Hide and seek can sometimes be fun, like when you’re babysitting your niece and tell them to hide so you can get your work done. It’s not so fun when a game that you plonked your hard-earned money down for insists on playing, though. Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki recently revealed that neither he nor Shenmue 3 will be present at E3 this year. Instead, his team will focus on developing the game.
Normally, this would be a great move. You get to play up to your fans that you don’t care about the glitz and glam of a big show. Except in the case of Shenmue 3, there’s one massive problem – as far as we know, the game doesn’t even exist.
Debuting at Sony’s E3 covfefe in 2015, Shenmue 3 racked up the big bucks on Kickstarter. It became the #1 most funded game on the crowdfunding, a title it still holds to this day. But like with any big Kickstarter campaign, there was controversy. Suzuki was mum on just how involved Sony was in. There was no mention of Sega, who own the rights to Shenmue, at all. Eventually, Suzuki said that both Sony and Sega were involved, and that the Kickstarter campaign was more about gauging interest. The campaign’s success would inform both companies of how much money they were going to ultimately pony up.
Smoke and Mirrors
With one controversy overcome, Suzuki and company carried on to their next. After the months turned to years and Shenmue 3 was nowhere in sight, backers began getting worried. Suzuki finally spoke up in December 2016, saying that the game was only just then entering full production. Since then, we still haven’t seen a single screenshot for the game, and many fans are wondering what’s going on. Japanese developers have always worked in stricter silence than Western developers, and that’s never been more apparent than with Kickstarter.
Suzuki could be holding back Shenmue 3 for any number of reasons. He could feel as though there’s no need to show it off. It could be massively behind schedule and he’s trying to hide that fact for as long as he can. Maybe he’s bluffing when he says it won’t be at E3 to give us a surprise. It’s impossible to say what’s going on with Shenmue right now, as Sega haven’t announced the long rumored Shenmue 1 & 2 HD remasters either, which would make all the sense in the world ahead of a third game in a story driven franchise.
The Art of Nothing
When Suzuki says he’d rather spend time working on the game rather than spend the time and resources on a public demo, he’s only keeping in line with his stance so far. Suzuki’s company, Ys Net, has released 67 updates on Kickstarter so far. In them, they’ve demonstrated a tremendous ability to write hundreds of words and record hours of video without saying anything at all.
Take a look at this paragraph from their last full text update, from December 2016.
You can picture whoever wrote that kissing their fingers like an Italian chef, screaming “Mama Mia!” as if Mario had just watched James Bond dancing prance with Meryl Streep while drinking a glass of olive oil. The sheer nothingness in that sentence warrants the stereotypes, at least.
It reads like an extended Donald Drumpf tweet. It’s a showcase of somebody with a complete inability to finish a single thought or coherently string multiple sentences together. It starts with a vague “we’re giving it our all,” right out of your favorite children’s book, before suddenly transitioning to talking about dinner rewards in three cities. Then, right when you think they’re about to actually show off something new of the game, it abruptly crushes your dreams by saying “maybe next year, lol.”
The latest update is a 57 second long video showing a single new character doing some jumping jacks. If this is all they have to show for themselves after a year and a half, it’s no wonder they don’t want to show up at E3. It makes you wonder what exactly they’re doing with all their time, considering they still insist Shenmue 3 will release December 2017.
Update 6/8: After this article’s publication, Suzuki posted a new video update stating Shenmue 3 is now delayed to 2018.
Should Backers Be Worried?
With both Sony and Sega on board, there’s a zero percent chance this is a scam. It’s also too soon to talk about the possibility of cancellation. Canceling a game is sad and canceling a Kickstarted game sucks. But canceling the highest funded crowdfunding game in history that also has the support of two huge companies behind it? It’d be apocalyptic, and everyone involved has to know that.
At the same time, it’s natural to wonder what’s going on. Suzuki and company haven’t earned themselves much trust by not disclosing Sony and Sega’s full involvement upfront. Between that and refusing to share any meaningful new information, it feels like they don’t think they need to worry about what backers think.
Maybe they don’t need to care. They’ve got their money and backing from two industry giants. They know, or at least think, their fans are so hungry for Shenmue 3 they’ll forgive any transgression. But keep in mind Keiji Inafune felt the same way about Mighty No. 9 and Red Ash, and look where that got him and his games. You don’t want to piss off Kickstarter backers. If they feel slighted, they’ll eventually reign down hell upon all who sin.
For more coverage on this game, and complete coverage of all things indie gaming at E3 2017, keep your eyes on Cliqist.