Sony Admits To Using Kickstarter As A Testing Ground For Shenmue 3

When Sony announced it was working with Yu Suzuki on possibly making Shenmue 3, before shouting out a Kickstarter, reaction was mixed. Many were excited, but a vocal minority asked an interesting question. If Sony was so committed to the development of Shenmue 3, why not fund it themselves, the old fashioned way.

Of note: $2 million, the Kickstarter goal, seemed a little low, particularly when the Shenmue games were notoriously expensive to develop. People started asking the question: was Sony using this Kickstarter to judge the demand for Shenmue III before actually committing to it?

Now, in an interview on the PlayStation Twitch stream, Gio Corsi, the Director of Third Party Productions at SCEA, admits that was exactly the case. Sony was using this Kickstarter to judge demand for Shenmue III.

"Shenmue 3 was the number one ask on the old 'building the list' campaign," explained Corsi. This has been an ask for as long as I've been at PlayStation. We met with Suzuki-san at GDC last year and we started the long road to try and figure out how we were going to get this whole thing made and we said the only way this thing is going to happen is if the fans speak up and we thought Kickstarter was the perfect place to do this.

"So we set a goal for $2 million and said if the fans come in and, you know, back it then absolutely we're going to make this a reality. So Sony and PlayStation is definitely a partner in this game and it's gonna be run through third party production. We're gonna help YSnet get the game done, we're gonna be partners on it the whole way and we're gonna see this thing come out in a couple of years."

Now this is a little strange. I like to think of Kickstarter as a place for new ideas to get funded, or a place for products that otherwise wouldn't get made to get financial support. Is it a place for a massive corporate company like Sony to partake in a little focus testing at the consumer's expense? I'm not so sure. That seems a little strange. Sure, those that committed to the Kickstarter will get what they paid for, but I can't help but feel as though this was the wrong way to go about things. If Shenmue 3 was one of the most requested games at Sony HQ, maybe they should have made the commitment without using a service like Kickstarter.

Via Reddit

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Comments

    At least this Kickstarter will have a decent chance of fulfilling the promise with the backing of Sony as opposed to the developer taking the money and wasting it/running.

    Normally I wouldn't be a fan of a big publisher taking this approach, but I think it's fair enough to test the waters in a case like this. AAA development is not cheap. We're talking about an IP here that has lain dormant for over a decade and wasn't particularly successful sales-wise (the second one, especially) even back then. It's not unreasonable for them to set a relatively low target (as a proportion of the actual development costs) for a kickstarter to gauge real (ie willing to spend money) interest vs "I'll send a (free) tweet demanding they make it but not actually commit to buying it" kind of interest.

      I agree. The age of the IP made it a real risk that the game is just being demanded by a vocal and passionate minority. I fully expect Shenmue III to flop commercially, because no-one but the old guard of gamers will have any idea what it is, let alone any emotional attachment to it. I think Sony is doing the right thing commercially here, although it somewhat spoils the dream for those who believe that Shenmue III is the second coming.

        They should set an epic stretch goal of something like $50m to create a Dreamcast version.

    This has been a discussion point in boardgames for a while now.

    You have numerous companies who are now using Kickstarter primarily as a pre-order service.

    Queen Games and Indie Boards and Cards (both successful publishers, though obviously not the size of a company like Sony) are probably the most egregious examples at the moment.

    By way of example, Indie Boards and Cards (publishers of popular games like Coup, The Resistance and Flashpoint Fire Rescue), are just coming to the end of their Kickstarter for the game Melee (by the designer of Coup) and the files have already been sent to the printer.

    Is this a bad thing? I dunno, I'm pretty undecided on it.

    And yeah, I totally backed Shenmue III knowing full well that it was being used as nothing more than a guage of interest.

      I feel like it's different for board games. The bulk of the cost in board game development is in the production. There's tooling, moulds, printing, box production and everything to go through. By the time most board games are hitting kickstarter they at least have a strong, playable prototype. The design work is largely done. They need money to actually get the game made on scale. I personally have no issue with that.

      Video games require money much earlier in their life. Kickstarters are often done with just a concept, maybe a simple demo at best. The cost is almost entirely in developing the game, especially nowadays with digital distribution being so widespread - actually distributing the game once it's done is cheap.

      Been waiting for Shenmue III forever and tbh. I just don't care how it got done either Nathan. It is happening, it will have tech that makes that original dream Suzuki-san had come together better and I will finally get freaking closure.
      To think I resigned myself to seeing my Dreamcast biodegrade as a more likely event. Best E3 ever!
      Now where the hell is a Yakuza V release date and Yakuza Zero translation commitment.... grumble.

    Yep, that seemed obvious, but it's good to see them come out and confirm it.

    Another one I have backed did something similar, they had investors, but those investors needed proof that the game had genuine interest before writing the cheque, and it turned out there was a lot of interest.

