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Kickstarting E3: Not the Time

/ Jun 17th, 2015 2 Comments

PlayStation E3 2017 Press Conference

Thousands of media, developers and fans packed into a stadium built for major sporting events to watch the PlayStation press conference at E3 2015, and famed game creator Yu Suzuki took the stage to ask for money to make Shenmue 3. Sony paid for hundreds of industry people to eat from food trucks and drink from a hosted bar before the presser, then Adam Boyes encouraged gamers to spend their own money to fund the development of a video game. And all of this was pulled off in a way that made the Shenmue 3 crowdfunding effort seem like a celebrated announcement with no sense of irony.

Each year, E3 is the platform for major game companies to showcase plans for the upcoming year and beyond. A steady stream of new game announcements and updated console features builds consumer confidence and develops pre-release hype. Every game on display has the backing of a publisher, at least until Suzuki came on stage at E3 2015. The industry’s biggest event — the Super Bowl of gaming — is not the time to ask for $2 million from consumers.

Go Fund Yourself

Suzuki is seemingly a video game genius. He helped create numerous hits for Sega, including Out Run, Virtua Fighter and Shenmue. Yet, 14 years after the release of Shenmue 2, the 57-year-old was forced to seek development funds for a new game directly from fans through Kickstarter. For some reason, Sony thought this was compelling enough to announce during its annual press conference, which undoubtedly attracted many viewers who only know Ryo Hazuki from Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

Shenmue 3

The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter campaign reached its goal.

In part due to the unfinished story of the Shenmue franchise, Shenmue 3 has been a Moby Dick of gaming over the past decade. Hopeful fans have spread rumors about its existence, but none have come to fruition. Sega seems to have little interest in continuing the series, so Suzuki took matters into his own hands, and Sony, seeing the opportunity to make its press event a hit, provided some help.

But why would Sony let the game get to Kickstarter? If Sony truly believed in Shenmue 3, it would be publishing the game instead of announcing a crowdfunding campaign. And the Shenmue 3 announcement would have included actual gameplay details and a release window, making it that much sweeter.

The Lies of Kickstarter

Boyes said on stage that the project completely belonged to Suzuki, but therein lies the problem of Kickstarter. While Suzuki is the creator of the game and the face of the project, Sony is a partner on Shenmue 3, and that fact should be made clear to backers.

An E3 press conference is not the appropriate time to ask for funds.

Fans have already provided enough money for Shenmue 3 to pass its $2 million goal, essentially meaning the game will happen, but there’s no way a game on as large a scale as Shenmue 3 will cost only a couple million dollars to make. That’s probably not even enough to market the title. In fact, game designer Katie Chironis wrote a piece for Polygon describing how Kickstarter is being used to green light games rather than fund them.

Sony rented out a stadium, flew its bigwigs to LA and fed hundreds of people in the gaming industry so that it could ask for money. An E3 press conference is not the appropriate time to ask for funds, especially the way Sony did.

Many still don’t realize one of gaming’s biggest companies is financially involved with Shenmue 3, and Sony would like to keep it that way. Sony partners showed off massive worlds and beautiful cinematic trailers for a variety of games at E3, but Sony also asked hyped up fans to contribute their hard-earned money to a game without showing any real footage of it. That is inexcusable.

The Shenmue 3 reveal, along with the entire PlayStation press conference at E3 2015, can be viewed below.

PlayStation E3 2015 Press Conference


Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom
Ryan Bloom

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2 responses to “Kickstarting E3: Not the Time”

  1. Nonscpo says:

    I agree that they should have been more transparent and put on a better show, but I strongly believe that crowfunding campaign announcements will become a norm at E3 stages from here on out. Another place they went wrong was the asking amount, they should have asked for 10 million instead of 2, it was the low amount that raised the red flags.

    • Ryan Bloom says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if more Kickstarters get announced at E3 in the future, but I hope not. I want to see more gameplay and typically games asking for crowdfunding aren’t ready to show (Shenmue 3 included).

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