UPDATE: It looks like the upcoming Tony Hawk game that Activision recently confirmed is coming exclusively to mobile platforms. “We’re working on a game for mobile devices this year,” Hawk told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “We’ve never gone exclusively in that direction so I’m excited because, with the amount of time people are spending on their phones and their tablets playing games, we’ve never had our own game in that space. So I’m excited to provide one finally.”
ORIGINAL POST: Activision’s Tony Hawk-branded skateboarding series will soon try to kickflip back into your heart. The Hawkster himself first let the news slip in a SiriusXM radio appearance spotted by IGN. “We are working on a game, it’s pretty cool,” he said on his own program, Demolition Radio. A co-host then followed up with a comment that likely referenced a need to wear a motion capture suit during development.
Activision hadn’t formally announced anything prior to Hawk’s radio comments, but a company spokesperson told IGN that the pro skater’s words are correct. “Activision can confirm that they have something in the works with Tony Hawk, more info is coming soon,” the spokesperson said.
The Tony Hawk series has been quiet since Chicago-based studio Robomodo delivered an HD remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2012. The game was a bit of a mess, albeit a pretty one. The high-def remastering and revived soundtrack unfortunately weren’t enough to make up for wretched and occasionally broken controls, arguably the heart of any Tony Hawk game.
Robomodo’s remake was preceded by a trio of unusual titles that attempted to reinvent the series. Tony Hawk: Ride and Tony Hawk: Shred, both developed by Robomodo and released for PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 in 2009 and 2010, respectively, shipped with a hefty, wheel-less skateboard-like controller meant for players to stand on. The two games proved to be unpopular for a variety of reasons, though mostly because the faux skateboard was frustrating to use. Controls were also the issue in 2008’s Nintendo DS exclusive, Tony Hawk Motion, from Creat Studios, though there was no silly peripheral for that one.
The last properly new Tony Hawk release, as most gamers know the series, came in 2007 with Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground. It was the last in the series to have the Activision-owned studio and series creator Neversoft in the lead development role, for PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. Reviews skewed in a more positive direction than the subsequent Creat and Robomodo offerings, but the common refrain among critics was the the series was suffering from a serious case of feature bloat. It got to the point that the original vision for the series – wish-fulfillment skateboarding that laughs in the face of physics – felt buried. The fatigue that Proving Ground‘s release highlighted is likely what prompted Activision to try something new with the releases that followed.
The series first launched in 1999 with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, released for the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, and PSone (then just PlayStation) consoles. Neversoft led the development of that first entry, along with every major release that followed it, up through Proving Ground. There have been 13 releases in the series overall; 17 if you count the three substantially altered ports (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2X, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2: Remix, and Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land) and the HD remake.
As far as what’s next for the series goes, it’s hard to say. It seems unlikely that Activision would turn to Robomodo once again, given the studio’s three strikes already with Ride, Shred, and the HD remake. Neversoft is a possibility, though that’s also one of the many Activision studios assigned to help keep the annual Call of Duty juggernaut moving. More than that, Neversoft’s career page suggests that the team there is busy with an unannounced first-person shooter (though that could simply be staffing for new Extinction content in Call of Duty: Ghosts).
One other possibility is High Moon Studios. The Activision-owned development house is best-known for its work on the War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron Transformers games. That’s why eyebrows raised recently when the publisher announced that the next release in the series – Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark – would be coming from a third-party, Loadout developer Edge of Reality. Why would Activision pull a popular franchise away from a studio that’s seen success with it, then hand it off as a contract job? Perhaps High Moon is working on an even more high-profile Activision franchise, one that the publisher wants developed with great care.
The only hint of what High Moon is up to comes from an Activision job posting tagged as “urgent” that seeks a Senior Texture Artist for the Carlsbad, California-based studio. The unnamed project is “a high-profile franchised title,” according to the posting, and there’s an emphasis in the job requirements on an ability to create photo-realistic environments. However, the posting also mentions that the game is “action-packed” – not quite the right descriptor for Tony Hawk – and that extra consideration will be given to candidates with knowledge of the Radiant Engine, the level design middleware for games powered by id Tech engines (which none of the Hawk games have been built on).
This is all just idle speculation, of course. Until Activision confirms something, it’s all we can do to keep busy. What do you want from your next Tony Hawk game? Are you even interested in a new one at this point? How do you think the franchise ought to reinvent itself, given what we’ve seen in the past?