It may be one of the most successfully crowdfunded projects of all time. It may be far and away the industry’s surprise announcement of the year. But one of the most crucial elements of Shenmue III‘s future success may be introducing a new generation to the original franchise in the first place. Though it sounds as simple as re-releasing the original titles to current consoles–and indeed there has been and outpouring of support from the Shenmue community to do just that–a reliable source has told TSSZ it’s not that easy.
Our source indicates Sega has interest in re-releasing the original Shenmue to current platforms–and has wanted to for years, not just recently with Shenmue III’s Kickstarter success as a catalyst–but there are several hurdles to overcome. One of them involves rights issues with brands used in-game, like Timex and, in Japan, Coca-Cola. Those rights have to be re-negotiated. If they can’t be, the brands have to be purged from the title, and given how vast Shenmue is as a game, that is a “heavy” task, our source says. Still, it is something Sega is pursuing.
Even if that obstacle is overcome, there’s the matter of the game engine. Our source says that while the bulk of the core Shenmue engine was developed in-house by AM2, there are pieces of it licensed through a third party that Sega does not own outright. The trouble, our source indicates, is that the company in question–the name of which we do not know–has gone out of business since Shenmue‘s original release. Sega is attempting to track down who owns the technology. While we do not know how much of it was used in combination with AM2’s in-house work, not getting those rights means some additional coding will be necessary for any re-release to occur.
And what about Shenmue III? When it appeared as part of Sony’s E3 keynote this year, it was widely assumed Sony would offer a level of assistance to series creator Yu Suzuki and Ys Net, be it financial or otherwise. But our source tells us Sony’s agreement with Ys Net almost entirely involved that stage announcement. It does not appear Sony is financially supporting Shenmue III otherwise, and in fact our source says Sony had a similar marketing agreement with Sega on Yakuza 5‘s Western release where Sony only assisted with marketing. The good news is that, conceivably, there’s nothing stopping Shenmue III from being on platforms past the PC and Playstation 4 for that reason. The bad news is that, with a crowdsourced budget currently hovering under $6.5 million, the game’s success really is on the backs of its supporters. You can still contribute through its official website via PayPal.
We should note we’ve attempted to reach out to those connected to the Shenmue III project for comment on these matters, unsuccessfully. If you can help us, please tip us through email or Twitter.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Bayonetta–and there is quite a lot to talk about.