Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Series

'The Birdman' turns 52 today
13:25, 12 May 2020

For a substantial number of millennials, few athletes encapsulate their childhood as the superlative skateboarder Tony Hawk did.

Actually getting to see the man in action in his heyday proved difficult. With internet access limited for most, you’d be required to bank on a friend whose Mum was at work in order to commandeer a Sky box to view the short-lived Extreme Sports Channel.

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Many can no doubt relate to the six-week summer holidays exclusively reserved for trips to the skate park, trying in vain to replicate what had been learned through nocturnal PlayStation sessions; from ollies to grinding and kickflips to heelflips, and most likely failing valiantly at them all.

Our teacher? The phenomenal Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series.

The Pro Skater series is among the most popular to grace the videogame world, and that should come as no surprise - immersive gameplay, immensely replayable and that soundtrack, what a soundtrack! To celebrate ‘The Birdman’s’ 52nd birthday, we take a look at five facts from the series that you probably didn’t know…

The Timing Was Perfect

When the first Tony Hawk game was released in 1999, it became one of the decade’s best selling games, shifting 300,000 copies in North America alone. 

But that success may never have been as good had Tony Hawk not launched himself into the public consciousness just a month before the game’s release. At the 1999 X-Games, Hawk became the first skater to officially land a 900°, sending sales of the first game through the roof.

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A Good Video Game Series Pays More Than A Good Skating Career

Amassing 64 skateboard contest victories between 1983 to 2003 and becoming the face of the sport would surely pay dividends when it came to board sales but how do they stack up to the game sales?

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“They don’t. I couldn’t have bought my house without Tony Hawk Pro Skater royalties,” Hawk once said.

The THPS series has made over $1.4bn in sales, and Hawk’s estimated net worth in 2019 was valued at a whopping $140m (according to CNBC).

Activision Wasn’t Tony Hawk’s First Choice To Publish The Game

History is littered with bad decisions from stuffy boardroom types who don’t understand the direction the world’s moving in and the creation of THPS was no different. 

A year before striking a deal with publishers Activision, Hawk had initially wanted Midway, who’d developed Space Invaders and something called 720°, the first ever skateboarding video game. Sadly, Hawk was sent packing and was told that there was no market for a skateboarding game anymore. 

His loss, everyone else’s gain.

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The Games Have Influenced The Latest Generation Of Skaters

“I think that the main thing is that parents are encouraging their kids to skate. That didn’t happen when I was young, ever,” Hawk told The Verge in 2019.

Skateboarding is now firmly in the mainstream, more than it ever was when Hawk was growing up, so it comes as no surprise that the latest generation picked up a lot of their love for the sport from the series.

21 year-old Tyshawn Jones, winner of the 2018 Thrasher Skater of the Year, and one of the very best skaters in the world at the moment, recently told the New York Times that he learned a lot of what he knows now from playing the games as a child.

Don’t be surprised to see the skaters who line up for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo to have been similarly influenced by the series.

Tony Hawk Takes Most Pride From The Series’ Accurate Portrayal Of Skater Culture

With the release of the first THPS game, came a barrage of new experiences completely alien to most kids around the world at the time.

The music, from Papa Roach to Rage Against The Machine, perfectly captured the skate park era of the 2000s, while performing tricks like a kickflip felt organic, as if you could actually work out the mechanics of performing one yourself. 

“The thing that I’m proud of is that it represented the culture well,” Hawk told The Verge

“It represented the lifestyle, in terms of the music and the attitude and the actual skating itself.” 

“It taught a whole generation of kids what proper skating can be.”