For those of you with no knowledge of video games, you might’ve missed the Electronic Entertainment Expo (aka E3) happening in LA this week. E3 is the big showcase for game developers to show off their new games, and console manufacturers to show their latest hardware. One games publisher in attendance (sort of) is Electronic Arts, the company behind the beloved Skate franchise.
For years now, it seems like people have been pestering EA to make a new game in the franchise. Skate3 was released in 2010, and as we near it’s 10 year anniversary, EA have completely stepped back from getting involved with skateboarding games again. This is, perhaps, an odd view, given that perceived demand for Skate4 is pretty high, with the EA Play livestream during E3 2019 drowning in “#skate4” chat comments. It’s also odd, with skateboarding being an Olympic sport, Street League bringing in huge crowds, UK Championships being broadcast on the BBC, and core brands like Thrasher, Palace and Polar being fashionable and trendy with those who don’t skate. Skateboarding, it seems, is big business, unless you are a video game publisher.
What makes EA’s reluctance even more frustrating, is that in this modern day and age, where indie games serve niche markets the big publishers aren’t catering to, new skateboarding games like Session and Skater XL are hamstrung with establishing new control schemes and trying to decipher the recipe for a satisfying skateboarding experience from scratch. The deep, satisfying, authentic yet accessible Flickit control scheme used in Skate is patented by EA, blocking any developer from using a similar control scheme. Given EA’s lack of interest in the franchise, you could risk using similar controls, but would have the lingering threat of a cease and desist looming over your project. With this in mind, any game looking to ape the feel of Skate must wrestle with not living up to expectation – an added hurdle given the huge demand for such a game.
If there was a time to make a new big budget skateboarding game, it’s now. The popularity of open shared world games, where expression and creativity are the focus, in a world where skateboarders dominate a chunk of Vice’s TV programmes and kids who have never stood on a board are wearing Thrasher merch, means that if EA were waiting for the “right time”, they may well have missed it by the time they actually developed a game. I hope that isn’t the case, and I hope I’m proven wrong – because Skate4 is a dream a lot of people just won’t let go of.