There's something curious about Shenmue III on Kickstarter: it's only asking for $US2 million. It took $US47 million to build the original game. What's the deal? As it turns out, Sony's partnering with its development.
When the Shenmue III bombshell was dropped during Sony's press conference last night, it wasn't clear if Sony was simply giving Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki a huge platform to announce the crowdfunding project, or if there was something... more.
Sony director of third-party relations Gio Corsi was on the PlayStation live show today, where he joined Suzuki to discuss one of this week's biggest surprises.
"We hit our goal in under 24 hours," said Corsi.
Apparently, Sony met with Suzuki at the Game Developers Conference in 2014, the same year he presented an extensive postmortem on Shenmue's development, which reignited fan interest.
Every so often, Suzuki has floated Shenmue 3 around in interviews, and even raised the idea of crowdfunding its development. The problem for Suzuki, of course, was raising enough money.
"Probably Sega will let me make it," said Suzuki to Gamasutra in 2011, "I think. It's simply a problem of budget."
Corsi said Sony's been mulling Shenmue ever since its "build the list" initiative was started in 2013, in which the company solicited fan requests and tried to turn some of them into a reality.
"Shenmue 3 was the number one ask on the whole building the list campaign," said Corsi. "When that first started, right off the bat: Shenmue 3, Shenmue 3, Shenmue 3. This has been asked as long as I've been at PlayStation."
When Jason spoke with Sony's Adam Boyes about the list, Shenmue came up immediately.
"We get a ton of requests for Yakuza, a ton of requests for Shenmue. We see the lists. Like everything that people have tweeted Gio, literally we have a person that compiles those lists and prioritises based on how many requests we've gotten. And I think to date there's well over 10,000 mentions across like forum threads and stuff like that. So those are the ones we're focused on."
It sounds like both Sony and Suzuki found themselves in a tough spot. Fans demanded more Shenmue, but how to prove that beyond a tweet? Social media is nice, but it's not money.
"We said 'the only way this is gonna happen is if the fans speak up,'" said Corsi. "We thought Kickstarter was the perfect place to do this. We set a goal of two million dollars, and if the fans come in and back it, then absolutely we're going to make it this a reality."
That part isn't really laid out in the Shenmue III page on Kickstarter, however. There's no mention that Sony's involved, nor the promise of additional money from outside investors.
Here's what it says on the Shenmue III page:
"The real challenge now is to deliver a sequel that we will all be satisfied with after 14 years of waiting. After much research and planning, we set the funding goal at this level believing it will make possible a fulfilling Shenmue experience.
With regards to development of the game, we have an experienced team, deeply connected with the Shenmue franchise. With modern tools, experienced professionals, and the community of Shenmue by our sides, we have set ourselves up for success.
We will do our absolute best to deliver Shenmue 3 and the rewards by their respective deadlines. However, there is always the possibility that problems may arise which could affect reward delivery. There may end up being changes in game or reward designs. We may press right when we are supposed to press left and get hilariously head butted and kneed in the groin."
Bloodstained, for example, is securing 90% of its funding from outside Kickstarter, with the Kickstarter project being used as a means to confirm there's loads of fan interest in the game.
With Shenmue III, the rest of the money seems to be coming from Sony. How much? No idea.
"Sony and PlayStation is definitely a partner in this game," said Corsi, "and it's going to be run through third-party production. We're going to help Ys Net get the game done, we're going to be partners on it the whole way, and really excited to see this thing come out in a couple of years."
As of right now, Shenmue III has raised $US2.7 million (and counting), and it's scheduled to be released in December 2017 on PlayStation 4 and PC. Other platforms could happen eventually.