Fourteen years. That’s how long the many loyal fans of the Shenmue series have had to wait for any real news about a sequel to the spectacular second game. Often revered as one of the most innovative videogame series of its era, it had appeared that Shenmue had died along with the Dreamcast console that hosted it, as massive expenses coupled with comparatively poor sales sounded the death knell for the series only five chapters into a proposed thirty.
That all changed during E3 2015, when series creator Yu Suzuki took to the stage at Sony’s conference and shocked the world with the announcement that a Kickstarter campaign was to be started that very night with the aim of bringing Shenmue 3 to the masses.
Less than 24 hours after its announcement the game had reached its minimum goal of $2 million dollars and, over the course of the next month, it has gone on to amass more than $6.3 million in crowdfunding, making it the biggest videogame project to ever be funded by users of Kickstarter. Couple that with the funding that Suzuki has already gained from external sources and something that had seemed so impossible has now become a bonafide reality.
So, why is this so good for the industry? Well, for starters it shows that with enough passion and support a series or individual game can get made for the people who want to play it. At the end of the day videogames are about entertaining their fans and the introduction of crowd-funding has made such occurrences much more likely than before.
Shenmue 3 is the result of continued campaigning, both on the part of the fans and Suzuki himself, to get a game made that is truly cherished amongst the people who played it. While the game is never going to sell as much as the next Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, neither of those AAA titles is capable of producing the adoration that the Shenmue series has amongst its core fanbase.
Therein also lies the second reason for why the announcement of Shenmue 3 is so wonderful for the games industry. We live in an era where many of the top publishers are happy churning out sequel after sequel, doing little more than rehashing their storylines while offering very similar gameplay.
Shenmue 3, of course, is also a sequel, but it is one that is sure to be a different beast to the games that came before it. The original games were revolutionary, bringing the idea of an open world into gaming like no other. That concept is now commonplace and the many ideas that have followed are sure to be implemented into Shenmue 3 to make it an even better game, in addition to making it more accessible for the modern gamer.
This means that players will be getting the best of both worlds come December 2017. For the fans, they finally get to bask in wish fulfilment at its finest, hopefully bringing the story of Ryo Hazuki to its conclusion in the process. For those who have never played the series, they will not need to worry about entering unfamiliar territory anymore, as the genre that Shenmue helped spawn is now more commonplace than ever.
It’s an exciting time to be a gamer, regardless of whether you cling to the traditions of old or are part of the new wave of gamers who have propelled the industry into the behemoth that it is today.
Lee Price is a freelance writer and general miscreant who enjoys video games, movies and making dreary situations better by adding copious amounts of alcohol. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_Lee2112 to read his random musings.