The Kickstarter Video Game Revival

Published in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 20, 2019 by Tim Marner™

Kickstarter, the crowd funding platform has been responsible for making many creatives dreams come true. Whether it’s a film, web series, video game or a new gadget, kickstarter offers designers and creators a forum to showcase their ideas and concepts to the world and offers them a platform to raise funding that brings their creations to life. The platform allows creators to set pledge amounts and tie them to rewards packages that supporters will receive for their patronage. This usually starts with the product itself as the lowest entry point and then expands too exclusive collectible materials and in some cases even meet and greets with the creators themselves. What Kickstarter does a fantastic job of doing is bringing people together through a mutual interest and creates these really cool little micro communities of like minded indviduals

One project in particular we’ve kept our eye on is the record breaking Shenmue 3 kickstarter, the highest funded video game ever to be featured on kickstarter. What the hell is that we hear you ask. Good news friends, you’re all about to find out.

Let’s go back to the year 2000, we’ve survived the apocalyptical millennium bug and the 90s are almost 12 months behind us. SEGA releases it’s revolutionary new open world RPG title Shenmue on their pioneering console Dreamcast, to critical acclaim. The game was like nothing we had seen before, redefining what it meant to be an open world RPG and inventing mechanics that other developers would utilise across the next two decades. Mechanics like day and night systems, dynamic weather, daily NPC ( Non playable character) schedules and interactive elements like vending machines, arcades and even mini games. 

Set in 1980s Japan following the teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki, Shenmues story is an emotional roller coaster starting with the murder of Ryos father and following his journey across Japan and China in search of his fathers killer. The extreme level of detail is what really set Shenmue apart from other games of the time. Every character in the world was open to interact, each with their own fully voiced dialog, making the game areas of Yokasuka and Dobuita extremely immersive. From Tom the American breakdancing hotdog vendor to the mild mannered Japanese flower girl Nazomi, the world was bought to life through the meticulous game design of industry legend Yu Suzuki. 

To give an insight into the production level and costs of this ground breaking video game, the total project was said to be around $70 million upon completion and that was back in 2000! At the time it was the most expensive video game ever produced by some margin. To put that into perspective, the mainstream Triple A titles of todays gaming world on average usually start around $50-$60 million, a whole two decades later. This just goes to show how far ahead of it’s time Shenmue really was. So where did it all go wrong?

Drawing on the game design and engine of the first game, Shenmue released the second entry of the series, Shenmue 2, a year later in 2001. The game was released in Japan and Europe, but both games struggles to claw back the mammoth budget that funded the project. Production began on Shenmue 3 but development of the game was soon halted when SEGA was hit with financial trouble which froze production in its tracks. That seemed to be that when it came to the franchise. 

Fast forward to E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) 2015 during Sony’s main stage press conference. Game creator Yu Suzuki was invited on stage at the biggest gaming event of year to announce that he was looking to revive Shenmue 3, funded by kickstarter. Fans lost their minds. What had seemed to be an extremely unrealistic dream had been brought to life before their very eyes. The initial target for the game to enter development was 2 million USD which was astoundingly met in world record time. Within just 9 hours the game had received the funding it required to enter full development, much to the joy of Shenmue’s cult following. But the funding didn’t stop there. Yu Suzuki introduced expanded stretch goals that would allow fans to continue to fund the project and rewarding them with a more in-depth Shenmue experience when each financial milestone was reached. 

Funding closed in 2018 and the final pledge amount was over 7 million dollars from close to 70,000 backers! Shenmue 3 holds the record for the highest funded video game to feature on Kickstarter. The title is due to release later this year on August 27th much to the delight of the faithful fans that have been waiting almost 20 years to experience the next chapter of Ryos story. 

If you never got to experience Shenmue the first time around we have good news for you, last year SEGA released a HD port of both Shenmue 1 and 2 on Xbox one, PS4 and PC which you can pick up for a very reasonable £20.

Are there any project you’ve seen brought to life through similar crowd funding? Let us know. 

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