Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a skateboarding video game series credited with having the most successful skating video game of all time, both critically and commercially. That particular game is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, released in 2000.
So where did an innovative gaming franchise go wrong? Why was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 released with barely a blip on the radar? I will share my two cents on this, along with other voices of the internet.
If anything, the development team behind this series should be celebrating the game’s history and hyping that aspect as much as they can. Instead, the release of THPS5 felt like a feeble attempt at the last hoorah of a has-been game series that tried to reinvent itself too many times, and ultimately failed to recreate the successful gameplay and excitement of its initial titles.
The promotion of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 started with a clip on instagram five months before release. The clip shows a real-life parody of the skater selection screen of the early Tony Hawk titles, where the player can change the skateboard and style of the clothes for their skater. The clip started some buzz on the rumor of a future game. Later, five separate trailers were released (Launch, Skaters, Skaters 2, THPS, Behind the Scenes), along with a spot with Conan O’Brien and Lil Wayne.
But once the gameplay was seen, it received mixed reviews. People new to the franchise may have been interested, while the general consensus of the hardcore fans was similar to Dave Roth’s sentiments below.
As a fan of the series for 16 years now, I reserved my judgement until I could actually get my hands on a copy of the game to play and see for myself. Sadly, I was disappointed. It did not live up to the nostalgia of the great games from my youth. While the new game did bring some cool features, like the online skatepark, multiplayer online sandbox, format gameplay, and downloadable user created skateparks, the game was glitchy, full of bugs, and had almost zero replay value. While the game was intended to be more approachable and easy to pick up and play, it felt oversimplified, with ridiculous physics that exaggerated the arcade style they claimed to be shooting for.
You don’t have to look too far to find a theme among the reviews of the game’s quality. On Metacritic it received 31/100, with a 1.5 out of 5 star user rating. On IGN, it received 3.5/10. There are rumors from YouTube and reddit that suggest the game was rushed to cash in on one more title before Activision’s contract ended at the end of 2015. This would explain the game’s poor quality and reception from fans.
It’s easy to sell a great product, which THPS5 had the potential to be. Great products sell themselves. It is far more difficult to sell a product that is not great and has disengaged fans. Tony Hawk fans felt that the new game seemed to be catering to a new younger crowd with an easier rating and cartoon-like graphics. Unfortunately, that is what THPS5 actually was. Activision assigned THPS5 and the two previous games, Tony Hawk Ride and Tony Hawk Shred, to game developer Robomodo. Robomodo attempted to bridge the success of the originals in the series with the new gaming technology of today, but they created a mutt that didn’t get very far.
The promotion for THPS1 included demo discs which fans could play months before release and voice their opinion to Activision for feedback. This engaging strategy was highly successful in the past. Had the promotion campaign for THPS5 attempted to engage its audience more proactively like this, I would likely be writing about that success, instead of one that failed to build hype and engage its fans.
With this last iteration of the series, it is rumored that THPS may be done for good, and that may be a good thing. Despite the sour taste left from THPS5, the first titles of that franchise will forever be remembered, in my mind and the minds of many, as the best skateboarding video games in history.