Sunday, 11 October 2015

Shenmue 3 - Finally being made after 14 years.

 Not too long ago in a land far far away, a not-so-simple
games-maker called Yu Suzuki produced a rather unusual
& often misunderstood game named Shenmue

And so the saga begun...

Nowadays it's become a bit of a thing to say how awesome and historically important the Shenmue game is, or was, to the current gaming industry. But this wasn't always the case...

I remember picking up the boxed sets of Shenmue One and Two for the Dreamcast from a second-hand games store, for around ten UK pounds (17ish US dollars),  a good few years ago. They were both in good condition and had all the original packaging intact. In fact, it looked like they were hardly used!
Of course that was before the game had really began to gather much of a 'cult following' status, and definitely before it became mainstream, or in vogue, to know about and 'like' the Shenmue franchise. Remember that this is a game that cost more than any other to make at the time of its release, and then (more or less) bombed in the high-street stores!

You could ask 'Why is Shenmue like Star Trek?' And the answer would be the same... Because of the fans! 

Shenmue 3 was made because the fans wanted to see an end to the story that episode 2 left on a cliffhanger...

Well, yes that is a valid answer... But I can't help but think there is a bit more to it than that...

The recent resurgence in interest was brought about due to, possibly deliberate, speculation on the part of the die-hard fans. However, this had spawned a new mainstream revival of interest in the old games. And as more information was spread about the games, more people got interested in them. Suddenly it was popular, and in vogue to say how important the original games were to video games history, how it was a misunderstood classic, and how unjust it is that it was never finished. 
The advent, and subsequent growth in popularity, of crowd funding begun to look like one possible way to bring the long sought-after, and dreamt about, title to life. Even then the announcement at the Sony conference was a palpable shock, even to some die-hard fans, many of whom had begun to despair about the legal and copyright wrangling that surrounded the IP..

Shenmue 3 is an end to a long unfinished story. It is a nod to the loyalty of the die-hard fans that never gave up hope, and it is very much a product of the current gaming culture, or should that be counter-culture. So is this just an interesting curio, an offshoot from the beginnings of big-budget indie-gaming?

When first released Shenmue was doing technical things game-mechanic wise with NCP behaviour etc. that later 'smash hit' games like the Grant Theft Auto series only 'cleverly' pretended to do. After all, at one time this was the biggest triple A game out there and it definitely was ahead of it's time in many respects, possible in too many areas all at once, and a large proportion of the game-buying public of the time  didn't quite know what to make of this strange new world, where they were left to wander around on their own whilst NCP characters went on about their own business in real time.

Certainly it's become more common for programmers to revive their older Intellectual Properties (IP) through the crowd-funding route, and Shenmue can definitely be seen as being at the pinacial of this movement. But it is also an indication of gaming to come? Will a success here lead to other mainstream relics being dusted off and given a fresh new crowed-funded life? Of it Shenmue 3 doesn't succeed, will it bring a downturn in other older IP being re-done.
Could a really unsuccessful Shenmue 3 even kill of this resurgence of older IP being re-launched via crowed-funding?

Why not? 
If you are going to produce a crowd-funded project Kiskstarter is probably the premium, and best, platform to do it in. But maybe that's not the correct answer to the question.

Maybe the question is, "Why did Shenmue 3 need to be a crowed funded game?" The answer to that isn't as simple as it may perhaps first appear to be, and many different reasons have been given at differing times.

Lets take a quick look at the facts:

  1. Sega spent a lot of money on the original Shenmue, and got rather severely burned.
  2. There was some rather unpleasant legal wrangling about who owned what intellectual copy wrights.
  3. Yu Suzuki left Sega.
  4. Time moved on, and the unique game-play nature of Shenmue become commonplace.
  5. The IP faded from the psyche of the average mainstream gamer.

These facts alone are not conducive to spending a large amount of cash on something that would be seen as a very big commercial risk. Unfortunately that is how the gaming industry works now. A mainstream game needs a recognisable IP that people are currently playing and would be willing to pay out their cold cash for, in order to play the next instalment.
This state of affairs is what lead to the popularity of the indie-games industry, and crowed-funding projects, in the first place. So if Shenmue 3 was ever going to be made the chances are it wouldn't ever be by a major publisher. We just don't have that creative culture in the mainstream games industry any more.

I'm not knocking the mainstream, it is now so big that it has to be the way it is in order to function, grow, and survive. An unfortunate side-effect to this is that innovation it is no longer economically viable for the major publishers... and this is where the indie industry steps in, crowed-funded or otherwise!


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