    With Sony backing it, it does have a higher chance of being made

    I think the big picture is that Yu Suzuki, and his team, finally get to develop Shenmue 3. Will also be built in Unreal Engine 4, which will nix the burden of building an engine from scratch.

    Not many can boast the knowledge and skill of Yu Suzuki, and the former A.M.2. either. These people laid the foundations of the game industry itself, and deserve a lot more respect than they get.

    I think the appropriate thing to do would have been to release a kickstarter first, and then once it was a success present it at E3. That way they are claiming a game they have already committed to, instead of using valuable airtime for a well-presented cashgrab.

      That'd be far worse. Look at what happened after Mighty Number 9 got a developer.

      I think this is a perfectly reasonable way to make the game exceed its original scope, provided the cash that goes in is used SPECIFICALLY for these enhancements and not so Sony can give the developers a lower budget. Given that Sony's been pretty up front about this though, I highly doubt they're using this as an excuse to give a lower budget.

    How is this a story? Of course they are backing it. They dont hand over a prime spot in their E3 presentation to something that they will not be involved in or benefiting them in some major way, ie exclusivity or what not. Plus $2 mil to make Shenmue 3? Yeah right, clearly it was testing the waters and using kickstarter as a tool to gauge interest and build hype.

    I don't care what Kickstarter is used for, as long as their honest about it from the start.

    Bloodstained did it, didn't name the publisher but told us they had 90% funds secured providing the kickstarter was successful.

    There is no reason Shenmue III couldn't have done the exact same thing.

      I think they didn't name a publisher because they're publishing it themselves, and the people who financed the majority of the games are mainly investors. I'm basing this off the fact that they tended to use the investor term when talking about the prior funding rather than publisher (that and I highly doubt a publisher would want to keep anonymous about making an Iga game).

    The big issue is that all these companies doing big-budget games and using kickstarter to 'test the waters' when they're gaining the majority of their money through other investors is making things really hard for actual indie developers. Video game development is a black art to most people and the general public already has very little concept of how expensive it is. Shenmue II is probably a $20-30 million game, but people looking just at kickstarter will increasingly ask "why is indie developer X asking for $500,000 when they can make something like Shenmue for $2 million".

      I think you're underestimating the general intelligence and level of knowledge of the average punter looking at those two kickstarters...

        That, and Yu and Sony, like how Igarashi was with Bloodstained, are being very open that this goal is nowhere near enough to make the game. Given how many negative articles there are about kickstarter failures, people nowadays are either on guard enough to be careful about this, or are stupid enough to be not read at all. I don't know if any developer would want the money from people in the latter group, given how unreasonable those people tend to be.

    Stretch goals is the real benefit for us. It'll just add more stuff to the end product.

    I'm genuinely conflicted. This looks like it will turn out well for this case, with Shenmue 3 now a reality. However, the idea of 'gauging interest' through crowd-funding looks like a slippery-slope to me; using it this way is effectively ransoming the products' production. Instead of bankrolling a quality product and attempting to sell it when it's done, they present a situation where the product will never be made unless consumers pay well ahead of time.
    Understandably they're doing this to minimise risk on products they don't know will sell by offloading early costs, which sounds great because it'll encourage producing riskier (now less risky) products, but that could backfire on consumers: there may be less incentive to produce such a quality/expected product since the publisher has both less to lose and has secured payments without additional wrangling (ie. no need to convince you to pre-order since the games existence means you already did).

    Of course that all depends on stuff I can't speculate on, like where the funds are spent. I'm given the impression that most KS funds don't end up in company 'profits' and so devs are encouraged to make a quality product that continues to sell (we'll see how that goes huh?).

    Last edited 17/06/15 3:56 pm

    Is it a place for a massive corporate company like Sony to partake in a little focus testing at the consumer’s expense?
    It's not like Sony can't afford to buy their own (possibly more reliable) test marketing. they are just squeezing out the little guy to overcome their own tightassery. It's a fn established IP for crying out loud....

      To be fair Shenmue is notorious for being a financial flop.

      An IP that may or may not have a large enough fanbase after 14 years to warrant a 40+ million dollar investment. Keep in mind that while the Shenmue games are great, the games have not aged too well due to many of the then-revolutionary ideas (QTEs, huge open, realistic world with schedules and such) being more commonplace now. I completley blame Sega for that delay, but I don't blame Sony for testing the waters first to see if the demand still existed.

    "Now, in an interview on the PlayStation Twitch stream, Gio Corsi, the Director of Third Party Productions at SCEA, admits that was exactly the case. Sony was using this Kickstarter to judge demand for Shenmue III."

    No what he said was that was their way to show the higher ups at SONY that it was worth investing in. This game is not owned by SONY but by Ys NET which is completely independent from them who already stated the bulk of investment will be coming from the kickstarter which Yu Suzuki decided on doing 2 years ago. SONY's most significant role in all this is marketing.

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