SkaterGate: Did Activision Rush Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5' for Legal Reasons?

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 is a hot mess.

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Sep 30 2015, 6:03pm

Image: Activision

When Activision and developer Robomodo started promoting Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5, we thought it looked kind of bad.

Now that the game is finally out, many gaming publications seem to agree that what was built up as a big comeback for the series is a flaming hot mess. There are design decision that will drive Tony Hawk Pro Skater fans mad—the grind button now makes your skater slam towards the ground—but it also looks shoddy on a basic technical level. In short, it looks rushed, and there's compelling evidence that's exactly what happened.

Obviously, Activision can only use Tony Hawk's name in the title for their skateboarding game franchise thanks to a licensing deal between the game publisher and the legendary skater. According to a press release from 2002, Activision and Tony Hawk renewed the licensing deal through 2015. When Motherboard asked whether the licensing deal between Tony Hawk and Activision was still due to expire after 2015, a spokesperson for the game simply directed us at the same press release from 2002.

The implication, as conspiracy theorists on Reddit point out, is that Activision would want to rush out a final Tony Hawk game before the deal expires. The series has been fading for years, and judging by how little Activision has done to promote the game (it had a small presence and separate public relations team at E3 this year), the publisher is losing interest. It might not want to renew the contract, but cash in on the game one last time.

We've asked a spokesperson for the game if the licensing deal determined the release date but haven't heard back yet.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 suffers from bad menus, bugs, load times, and an endless supply of goofy videos showing The Birdman falling through the game world, getting stuck in ramps, and flailing wildly. Eurogamer has a good supercut of glitches, and Polygon has a deeper, sadder dive into why the game disappoints on every level.

The end of the licensing deal is compelling evidence that the game was rushed, but to be fair, developer Robomodo has worked on Tony Hawk games for years, and people didn't like those either. The studio's responsible for both of the motion controls-based games, Ride and Shred, while reviews for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, which aimed to recreate the magic of the original, were mixed.