If you haven’t heard of the Shenmue series of games, you can be forgiven. They were pretty niche when they came out, and the years of advancing tech haven’t made them any less so. The plot centers on a boy trying to find the man who murdered his father, and the game featured a world filled with NPCs that had their own routines! They’d get up, go around and do what they did every other day. While that doesn’t seem extraordinary today, the living and breathing world of Shenmue was a big deal back when it first came it. It earned the game, and its sequel, a place in gaming history.
Fast forward to today and the series’ third installment, which fans have been waiting 18 years for, is getting released after a successful Kickstarter campaign that saw the game triple its desired amount of funding. With all of the hype about the impending release, though, comes controversy. Ys Net, the devs behind the game, have made some troubling decisions.
The first was the decision to take the game to the Epic store and make it an exclusive. While games being swallowed up by monetary giants like Epic Games has become pretty standard for the industry today, for a kickstarted game, it was a kick in the gut. Again, fans have been waiting 18 years for this game, gave money to ensure it could be made, and thought that they would be receiving a Steam key when it was eventually released. When the outrage began to swell out of control, Ys Net offered backers refunds (cost covered by Epic), but the damage was already done. Some of that trust was already eroded.
Now, that trust may be gone for good. Recent reports say that not only will backers not be able to get Steam keys, but now they won’t even get the bonus content that comes along with pre-ordering the game. Not for free anyway.
“Standard and deluxe versions released through retail sales are not affiliated with the crowdfunding campaign, so will not be included with backer pledges, however, they will be available for sale separately. Kickstarter Backers will receive the Kickstarter version, Slacker Backers will receive the Slacker Backer version. Both have unique content respective to their versions not available in the retail versions,” A comment by the devs left on the Kickstarter page says.
Basically, while Kickstarter backers won’t get any bonus content on launch, they are more than welcome to pay for it. On the heels of making a change to the store this late in that game, yet another revelation that seems to strain the relationship between fans and developer isn’t great. Yes, we can all agree that kickstarting a game is not the same as pre-ordering it. You aren’t buying a version of the game, even if they offer that to you as a reward. Backers are buying the promise of a game and hoping that the devs will be able to deliver.
That being said, what a scummy thing to do to your backers. These are the people that allowed you to make the game, giving you enough money to create something that would allow you to make your big money deal with Epic. The backers waited 18 years for a third installment, threw their money at it and then saw Ys Net make decisions that had only the devs best interest at heart. Now they’re going to tell their fans “Well, you can just give us more money for the pre-order content?”
Whatever good will the development team had before is fading fast, and if you weren’t already suspicious of their shady practices, now might be a good time to start paying attention.
Caleb Edwards is a senior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing. When he isn’t working or writing you can find him tending his fish, taking care of his cats and dogs or trying to find free time that he can waste (there never is any). You can follow him on Twitter @CEdwardsSam or find him at his website CalebMEdwards.com.