I don’t think it would be the same without the passionate people of Blackbox who were all mostly skaters.

    1. Hi Casey,

      Thanks for your comment as I appreciate it. I do somewhat agree with you. Having brief interactions with members of the dev team at past press events it was present that they truly cared about Skate and it wasn’t just another project gig for them.

      However, I would be somewhat optimistic about future Skate games since there are no doubt other passionate developers out there who played the games, perhaps eagerly awaiting the chance to help contribute. Again, it’s a case of the core leads being gone and what may replace it, but I won’t be entirely jaded on the matter just yet haha.

      Thanks again for your comment and I hope I didn’t disappoint you too much with my article.

      Cheers,
      Ian

      1. No it didn’t disappoint me at all. Nostalgia is a hell of a thing, I wish they had put the Skate series on PC. I’d still be playing today. I used to skate in real life myself, but due to knee injuries I can no longer do it..

        Dropping even off a 4 stair hurts so much that half the time I have to buckle my knees and roll.

        So Skate was very dear to me and I was very passionate about it and I still am… I hope and hope that a 4th does get created, and if it does I hope it is done right and not thrown towards the Tony Hawk unrealistic side of things.. The realism is what made Skate for a lot of us, the introduction of Hardcore mode that made the physics and everything more realistic was fantastic.

        I remember playing it at a press event in SF for the first time and hanging out with a friend on the dev team while he watched me shred.. It was an amazing feeling. I’m glad there are other journalists out there who are still passionate about a game a lot of us love but aren’t really vocal about it.

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