Crash Team Rumble initially feels like a unexpected diversion for the long-running Crash Bandicoot series, but it’s a lot more fun than you might expect. I went hands-on with Crash Team Rumble at Summer Game Fest Play Days, and once I got the hang of its Wumpa-collecting match objectives, I had a blast discovering winning strategies with my teammates. Still, it feels like a pretty significant shift for developer Toys for Bob, which spent the 2010s working on Skylanders, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
Between Crash Bandicoot 4 and now, a major shakeup at the studio happened. Publisher Activision Blizzard moved Toys for Bob into the role of a support studio for Call of Duty starting in 2021, a controversial decision that was met with swift backlash from Crash fans. Reportedly, this shift led to an exodus of game developers from the studio and caused an internal delay for Crash Team Rumble, which has been in the works since before the launch of Crash Bandicoot 4 and was allegedly pushed back because of the Call of Duty shift.
Whether you agree with Activision Blizzard’s decision or not, game developers evolve over time, and all of their prior experiences can go on to influence future projects. Speaking with Creative Director Dan Neil after playing Crash Team Rumble at Summer Game Fest, I got a better idea of how the team is trying to use its divisive time working on Call of Duty to make Crash Team Rumble a better live-service game.
Being interviewed in a setting like Summer Game Fest Play Days, Neil wasn’t going to voice displeasure at Activision Blizzard management if he harbored any resentment. Still, when asked about the studio’s history with Call of Duty, he reflected on that shift positively and pointed out that Toys for Bob’s live-service support on Call of Duty: Warzone gave them answers to some valuable questions that developers need to be asking when working on a live-service game like Crash Team Rumble.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been doing some work on Call of Duty,” Neil tells Digital Trends. “We’re super proud that our team that traditionally makes games that look more like Crash was able to turn their hand so successfully and make awesome content for Call of Duty. There have been learnings back from working on Call of Duty, like how to run great seasons of live content, what makes a great season of content, how to message that out to a community, how to listen and respond to the desires of the community, and how to manage more boring technical aspects like servers.”
While the initial idea for Crash Team Rumble reportedly predates the studio’s work on Call of Duty, Toys for Bob hopes that its experience on Activision’s biggest franchise will give them the right tools to make it a successful live-service game that the studio can call its own. It’s no secret that breaking into the live-service space is difficult nowadays, and Crash Team Rumble will have an even bigger hurdle to overcome as a premium release (Neil declined to comment on why it’s a premium release and not free to play). Still, Neil believes that rampant prelaunch playtesting and an eagerness to listen to what the game’s community has to say afterward will make this a popular game that finds success.
Although Crash Team Rumble couldn’t look or play more differently than Call of Duty: Warzone, both games have very similar long-term plans. Two post-launch seasons for Crash Team Rumble are confirmed at this point, with the first running from launch until September 12. The game’s first season will add new characters, maps, and powers, and it will even feature some limited-time modes and cosmetics. It will also have the free and premium battle passes that are standard in most modern multiplayer games. Neil tells Digital Trends that Toys for Bob intends to keep up this kind of content cadence for future seasons.
“If you know about game development, you know that we already need to be thinking several steps ahead because this stuff doesn’t happen overnight,” Neil says. “Going back to Call of Duty, one of the things we learned is how to structure a season so that there’s always a fun reason to come back, like limited-time modes or cosmetics. That’s something we took [from Call of Duty] very strongly.”
Though I’d like to see Toys for Bob eventually go back and make single-player platformers starring characters like Crash and Sypro, Crash Team Rumble is a multiplayer spinoff that really works. It’s an enjoyable game for fans of platformers and multiplayer games like Call of Duty, one that feels worthy of Toys For Bob’s time. Developers change over time, sometimes in ways we don’t like as fans, but it’s always intriguing to see how a team’s next title builds upon the last game they worked on.
In Crash Team Rumble’s case, Toys for Bob hopes its learnings from Call of Duty — as well as quickly reacting to what the community asks of them post-launch — are enough to help them make this the next big live-service game.
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