The Many Difficulties Behind Shenmue
by Andy Stinton
Games like Shenmue are not just nostalgia, they actually hold the key to the future of the industry. Gaming should be about making a creative and cultural legacy, not about targeting the easy money!
While some may laugh and you are entitled to your opinion, my point is that gaming has lost it’s way and new impetus is needed. New impetus to create more variety and interest in a market, that has become so saturated with FPS games, that instead of selling a games console you might as well sell a gun.
Whether you like Shenmue or not, with the sheer level of creativity, ambition, detail, strong story and immersion it had for it’s time, it’s remains unsurpassed to this day. The sheer creative forces that made this game possible are simply lost in today’s world of gaming. Gaming has become commercial to the extreme, that games are now being churned out without thought and without passion and love for the work that’s being produced.
It is patronising to say Shenmue and other unfinished franchises such as Half Life, are just ‘Nostalgia’. It strikes me, that people are so scared to take risks that they close down others valid rights to these sequels.
Creativity is risk and without risk you have nothing but normality.
This lack of risk is one of many reasons video gaming has lost the magic it once had and it’s beginning to lose it’s soul. In short, if you buy an Xbox One ,you buy a PS4, tell me what is different from when you bought an Xbox 360 or a PS3?
The industry is going round and round in circles producing the same titles, rather than diversifying and trying to widen it’s variety. Each console generation is heading the way of an international airport, everything looking the same, attracting the same fans and in turn nothing changes.
I don’t like the way gaming is heading, with people reduced to paying for extras, it feels like everyone in the video game industry is selling out on their ideals. In fact we’re reducing the industry to a virtual whore house, where every in game purchase begins to cheapen the whole experience. I don’t want a half and half game, i want a FULL GAME, thank you.
In truth, it’s not all negative and video games have come on leaps and bounds in some regards. Visuals constantly surpassing expectations and still some innovative ideas do break through the deluge of monotony and mediocrity. Steam is a fantastic idea and the rise of Indie developers is great news. Add to this handheld consoles producing visuals beyond even the wildest imaginations back 5-10 years ago. Even the new console generations have their plus points from time to time, with the odd magical game and idea.
Yu Suzuki with Shenmue in 1999 created a breath-taking visual and gaming experience, doing then over 13 years ago which games now are only just starting to do. If you step back in time, the sheer creative genius that is Suzuki, propelled this mighty vision to fruition, with all the technical obstacles that were in it’s way.
Yu Suzuki is a video game genius, you only had to have watched the GDC 2014 coverage to realise this. To realise how criminally undervalued Suzuki is by the games industry and how missed his input, Sega and AM2’s is. How missed not just Suzuki, but other visionary game developers are, one’s who have a strength in vision that is rarely matched.
Shenmue wasn’t the big commercial success that it should’ve been, largely down to outside factors. However, i still insist selling 1 million copies on a ‘mayfly’ of a console that was the Sega Dreamcast was a success, if only a minor one.
Shenmue II which everyone loves to get their claws out for, actually was not ‘exclusive’ to the Microsoft Xbox. It’s sales which non fans love to quote, (largely to annoy the fanbase) don’t add up, when you bear in mind sales of Dreamcast Shenmue II in both Europe and Japan. Also add in the gargantuan amount of import sales related to American Dreamcast owners, who were short changed by having to buy a new console for the sequel.
To cut it short, the main downfall was the Shenmue series cost too much back then, with the technology that was available. This obviously then affected any chance of profit the game was to make.
Nowadays the technology is bordering on god like and is highly available. So a potential Shenmue III or HD release could be handled on a budget very easily, when compared to the first two games.
In fact if you want proof , just check Sega’s Yakuza series, Sleeping Dogs, Heavy Rain, La Noire and see how much they cost. The big gripe all of us fans have is that NO ONE is even trying to help this series see it’s rightful conclusion. And so it remains a crying shame to this day, that fans like ourselves, are reduced to literally begging the big corporations for GAMES like Shenmue III. Proper GAMES, games that these companies should instantly be snapping up. Games that hold so much value that they should be considered, even if not attempted.
But through the sheer willpower and determination of the fanbase this game will see the light of day, one day. So if Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony say they’re “for the gamers”, here is the perfect time to actually show it and prove their worth. Gamers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of imagination and the saturation of endless FPS games.
We are essentially at a crossroads in this new generation of gaming. Games like Shenmue, are vital to change and break the pattern the whole industry is going in.
People are falling out of love with gaming in a big way, in some quarters.
Too much emphasis is being placed on the casual gamer and while i understand the commercial benefits, companies are losing their roots and their soul in the process. You could perhaps even say, some companies forget what made them want to be in the video game industry in the first place. The soul of gaming itself is being lost to the endless pursuit of the quick cash in and the quick buck. The cash cow is a constantly used term and it describes the pure laziness of many a company in producing the same titles over and over again. It sadly bears so much truth, with many a developer in the modern climate.
It’s about time one company made a stand and developed a game like Shenmue, because sadly the magic of gaming seems lost nowadays. The unfinished state of the Shenmue series, is not just a stain on video gaming, it is a deep wound that has made gaming lose it’s magic. Anyone for a Sega / Nintendo merger? We can only dream.
I know if i had a magic lamp, i would choose that as one of my 3 wishes…
(The other 2 would be Shenmue III and to acquire Roman Abramovich’s vast wealth.)
Us fans we can go on forever pestering you, the big companies with our demands, but can you put up with us forever? 😉