Fans Don't Have To Kill 'Shenmue'
I always thought I was alone in my passionate accolades for "Shenmue." until E3 2016 happened where I watched a group of grown man jump around a room crying tears of joy in celebration of the game's Kickstarter announcement. Within only an hour and 44 minutes, "Shenmue III" became the fastest funded video game on the crowdfunding site's history exceeding its budget of 2 million dollars within eight hours. The internet was loaded with adults my age, reacting like children with their voices raising high, arms flailing in the air, throwing a celebration tantrum over nostalgia. It wasn't the usual "Star Wars Celebration" zombified pleasure but rather a real reason to go crazy. "Shenmue" fans were witnessing something they love to come back to life after 14 years of silence. We thought nobody cared; the world proved to us it did. It wasn't only me, but millions who were in love with "Shenmue."
Four years later that excitement has dwindled. Skepticism ranged from how the game is being funded to its outdated look, "Shenmue III" can at times appear to be an inevitable train wreck. Things became worse when vitriolic hatred spread towards the game with "Shenmue" fans cannibalizing each other over its exclusivity. "Shenmue III" was switched from being a Steam game to an Epic Store exclusive title. For non-PC gamers such as myself, I was confused about why everyone was so enraged. After doing some research on Epic's reputation, I began to understand the frustration. Much like how Disney is a monopoly, in the world of PC gaming, it is feared that Epic will try to turn themselves into a similar entity.
PC gamers fear various games will have to be repurchased in their store. Furthermore, Epic lacks in mod customization, rank-based achievements, and various other features one can easily find in Steam. The final icing on the undesirable Epic cake is the conspiracy theory that Epic is sharing users data to the Chinese government. A matter in which Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney publically denied on Twitter. These issues only scratch the surface relating to the PC community's distaste with Epic Games. When it comes to conspiracy theories, I'm not one to indulge in such nonsense. I won't even touch that area other than to say unless you live offline in a log cabin your data has already been shared. We're presently living in an Orwellian state and don't think for a second that I'm excusing such potential heinous actions. I'm just entertaining the possibility that Steam could be guilty of the very same accusations.
With my console-based naivety hopefully disproven I'm going to plead to my fellow "Shenmue" brethren to not kill our dream. Before indulging you with my petulant ideas of rekindled wistfulness, let's go over the facts.
Deep Silver (who I'm also not a fan of) needed the money from Epic to make Yu Suzuki's vision for the game even possible.
In Project Update # 4 from Y's Net Kickstarter page, the following address was published to the backers. "As a publishing partner, Deep Silver has greatly contributed not only to sales and marketing, but to scaling up the game so there is more Shenmue III to begin with. Also, Epic Games has been with us from the start of the project when we adopted Unreal Engine 4 for development, and have given us their support throughout the development process." So what does this mean? First off, YES Deep Silver and Y's Net were dishonest from the start regarding the game's exclusivity. BUT if it weren't for the money being provided by Epic, then we wouldn't even get an open-world "Shenmue" experience. Maybe we wouldn't even get a full game. If you think what you're looking at now in the trailers looks undercooked, imagine a strictly linear "Shenmue" experience. That's not what we love about the series, and it would be a grave disappointment to see what is essentially a limited DLC type of game. Like it or not, Epic's funding is giving Yu Suzuki the chance to create a semblance of his original vision. Isn't that vision something you want to see?
You don't have to repurchase the game.
As much as you may hate Epic, they're not taking your money away.
Epic is offering full refunds to those who want it.
If your outrage has reached beyond its breaking point, you can get your money back. That's A LOT of backers Epic has to foot the bill for.
The game is still coming out!
That's the whole point of why we got excited for "Shenmue III" in the first place, isn't it? The dream came true! Remember how insane everyone went when it was announced? Remember Michael Huber's reaction just when the music kicked in with the flower pedal dropping? It's happening. "Shenmue III" is only two and a half months away. It's no longer a fantasy. I know I sound like a member berry from "South Park," but it's essential to hold onto the passion that made this game a reality in the first place. What the fans accomplished is fantastic. We resurrected something that was dead, so why kill it again? Losing sight of your goal over a testy squabble will make you, the fans, guilty for the final death of "Shenmue." If you haven't noticed the odds are stacked highly against "Shenmue III" being a success. This is no thanks to Deep Silver deciding to release the game on November 19, 2019, when all of the biggest blockbusters will probably overshadow it. A January, February, or March release date would be much more ideal when the AAA game dust settles, and newcomers may say "hey what's this Shenmue III thing that's getting all this praise? Maybe I should check it out." That is if the game even receives positive reviews. Imagine if you will, the game does receive high distinction during a quiet season. The sales could be phenomenal. Unfortunately, we know for a fact that won't be the case. So what do we do to ensure success?
November 19 will be our "Rocky" moment. "Shenmue III" is the underdog, so we need to guarantee it will be a success. Whatever differences we may have with Epic, it must be put aside. Yu Suzuki himself has said at the very least he'd need five games to finish the entire story. Number three is going to leave you frustrated on perhaps another cliffhanger like "Shenmue II" did. You can stop that from happening. Granted if the game doesn't get good reviews (at all) that's a whole other story, but keep your eye on the ball. "Shenmue" was a game in the first place that slipped itself under the radar despite having an enormous budget estimated between 47 and 70 million dollars. It was going to be Sega's saving grace when they were hardware developers. The Playstation 2 came along blowing Sega out of the water, leaving Yu Suzuki's masterpiece in limbo for 14 years. The fans knew that if it weren't for "Shenmue" open-world games wouldn't even exist. There would be no "Grand Theft Auto" "Elder Scrolls 3" "Fallout 3" "The Witcher" none of it. That's why we love the series, and it's up to us on November 19 to remind the world of gaming why "Shenmue" is so special. If "Shenmue III" is a success, then its sequels can potentially be made on an exponentially higher budget providing the world an actual "Shenmue" game where the sky is the limit. Don't lose sight of what we've achieved, what we still can achieve. The story isn't over. It can continue to burn like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.
If you enjoyed this article feel free to watch my discussion from four years ago with RogerEbert.com critic Nick Allen about “Shenmue III” and how video games can be considered another form of art.