Let 2KSports tell you something: How scandals affect sports games

Hulkamania has run wild on 2KSports.

The publisher behind the upcoming “WWE 2K ‘16” removed Hulk Hogan from the game last week after racist comments Hogan made in 2006 were uncovered by reporters covering Hogan’s upcoming lawsuit against Gawker Media.

It’s hardly the biggest problem for the Hulkster, who has since been fired by the WWE and publicly excoriated for his use of the n-word.

Yet it’s a huge problem for 2KSports and Yuke’s, which co-develops the “WWE 2K” series. After all, there’s always a marketing risk whenever developers work with real-life organizations to create games.

This isn’t the first time a sports star has been removed from a video game. EA, the makers of the ever-popular “Madden NFL” series, famously removed Aaron Hernandez from “Madden NFL ‘14” after he was charged with first-degree murder. The company called the same play on Ray Rice last year once footage of his attack against his fiancee became public.

These are smart business moves made by developers working to maintain their image, but the removal of Hulk Hogan from a “WWE 2K” game is arguably a larger blow to the title than Rice or Hernandez were to the “Madden” games.

Hogan is the symbol of professional wrestling in popular culture, along with wrestlers Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. Hulkamania was a huge reason why pro wrestling exploded in the ‘80s.

To remove an icon like Hulk Hogan from a game about wrestling is a big deal for many wrestling fans, for better or worse. 2KSports has already marketed “WWE 2K ‘16” as the game with the biggest roster of wrestlers ever — more than 120 wrestlers will reportedly be playable when the game is released this fall.

Hogan played a huge role in marketing last year’s WWE game. He was the face of a special edition “WWE 2K ‘15” set with Hulkamania merchandise and DLC. It stands to reason Hulk would have been used again to promote “WWE 2K ‘16.”

Instead, 2KSports has had to punt Hogan after WWE fired him — in essence, terminating the WWE’s right to use Hogan’s likeness in the game.

That’s not to say 2KSports is bereft of wrestlers to promote. Last week, developers announced the T-800 robot from the “Terminator” series would be part of “WWE 2K ‘16.” I don’t know what Arnold Schwarzenegger did to warrant an appearance in a wrestling game, but the idea does sound intriguing.

The timing was likely to soften the Hulkamania blow — 2KSports released a trailer featuring Ah-nuld himself just a day or two after they announced Hogan was gone from the “WWE 2K ‘16” roster.

Let’s hope Schwarzenegger doesn’t commit a public gaffe before this fall, so we can see how the T-800 would fair against Andre the Giant.

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