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The past, present, and future of the Tony Hawk franchise

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The game that started it all

In August  of 1999 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released on the PlayStation 1. The game was a huge hit. The series continued with the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and was arguably perfected when Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was released in 2001. In the late 90s to early 2000s, the Tony Hawk series ruled the gaming world. All three games were critically acclaimed and financially successful, with worldwide sales at the time reported to be over $500 million. It was such a hit that Activision signed Tony Hawk to a 13-year sponsorship deal. That’s right, in 2002 Activision secured the rights to keep making Tony Hawk games until the year 2015.

Tony Hawk games continued to come released, with games such as Tony Hawk Underground, American Wasteland, and Project 8. While these games remained generally well received, many fans of the series felt the games went a bit too over the top with new features and lost what was great about the original three games. I remember one game reviewer stating something along the lines of  “once you were able to walk, the games stopped being good”. This might be an overstatement since the series was still well received, but his point still stood.

Then in late 2007 Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground was released. In a first for the series, Proving Ground was receiving poor to mixed reviews.  The game suffered from technical issues along with game-play design choices that simply kept you off the board for too long and had you using a dull level editor. Meanwhile a brand new skateboarding game called Skate was receiving a lot of attention. While there have been some skateboarding games released in the past, such as Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, the Tony Hawk series was the gold standard and had basically no competition.

Then Skate came along. Skate was all about realism, physics, all using the “flick it” control scheme. This was the complete opposite of the Tony Hawk series. Although there’s nothing wrong with over-the-top craziness found in the Tony Hawk games, the quality was suffering, leaving fans burned-out. Skate was simply a breath of fresh air.

For the first time ever in the series, Activision decided to take a year off and not release a game in 2008. Up until this point, Tony Hawk was a annual franchise. With the release of Skate and the mediocre performance of Proving Ground, Activision felt the series needed to be relaunched. Unfortunately this relaunching came with Tony Hawk: Ride in 2009. The game included an unbelievably bad skateboard peripheral that the player would stand on to control the rider in the game. It barely worked and the game-play was terrible. A year later they released the sequel titled Tony Hawk Shred, which was just as bad. Not only were the reviews terrible, it reportedly only sold 3,000 copies during the first week.

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Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD was a huge let down

It was now 2011 and the Tony Hawk franchise was dead in the water. The re-inventing of the series was an embarrassing failure. There hadn’t been a decent Tony Hawk game in about 5 years. But Activision couldn’t kill the franchise, remember they signed that crazy 13 year deal in 2002. Activision was paying Tony Hawk too much money to stop making these games. They decided to relaunched the franchise again and announce Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD, which would be updated version of the Tony Hawk 1 and 2. This is what the people wanted. Fans of the original games felt the series should go back to its root and bring back the old game-play that made the first games so great.

Unfortunately Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD failed to deliver on its potential. The game was simply not what people wanted. First, instead of just simply porting Tony Hawk 1 and 2, they decided to combine levels from both games. By making this decision they left out some key fan favorites. The combo system, soundtrack, and multiplayer were also scaled down and condensed. There was no local-multiplayer, and shockingly the PC version of the game had no multiplayer at all. It was such a huge disappointment.

So what is the future of the Tony Hawk franchise. It is now September 2013, over a year since the last Tony Hawk game was released. Will Activision release another game from now until 2015 when their contract runs out? At this time no new Tony Hawk game has been announced. It’s possible the Tony Hawk series is finished for good. Will Activision make the push for a new Tony Hawk game on the next-generation consoles? They haven’t had success with the Tony Hawk franchise is a very long time and they’ve already tried to revive it twice. There must be something left in the tank for this beloved franchise.

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