The organizers of the now four year old Kickstarter for Shenmue III have alerted backers they can change their delivery options or seek partial or full refunds in the wake of a developer decision to sell the upcoming PC edition exclusively through the Epic Games Store.
The announcement last month caused a level of uproar among backers and observers, quick to point out Epic’s habit of acquiring exclusive titles for its storefront and questionable development practices, much to the chagrin of a userbase largely playing through Steam. Though the level of outrage is unclear, it was clearly significant enough for organizers and developers to offer new options to backers.
According to the backer update released earlier this week:
As noted in the updates and survey at launch, we had originally planned for PC distribution through Steam. Taking publishing and sales considerations into account, YSNET and Deep Silver agreed to our partnership with Epic Games Store on PC version distribution. As a publishing partner, Deep Silver has greatly contributed not only to sales and marketing, but to scaling up the game so there is more Shenmue III to begin with. Also, Epic Games has been with us from the start of the project when we adopted Unreal Engine 4 for development, and have given us their support throughout the development process.
In response to backers who have requested Steam keys for their rewards, we discussed offering the keys on the day of release. However, coordination with the sales policies of the involved companies was untenable, and as a result we are not able to make a day one distribution option for Steam keys available.
That we are not able to offer Steam keys for Kickstarter rewards at the time of the game’s release is a great disappointed and inconvenience for those backers who were expecting to receive them. We deeply apologize for the unrest caused by the announcement.
Backers will still have the option of a physical PC edition, which will effectively serve as a gateway to the EGS, as well as an opportunity to change over to a PS4 copy, either physically or digitally. Refunds are also being offered, though organizers caution some backers at higher tiers will only be partially refunded due to those rewards having already been integrated in-game.
The option to wait for a Steam key remains, but it’s expected to be a long wait – until November 2020 at the earliest.
Organizers have also noted that, likely due to the third-party funding and partnerships obtained by Ys Net and Deep Silver in the past four years, 10 stretch goal areas not originally reached in the campaign have been implemented, including additional mini-games and expansions to the Choubu and Bailu Village areas. In all, those stretch goals represent the $10.5 million tier on the original campaign. One goal, the character perspective system, could not be implemented.
Work is underway to send revised surveys to affected backers. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has said on Twitter any money lost from refunds will be reimbursed by Epic, but hinted the company will continue its aggressive strategy to compete in the PC digital marketplace:
When future games go Epic-exclusive after offering crowdfunding rewards on other PC stores, we’ll either coordinate with colleagues at the other stores to ensure key availability in advance, or guarantee refunds at announcement time.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) July 2, 2019
Disclosure: The author of this report is a backer of Shenmue III, but is not impacted by the circumstances detailed in it.