One of the big surprises during this year's E3 was the announcement of Shenmue 3 being put into development by Ys Net, a studio headed up by the original creator of Shenmue. Well, the game's announcement came with a caveat: it was put on Kickstarter. However, new information has revealed that crowd-funding isn't the only source of income for the game.
Videogamer.com spotted the developer responding to a question about the funding of Shenmue 3 on their Kickstarter page, where they were asked if the $2 million they received in record time on Kickstarter was the total budget for the game. According to Ys Net...
No, we cannot make an open world game for $2 million. Shenmue will be produced using both the funds raised from the Kickstarter and through other funding sources already secured by Ys Net Inc.
Many gamers suspected that the Kickstarter for Shenmue 3 was more-so as a gauge than an actual way for the game to be fully funded. This had a few people on edge because crowd-funding from gamers as a “gauge” can definitely rub some people the wrong way since it's the gamers' money while other investors are looking at it and determining if it's something they can put some financial weight behind in order to make a return on the investment.
In the case of Shenmue it would make sense that investors or publishers would be extremely reluctant to back the project in the traditional way because the first two games were massive financial failures despite having a dedicated fan network.
Over the years fans became more and more dedicated to the franchise since the second game ended in one of the most “What happens next?” cliffhangers in the history of all media entertainment. That's not even hyperbole. Main character Ryo was seeking revenge against his arch-nemesis Lan Di, the man who killed his father. Except instead of getting revenge Ryo ends up on this long journey attempting to track down Lan Di while improving on his martial arts skills. The game ends when he meets up with another character and travels to a mysterious mountain. And yes, the game actually ends after they get to the mysterious mountain. All kinds of resolution are completely left off the table. Anyone who completed Shenmue 2 were likely expecting a sequel to follow-up, but it never came... until now.
It wasn't surprising that fans would jump to the opportunity to spend their own money to pay to see Shenmue 3 developed and that's exactly what they did when Sony made the announcement during their E3 conference.
Gio Corsi, Sony's director of third party relations mentioned to Videogamer.com that...
The only way this is going happen is if the fans speak up and we thought Kickstarter was the perfect place to do this, We set a goal for $2m and if the fans come in and back it then absolutely we're going to make this a reality.
Yu Suzuki has been trying to get Shenmue 3 made for ages and it's mostly been a pipe dream and a very loud collection of whispers amongst the gaming community. And when the original rights holder, Sega, mentioned that they were scaling back on major console releases after the Sonic Boom disaster, it was obvious a third game wasn't going to be funded by them. Most people resigned ambition for the title because they knew no publisher would back a third game in a series known for its bloated budget and small returns.
However, it looks like Sony is partially taking a chance on the game, along with some mystery investors and actual fans of the game. Splitting the budget three ways just might make Shenmue 3 become a reality, but that doesn't mean it'll sell any better than the first two games.