So it happened, Shenmue 3 was finally announced, a mere 14 years since the release of Shenmue 2. Well I say announced, it was revealed during Sony’s E3 press conference that a Kickstarter campaign has started to fund the game, with a proposed 2017 release. This Kickstarter has smashed almost every record for day one funding there was, and while I am yet to back it (pay day is a week away) I intend to. But this comes with some trepidation, why should I and other gamers fund a project one of the big publishers is using to drive sales? Surely the bigger reveal would be for Sony to announce they are funding the much anticipated sequel, many of whom didn’t think would ever see the light of day. Instead of excitement I am left feeling a little cheated and that this was reveal was a PR campaign for Sony to steal some headlines after Microsoft’s conference.
It would appear that this release is being done for the sole purpose of fan service, allowing players to finally get some closure on one of gaming’s recent legends. In this instance, crowd-funding the project seems logical. Shenmue isn’t the sort of IP that will attract a new generation of players but it does have a cult following and would have always been a success if released on Kickstarter. Does Sony’s involvement mean the start of a new trend, AAA developers seeking backing for new IP and reboots? It is a dangerous precedent. Gaming is stuck in a kind of limbo at the moment, AAA gaming is becoming increasingly more expensive and often games don’t recoup the initial outlay so developers are becoming more sceptical of creating new IP or rebooting old favourites as they don’t guarantee the almighty dollar.
With the success of this current campaign it could lead to a swathe of AAA developers looking to get backing for their new games. What would happen if Valve decided to announce they would start a Kickstarter for Half Life 3? Well firstly it would probably dwarf any records that Shenmue’s Kickstater made, but for me it would indicate that gaming is becoming a slowly dying media. If the developers don’t want to risk their money on a project, why should the public be so loose with their purses? Developers may become more keen to crowd-fund their projects to minimise risks but that creates more risks for the consumer in my eyes.
What incentive is there for developers to work hard and make the most of the game? After all it isn’t their money they’re gambling with. Yes they may be able to increase profits overall but with little to no capital investment some developers may take liberties. For me it is a worrying precedent and one I expect to see occur more in coming years. But at this stage we have to hope Sony announcing this crowd-funding campaign is the exception and not the rule.