WWE 2K21 officially cancelled, to be replaced by arcade brawler WWE 2K Battlegrounds

There won't be a WWE 2K21 this year, but don't worry we will be getting a WWE game.

2K has confirmed that WWE 2K21 is being dispatched to the giant wrestling ring in the sky - and that in its place, the company is releasing an arcade-style brawler called WWE 2K Battlegrounds. It looks a lot like THQ’s 2011 cult favourite WWE All-Stars, if that game included The Rock throwing John Cena into an alligator’s jaws. You can see that bit and more in the trailer below:

WWE 2K Battlegrounds is being made by Saber Interactive, the studio responsible for NBA 2K Playgrounds. That game, released in 2017, featured big-headed basketball players doing crackerjack things on court, and Battlegrounds is clearly aiming for a similar vibe. 

“[Battlegrounds] is a completely new WWE gaming experience that will feature arcade-style action and over-the-top superstar designs, environments and moves,” says a 2K spokesperson. “We’re focusing on social pick-up-and-play fun, but with plenty of depth for those who want to get way into it.”

Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, John Cena, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin are the first five wrestlers confirmed for Battlegrounds. An additional mix of new and old favourites is guaranteed – including reigning WWE Champion Drew McIntrye and Universal Champion Braun Strowman.

As explained in our (now sadly defunct) WWE 2K21 roster feature, we may even seen CM Punk make a shock appearance. The controversial star returned to WWE as a backstage analyst late last year, and fans had clamoured for a 2K21 comeback. Singing him up for Battlegrounds instead would be a huge development. 

(Image credit: 2K)

The bigger news for long-standing fans in the death of WWE 2K21. It marks the first time since the Smackdown series’ inception in 2000 that there will be no official sim game released in a calendar year, following woeful reviews of WWE 2K20. Long-standing franchise mastermind Yuke’s was let go midway through that game’s development, with in-house devs Visual Concepts picking up the slack – and the end result was a bug-infested mess. 

2K says it’s very aware of the substantial negative feedback, and so has brought aboard Patrick Gilmore as the series’ new executive producer. Gilmore did a sterling job of returning Medal Of Honor to prominence on PS3 and Xbox 360, and the publisher hopes he can perform similar miracles at Visual Concepts. Gilmore most recently worked on Amazon Game Studios' MMO New World, which is scheduled to land on Windows in August.

(Image credit: 2K)

“We hear you and we know you want more from the franchise, so we are applying what we’ve learned to the next WWE 2K simulation game with a renewed focus on quality and fun,” says 2K. “As part of that commitment, we are extending the production timeline and will not be releasing a WWE 2K simulation game in 2020. We want to ensure the development team can create a great game that will entertain grizzled WWE 2K veterans, as well as newcomers who want to climb through the ropes and step into the ring for the very first time.”

For more info on the new game, hit the WWE 2K Battlegrounds website. 

Ben Wilson

I'm GamesRadar's sports editor, and obsessed with NFL, WWE, MLB, AEW, and occasionally things that don't have a three-letter acronym – such as Chvrches, Bill Bryson, and Streets Of Rage 4. (All the Streets Of Rage games, actually.) Even after three decades I still have a soft spot for Euro Boss on the Amstrad CPC 464+.