Shenmue III Developers Offer Refunds To Kickstarter Backers Angry About Epic Store Exclusivity

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Fans are upset that an upcoming new game is an Epic Games Store exclusive, and the developers have to react. This time it’s Shenmue III, whose creators said today that any Kickstarter backers displeased with the state of things will be able to get a refund.

Last month, the makers of Shenmue III announced that the game will be a timed exclusive to the Epic Store on PC, a move that angered quite a few people who had helped crowdfund the game. After all, when Shenmue III first launched on Kickstarter in June 2015, the developers had offered Steam keys as a reward option. When the game comes out in November of this year, however, Steam keys won’t actually be available. It’ll be on Steam in November 2020.

Steam, of course, is the ubiquitous store-slash-platform that hosts the majority of games you can play on your computer. The Epic Store, which launched last year, has been racking up exclusives thanks to lucrative deals for publishers and a developer-friendly revenue split. Epic only takes 12%, while Steam takes 30%.

It’s an ecosystem that has led to lots and lots of vitriol, sparked by the Epic Store’s lack of features among other fan concerns (and occasional conspiracy theories). There’s no extra cost associated with switching between the two PC launchers, so for those who are upset, this appears to be about convenience and principles.

Shenmue 3 Delayed Again, This Time Until November

Shenmue III was originally supposed to be out at the end of 2017. Then the first half of 2018. Then May 2019. Now it’s being pushed back further, to November 19.

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Those who backed Shenmue III in 2015 and wanted Steam keys for their efforts have a few options. One is to take an Epic Store key. Another is to switch platforms. A third is to get a Steam key one year after launch, once the exclusivity window is up. And a fourth, the developers said today, is to get a refund.

“In response to backers who have requested Steam keys for their rewards, we discussed offering the keys on the day of release,” the developers said in a Kickstarter update today.

“However, coordination with the sales policies of the involved companies was untenable, and as a result we are not able to make a day one distribution option for Steam keys available. That we are not able to offer Steam keys for Kickstarter rewards at the time of the game’s release is a great disappointed and inconvenience for those backers who were expecting to receive them. We deeply apologise for the unrest caused by the announcement... Along with Deep Silver and Epic Games, we have agreed that should the above proposal not be acceptable to backers, refund requests will be honored.”

More details on how to get a refund “will be announced in a following update,” the developers said, although they also warned backers that if they picked one of the tiers including in-game content that’s already been implemented into the game, a full refund won’t be available.

Meanwhile, you can expect these Epic Store controversies to continue at least until Valve relents on that 70-30% split, which might affect their yearly company-wide Hawaii vacations but would probably make game developers’ lives a whole lot better.


Comments

    I didnt see any reference to their original post E3 announcement that it was an Epic Exclusive, that categorically flat out Refused Refunds since it was a kickstarter and they are not olegally required to offer refunds on a Crowdfunding platform. The fact thry didnt plan for that issue or already negotiate a refund option and taking over a month was a real shitty thing for them to do

    Deep Silver is trying to up its game against Activision & EA for shittiest game publisher these days.

    As for the 30% split, it should be noted that Valve takes less depending on how successful the game is, down to 20%, and that Valve takes no cut for publishers selling keys elsewhere such as Humble Bundle.

    Furthermore, many of the publishers complaining, like Paradox's recent outburst, are heavily minimising Steams ability to bring games to the surface for interested users, and the full extended platform that Steam provides.

    Whilst I could get the argument for Valve to drop its cut to 20% from 30%, publishers are really minimising the scale Steam provides to deliver their game, and to note, into perpetuity.

    As for S3, I'm opting for my Steam key in 12 months and I'll pirate it in the meantime.

    The Epic Store, which launched last year, has been racking up exclusives thanks to lucrative deals for publishers and a developer-friendly revenue split. Epic only takes 12%, while Steam takes 30%.

    To be clear, the percentage has nothing to do with Epic exclusivity. To date, no developer has decided to release their product only on Epic that hasn't also been bound by an exclusivity contract that involves millions of dollars in upfront payments. The percentage may attract developers to sell on the store, but it's the million-dollar payments that are the sole reason they're signing exclusivity deals.

    There’s no extra cost associated with switching between the two PC launchers, so for those who are upset, this appears to be about convenience and principles.

