Shenmue, the game that was announced at Sony’s E3 press conference is a game released a very long time ago. I remember seeing it advertised for the Dreamcast. I never bought it but I find the Shenmue project to be alarming and weird.
What’s so weird about a publisher giving someone time on their stage? Well, Sony claims that this isn’t their project and they have nothing to do with it. They’re helping out Yu Suzuki with his kickstarter project to bring Shenmue out – a game “their fans have been asking for”. Really? You’re not involved with this project and you’re just going to give some guy some precious E3 time to someone else? Something ain’t right.
Moving goal posts
Suzuki announces that with $2m, Shenmue 3 will exist. Fans overreacted and cried as they thought they will be getting the game that they have always been waiting for – with a measly $2m goal. When I saw this figue, I wasn’t sure it will be the game people have been asking for. Hell I don’t think many high profile games can be made with $2m. This would severely limit the time and resources he can put on the project. Suzuki has come out afterwards that there will be other sources of funding for the game which is fine. But he also said the majority of the funds are coming from Kickstarter. That means at best he expected $4m budget (assuming the other parties match the Kickstarter goal of $2m) for Shenmue 3 to exist? I’m seeing alot of claims that the original games were in well excess of that figure.
Since the announcement, there have been other stretch goals added as time went on. It now seems like the $11m stretch goal is the real amount Suzuki wants to raise from this Kickstarter. Again assuming his other contributors will fund a significant amount, the true cost of the project seems to be around the region of $15-22m. Don’t worry, Sony will be marketing it so that doesn’t include the marketing costs. So to me, that is quite dishonest. The difference between $2m and $11m is huge. It feels like Suzuki put $2m as the goal to entice people, then reveal that later down the line that $11m is actually what’s needed to make this game without cutting corners. Moving the goal posts like this feels like a ransom.
P(l)aying on nostalgia
Nostalgia is a very strong feeling. Think of a movie or game you really enjoyed when you were younger and play it again today and you may still like it, but it’s not quite as good as you remember it to be. Many remember Shenmue to be an amazing game and they have every right to think that – it’s their experience. The problem is whether Shenmue 3 will be a true sequel in that it’s the game that would’ve appeared 10-12 years ago or an updated game which doesn’t resemble the original at all. But the problem with the former is that 14 years after their last Shenmue game, times may have moved on. What was great back then doesn’t mean it works today. I played Halo CE through MCC and can see how that game is great in it’s era, but having played similar games, it just doesn’t belong to these times. I can see Shenmue 3 suffering from this if they keep the gameplay (and possibly the story) close to Shenmue 2. If they update the game mechanics, then it won’t be what the fans – the people backing it will be expecting. This information has not been provided, we are just told “this is what you have always been waiting for”.
So with the pretence that “this is what you fans want”, people have made a pre-order for a product that they know very little about. This feels like exploiting fans and let’s hope this isn’t the quality that is delivered:
Shenmue 3 already has a publisher
With all the fiasco regarding who is funding the game, etc… Suzuki and Sony have been forced to confirm what roles they will be playing and what the Kickstarter fund is going towards. Sony will be publishing the game. The more important question should be – should the publisher foot the bill? By crowd funding most of the budget, some of the risk be mitigated to fans by reducing the amount publishers put in. I am in the view that if you’ve found yourself a publisher, then they should be footing the bill. We, as buyers, should have the right to review the final product BEFORE purchase. I appreciate Kickstarter is helpful to some people but Suzuki has already found himself a publisher – Sony. From interviews, these guys have been discussing Shenmue 3 since 2013! Yet Sony doesn’t believe in the title enough to fund it so they’ve asked fans to donate money towards it and you get what you paid for. They have essentially placed themselves in a position which avoids all responsibility when the title gets a poor reception yet they benefit so much for being one of the parties that made the game possible! It’s really a PR win-win situation for Sony no matter how crappy the game turns out. The person having to do all this explaining is Suzuki himself! Poor man just wanted to make a game and Sony’s involvement just made everything more complicated.
In the end…
Shenmue 3 will be happening no matter what now that the initial goal of $2m has been met. I just hope this doesn’t set a trend for other well known titles to follow this route. They may not use Kickstarter and just set up a website/Sony store and pledge for funds. I mean, Street Fighter 5 would not have happened without Sony’s intervention (Capcom in trouble?) so I don’t want to see Street Fighter 6 on SaveStreetFighter6-with-sony.com. Stretch goals of course are the characters themselves!