Try and cast your mind back to the time of the last great, or even half decent, skateboarding game. There was 2015’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 but that was, well, a total wipeout. How about Olli Olli 2 from the same year? True, it’s a fantastically two-dimensional take on the genre, but I’m talking more about the open-ended, three-dimensional experiences which first came into the fore via the classic Tony Hawk series of titles.
In fact, you’d have to travel back in time to 2010 to find another truly exceptional skateboarding game, and it’s not a Tony Hawk romp. Skate 3 represented the third and, for now, final instalment in EA’s unconventional skateboarding series but, seven years on, fans are still left clamoring for another. Right now, we pretty much know that Skate 4 isn’t on EA’s to-do list but, having just rolled past Skate’s tenth(!) anniversary this week, what better means of celebrating the moment by taking a deep dive into the current prospects of this beloved franchise?
What the games are saying
Skate and Skate 2 released in 2007 and 2009 respectively, and both sold exceptionally well for a new IP in a niche genre historically dominated by a single franchise. Each title was received favourably by critics and skateboarding fans, too, which quickly established the narrative that Skate was fast on its way to dethroning Tony Hawk as the king of the genre.
This success inevitably led to the release of Skate 3 in 2010, and while that title represents the series at the top of its game, it didn’t sell as well as EA had hoped at the time. Tellingly, however, the game only grew in popularity from there, with a surprising peak in sales by 2014 thanks to Pewdiepie. This eventually created more demand than supply for copies of the threequel, at which point EA even reissued new stock to keep sales going.
As of today, Skate 3 has sold 2.68 million units worldwide. Still, this clearly hasn’t been enough to yet warrant a fourth game in the publisher’s mind, as you can read on about below.
What the developers are saying
Let’s start from the beginning. In an interview with Kotaku in 2010, former EA chief John Riccitiello admitted that “at least for the level of excitement out there, skateboarding seems to have run its course as the representative example in that broader genre [of action sports].”
Considering Riccitiello said this only five months on from the release of Skate 3, it reveals how quickly EA had apparently resigned itself to the perceived death of not just their own IP, but the genre at large. This goes a long way in explaining the official radio silence from the company for the next few years, give or take a handful of unsourced rumours. Then, nearly seven years later, something happened.
In January 2017, Daniel Lingen, a community engagement executive for EA, tweeted “#skate4” from his personal account, with no context or explanation as to why. You can imagine the reaction that followed, with everyone presuming the tweet to be a savvy marketing tactic teasing the existence of the hashtagged game in question.
#skate4January 28, 2017
This appeared to be corroborated by the fact that EA had recently made Skate 3 backwards compatible for the Xbox One, fuelling further speculation about the long awaited return of the series.
Unfortunately, EA CEO Andrew Wilson quickly threw cold water on the buzz in an earnings call a few days later, telling investors that the company is “not presently making Skate 4.” Ouch. That was the last official word we’ve had on the game since then, but note the use of the word “presently” by Wilson, meaning EA hasn’t definitively ruled out making another Skate title in future. They still own the IP, after all.
What the fans are saying
As you already know, there is an eternally unwavering surge of fan demand for Skate 4. Click on literally any picture on EA’s official Instagram account and you’ll find a cluster of comments with nothing more to say than “Skate 4.”
Even after Andrew Wilson had attempted to quell any fervor over the now infamous #skate4 tweet, people were still gearing up for a reveal of a Skate game at EA’s E3 press conference in June of 2017. When the conference came and went with not a skateboard in sight, then, there was an inevitable backlash.
It’s not just at the grassroots level either. Last year, a skateboard retailer known as The Berrics launched an official online campaign to “Make EA Skate Again” (ah, I see what you did there), telling its Instagram followers to “join the movement to echo our declaration against the nonexistence of Skate 4.”
Even international rapping superstar Tyler, the Creator has repeatedly taken to Twitter to express his desire for a new Skate game. What more will it take, EA?!?!
skate 4, i dream of youJuly 31, 2017
Meanwhile, an independent developer has taken matters into its own hands by working on a spiritual successor to Skate 3, heavily inspired by the simulation-focused mechanics of the series itself. Entitled Project: Sessions, many have decided to declare this upcoming title as the unofficial Skate 4 that people have been yearning for, and it’s due for a 2018 release on PC.
Despite EA’s insistence that nothing is happening, the internet has still been actively discussing what they’d like to see in a hypothetical Skate sequel, right down to the nitty gritty details of its currently non-existent design. The main request is more of the same, with a slight return to the responsive realism of Skate 2.
“I just want them to remember what they set out to do with the Skate franchise,” says Redditor cvbk12, “It wasn't meant to be a full on casual game. I don't want to have to unlock tricks; the more you play, the better you get.”
Realistic, seamless locations are an important benchmark for Skate veterans, too, as the series’ open environments set its games apart from the more arcade-like zones of Tony Hawk titles. in this category include atmospheric cities, online worlds free of loading screens, and “super parks with mega ramps”, because who doesn’t love a good mega ramp?
Alternatively, others are aching for an engaging, narratively substantial story to contextualise all those heelflips and halfcabs, with even asking for the incorporation of real world skaters like “Guy Mariano, Mike Mo, Corey Duffel, Stefan Janoski, [and] Shane O'Neill.”
At the end of the day, as long as EA doesn’t turn Skate into a free-to-play mobile game (which, sadly, can’t be ruled out of the question), it’ll be satisfying the desires of many fans who are just dying to see the return of the franchise after seven years of being ignored.
What we're saying
We're of two minds about Skate 4. Of course we'd love to see another entry in the series but, at the same time, EA has changed a lot since 2010. If the reality of a Skate 4 game is one which features an overpriced season pass, walled-off pre-order bonuses and distasteful micro-transactions, then we'd instead prefer to just theoretically enjoy the ideal version of Skate 4 that currently exists in our imagination, thank you very much.
To be fair, upcoming EA titles like Star Wars Battlefront 2 suggests that the publisher is making a move away from the faustian profiteering of its past and towards a more consumer-first business model, so perhaps there’s hope for a truly fan-servicing Skate game yet.
After all of this build-up and drama, then, Skate 4 absolutely has to be worth the wait, but we're willing to give EA the benefit of the doubt if it eventually wishes to make a four-wheeled comeback in the future.
What would you love to see in Skate 4? How could EA reinvent the game for current consoles? Let us know what you think by tapping the 'see comments' button below.