Interview by NoDontDie.com
Luke Crane, head of games at Kickstarter, has spoken with David Wolinsky on NoDontDie.com about the record breaking Shenmue III project and some of the misconceptions that it was met with last summer (and still persist with some casual onlookers today).
The section specifically relevant to Shenmue is below, but the whole interview is an interesting insight on the Kickstarter process and the behavior of gamers compared with backers of non-video game projects.
I’m sure you knew I was going to ask you a little about this, but I just wanted to talk a little bit about the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter.
Is there stuff you’re not allowed to talk about with that? On a real general level, can you just walk us through what happened and how it came to be? Or can you not even talk about that?
Yeah, the team called me and said, “Hey, we wanna launch a Kickstarter project for Shenmue 3.” I went, “Cool!”
At that point, did they know it was going to be announced by Sony onstage at E3?
Yup. Yup. Yup. They had talked to Sony and Sony was like, “Cool! We’ll announce it at E3.”
Yeah. There was a myriad of ways I saw people being upset about that. Did you see any of the sort of critical reactions to it?
Man, you really like to talk about upset gamers.
You don’t have to comment on it. We talked a lot about the positive things Kickstarter has done, but this is part of the landscape of what videogames are too.
Okay. Well, yeah, I saw that some dudes got upset. I also saw people weeping with joy. People legit freaking out with joy over the project. I mean, I don’t know. I cannot fathom what people would be upset about with that. They got the third part of the game that they’ve been waiting for 12 or 15 years. What are you mad about?
I think people felt that if Sony wanted to promote it, they should fund it themselves. This is what I saw floating around the internet.
Right, because that’s how that works. That’s totally 100 percent how that works. Yup.
There’s actually a cyborg that sits at the center of Sony and just churns out all of their work. Just one biological mechanical interface. You feed it and it says, “I will make Shenmue 3 now.”
Yu Suzuki’s the creator. He talks to his team and he’s like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s do this. What is this Kickstarter thing?” [Koji Igarashi] had just used Kickstarter and the Mighty No. 9 team, obviously, [Keiji Inafune] had used Kickstarter. So, obviously it’s in his circles of friends and they’re talking about it. They know it exists, and so he’s like, “Yeah. Let’s do Shenmue 3 Kickstarter.” And his team calls Sony and they’re like, “Hey, Suzuki-san, like, he’s into this.” And Sony’s like, “Great!” But also, Sony’s saying, as a publisher “Does anybody wanna play Shenmue anymore?” And his team goes, “Um, yes.”
Right? The team doesn’t know. It’s not like there’s any market research on this or anything.
Well, also, too, among that group of creators you mentioned, I know crowdfunding is not as big in Japan as it is over here.
There are some, but it’s not as popular over here.
Right. We’re not live in Japan or anything, yet. For creators, at least. For backers, yes. But not creators.
Right. And I can tell you, it’s not some shadow project for Sony. It’s not like — the email address is not “email@example.com.”
Right. It’s not. I mean, honestly, if you look at their project, it looks like it’s a small dev team put that project together. It doesn’t look like a splashy E3 presentation.
The reality, too, is $6.3 million is kind of low for that ambition of production.
Right. [Laughs.] If I came to Sony and said, “Okay, I’ve got an idea: I’m gonna get $6.3 million and 64,000 people and are gonna have the biggest game ever,” they would laugh. There’s no conspiracy behind this. It’s a big game from back in the day and it’s certainly big enough to attract the attention of a big publisher, but that publisher doesn’t know if the game’s going to be big or if the fans are still into it. Right? Kickstarter is this really incredibly way for the creator to say — which has happened time and time again, this is what Brian Fargo did with Wasteland, what the Harebrained team’s Jordan Weisman did with Shadowrun, like, all these creators who came back. Even with Tim [Schafer] in the Double Fine Adventure, like, “All right, well, publishers, they don’t really wanna hear about the games that we wanna make anymore, so what do you all think?” Kickstarter is this great way for the fans to be like, “Yes!”