Electronic Arts’ Skate franchise is legendary, and not just because its trick gameplay based on the right-analog stick was an evolution from the venerable Tony Hawk franchise. Whether you skated in real-life or not, everyone loved Skate. Nevertheless, EA stopped the series in 2010 after Skate 3, and people have been wanting more ever since.
Today at its EA Play showcase, EA finally announced that it is bringing back the Skate series. Despite not discussing any details about when or what platforms it’ll be on (although it’s a good bet it’ll be on the next-gen platforms and not a mobile game as rumored), the series is capable of doing more than just serving us nostalgia. It’s brand of branching gameplay, open-world exploration, customization, and community engagement easily fit in today – even though Skate has been away for an entire console generation.
Beyond the series’ viability, the main reason Skate is coming back is because the developers, like the fans, never fell out of love with it. Game director Deran Chung says he always kept a return for the series in mind, and the time proved right after a leadership change within the company paved the way for its return.
“Our vision as a studios leadership team,” says Laura Miele, EA chief studios officer and a Skate fan from the beginning who pushed for its return, “is to listen to player feedback and act on it, so this project has been a priority for us for the past few years.”
Although original developer EA Black Box doesn’t technically exist anymore, a good chunk of the team that worked on the original series is coming back. In some ways, they’ve been together the whole time; Chung says they have an annual soiree. “This is not normal,” he says, “for dev teams to keep getting together years after they ship their first game together.”
EA isn’t discussing the game’s features yet, but talking to Chung and creative director Cuz Parry, it’s clear that as skaters their priorities lie with the sport first and foremost, which takes care of everything else.
Speaking about some of the things that have changed about skating since the series has been away, Chung says, “you can be any kind of weirdo you want.” Skating isn’t just about street or vert anymore, it’s just about people being themselves with a board. Given that in the past the series immortalized biffs via The Hall of Meat, I’m sure the next Skate will contain numerous ways for people to be their own skater.
The franchise has also enabled expression through its clothing customization and replay editor, among other things, which have allowed the community to go so far as to put together their own pro teams and clothing lines through the game. Fostering a culture of creation and community reflects what the sport is all about, and should easily be a component in what the series does next.
Parry says that the concept of community extends to competition as well. He likens the emergence of games like Skater XL and Session to being at a skate competition in real-life: If someone does a good trick, you’re stoked. No matter who does it, you want to see it.
There’s a lot that we don’t know about the game yet – and probably some things the team themselves haven’t even figured out. Given their history with the franchise, love of the sport, and the approach that they’ll release it when it’s ready, the main question is less about what the series was or whether this feature or that feature is returning, and more about all that it could still be
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