Following its announcement at E3, belated open-world sequel Shenmue III has gone down a storm on Kickstarter, having reached $3.6m at the time of writing.
For fans of the previous games in the series, this is something to celebrate: Yu Suzuki’s earlier cult favourites on the Dreamcast and Xbox are finally getting a new instalment.
But there’s also a fairly hefty elephant in the room: Shenmue III was announced by Sony, and while the game’s being developed by the studio Ys Net, Suzuki has admitted that the game has the Japanese giant’s backing – with additional support from a company called Shibuya Productions.
If this is the case, then why does Shenmue III need a platform like Kickstarter? In an update on the game’s campaign page, Suzuki’s attempted to answer some of those questions, and apologises for “not having been more forthright in this area.”
“Sony and Shibuya Productions have been wonderful partners because they believe in Shenmue and want to see the best for the fans and the game,” Suzuki writes. “Their investment in (and support of) Shenmue have helped to realize a sequel that will stand proud with its predecessors. While it is not business practice to discuss the specific details of such arrangements, I can say that with their assistance on the production and marketing end, and in Sony’s case with some publishing support as well, Ys Net is able to use more of the money we collect through Kickstarter purely for Shenmue 3‘s development.”
The short version, then, is that Sony’s funding Shenmue III‘s publishing marketing, while the Kickstarter money will fund the sequel’s development. “It is also important to note that your funds are going strictly to Ys Net for development of Shenmue 3,” Suzuki adds. “Sony and Shibuya Productions are not seeing a cent of your Kickstarter dollars.”
The other question this raises is, if the original Shenmue cost a startling $70m to make, then how will the sequel fare on a fraction of that budget? In the same statement, Suzuki says that “Shenmue III will already be a sequel true to its name, and one we can all be proud of” – even if the game doesn’t reach the stretch goals he’s laid out.
Suzuki’s hope is that the campaign will reach $5m, at which point “there will be an all new gameplay feature.” If it somehow breaches the $10m mark, “a much larger, completely open world will be yours to explore,” Suzuki says.
With 22 days left to run, Shenmue III‘s funding hasn’t risen at quite the rate it did following last week’s initial clamour. We’ll have to wait and see whether Suzuki’s promise of a bigger open world will push the game to the level he’s looking for.