    Just because they're not immediate commercial costs doesn't mean there aren't any costs. The costs of these exclusives include reduced competition, both with respect to retail price and the effect denial of supply has on pushing smaller competitors out of business.

    Meanwhile, you can expect these Epic Store controversies to continue at least until Valve relents on that 70-30% split, which might affect their yearly company-wide Hawaii vacations but would probably make game developers’ lives a whole lot better.

    Putting the unprofessional snark aside, speaking from experience, developers won't see more money from these exclusive deals beyond the upfront payment, which again has nothing to do with the percentage. For publisher-aligned developers the publisher will eat the margin, and collectively the reduced market footprint will eat the rest. There's a reason all the press about game sales on Epic has been in vague notions of relative percentages, because the raw numbers are low.

    In any case, the fact developers themselves are generally not better off under Epic's percentages reinforces that the real reason companies are signing on is the upfront payment. Despite Sweeney's claims, I guarantee if Valve reduced their cut to 12% tomorrow Epic wouldn't stop buying exclusives. That's just a convenient lie to make it sound like they're doing this for the developers, because they know Valve won't put them in a position where they need to carry through with it.

    There’s no extra cost associated with switching between the two PC launchers, so for those who are upset, this appears to be about convenience and principles.

    This is the most succinct summary of the problem that I've yet seen.

    It's also something worth bearing in mind the next time we're supposed to be persuaded about the value of principles.

      For the people who derided requests for ethics in games journalism, anything is possible.

        Weeeellll, that was a little bit of a loaded situation. I was on board to start with but it turned out to be overwhelmingly (in multiple ways) used as a dog whistle, which undermined the integrity of the call. Especially when it later turned out there was no fire under the smoke everyone was reacting to in the first place.

        Last edited 05/07/19 9:14 am

    ...which might affect their yearly company-wide Hawaii vacations but would probably make game developers’ lives a whole lot better.Well, I guess we now know the author's bias when writing this article.

    Have people thought about why the split is the way it is? A storefront is not just a place that developers put their games to be sold, it's an entire ecosystem of features, servers, and people that need to be paid for and maintained. If you're a developer expecting that to be free then maybe you should try releasing your own game for free and see what happens. Steam is a feature rich, mature platform so it's going to take a lot more to run and I would expect the cost of hosting my game on it to be steeper than something that's just a web page with a paypal link.

    If you look at Epic themselves, they have a widely used engine and a big moneymaking free to play game on their side as well so they can afford to take a bit less on the costs of running a storefront. It's not just about subsidising the cost either, by having a game be exclusive to their store for a year they are ensuring that all sales during the critical period go to them and them alone with no fear of losing anything to other competitors.

    It's a lot of armchair analysis I know but this isn't as straightforward as Epic having a smaller take than Valve. There's a lot more involved that needs to be taken into account that is often glossed over when people make generalisations and assumptions about the situation.

    I would have just tolerated the bait-and-switch, except for the fact that they announced that the promised "Physical copy of the game" that $60+ backers would receive (as opposed to the "Digital copy of the game" $29 backers would receive) would be absolutely no such thing- it would be a code for a digital copy, the only difference being that it comes in a box, meaning the only difference between a digital and "physical" copy of the game is that the "physical" copy is capable of getting lost in the mail, forcing you to wait longer to play it than the digital customers. That was fucking bullshit. No matter what some cretins might tell you "physical copies" of games (particularly ones sold as collector's editions) DO still fucking exist, and making backers pay twice as much for what was EXPLICITLY advertised as a "Physical copy of the game" only to basically say "Nah, we lied, you're getting a digital copy and an empty box" was the last straw for me. I'm taking the refund as soon as they make it available. Fuck developers who act like that.

    I think at this point you should treat any game ( Wether its kickstarted or not ) running on the unreal engine as more than likely becoming an Epic exclusive.

    Yeah nah, not going to pat the arson on the back because they tried to save a few people from one of the many fires they keep starting.

    Personally I think they need to start owning their bloody decisions instead of holding up Valve as the reason they're doing all this unpopular crap, the skewed media coverage isn't helping either.

      I meant to say, the devs aren't offering shit, Epics paying the refunds.

    Meanwhile, you can expect these Epic Store controversies to continue at least until Valve relents on that 70-30% split

    It's cute that you believe Sweeney about that.

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