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What SEGA Should Do About Shenmue

Almost everyone who has played the game Shenmue (no explanation what Shenmue is provided here), is still waiting for something new about the game. It is been almost 12 plus years since the last release of the second installment (Chapters 3-6) of this series, which is badly left on a cliffhanger, and still not nothing new.

They say that SEGA is afraid of the risk, but that was a decade ago. It is not Shenmue's fault that Dreamcast flopped. It is widely known that every Dreamcast owner around the world ought to own two copies of Shenmue, so as SEGA to make profit or break even. Surely, Shenmue has been described as a "killer app", but the decision to put it on a ready to die console with only 10.6M units, was careless from the beginning. "But you said Shenmue was a killer app!" Yes, of course I said that, but I also said that every and all Dreamcast owners must owned two copies of Shenmue, so as SEGA to profit or break even. That means with only 10.6M Dreamcast units, that was not possible at all. SEGA was banking on the console's success when released the game, but that never happened; Dreamcast flopped and thus every game on it with a similar size of budget, was doomed to financial "failure". If Shenmue was released even on Gamecube (let alone Xbox and PlayStation 2) it could make profit for SEGA. Therefore, a game with that budget as Shenmue, must not be released on a console like Dreamcast (its hardware and its game titles were awesome, but not its sales).

Now, a stigma has been put upon the whole Shenmue series using Shenmue 2's situation, especially on Xbox. Undoubtedly, they do not dare to blame Shenmue 1's sales, with 1,180,000 sold copies worldwide. But, when it comes to Shenmue 2, they rubbing their hands together. However, they blindfolding to some crucial facts - because before the numbers, there are certain actions which lead to them. SEGA, through Peter Moore, has decided to not release Shenmue 2 on the North America. Therefore, a lot of NA residents and fans of the game have to imported it, so as to play it on their Dreamcast (while using special methods on their NTSC consoles to bypass the region locking, or even go that far as to buy a PAL Dreamcast just to play the European version of the game on that one). That means a lot of NA Shenmue fans already hold a copy of Shenmue 2 for their Dreamcast console and thus would not need to buy one more for some another console. So, SEGA through Peter Moore has decided to sell the exclusive rights of Shenmue 2 to Microsoft, so as to release Shenmue 2 as an "ONLY ON XBOX" game. We have already discussed why a lot of NA fans wouldn't buy Shenmue 2 (because they already have their imported copy of it on their Dreamcast). Now let us consider more relative facts about why Shenmue 2 could not sell well on Xbox:
  • Xbox didn't get Shenmue 1. Shenmue "The Movie" was better than nothing but still not enough to convince some people to join a series part-way through the story.     
  • People who bought an Xbox chose that console for a reason, and that reason wasn't to play RPGs set in the Far East. The demographic that Shenmue would have appealed to were more likely to have bought a PS2.     
  • And, as already has been said, hardcore fans of the series had already imported the Dreamcast version from Europe.
Nowadays, if SEGA wants conviction at hand that a new Shenmue game would sell well, then it ought to do this simple by concept thing: release a Shenmue I-II HD on all digital platforms. That move would be beneficial to everybody for various reasons. First, it will allow SEGA to test the waters and see through sales/numbers what the demand and want of new Shenmue games still is, and what the potential interest of the new generations of gamers would be. A cost of a remake / an HD port of a game would not cost that much as the cost of a sequel. Therefore, that concept/idea is very feasible by SEGA's own hands. But how SEGA will reflect on that will be very crucial to the success of that move. Definitely, as a remake some things of the game will need to be improved: controls, graphics and everything else that consists of the audiovisual output the player gets. But everything else should remain intact and especially some things as the core gameplay, story, characters and all things that comes from Yu Suzuki's vision of the game, must remain intact. Also, by that move (as already has been slightly mentioned), more gamers will get to know and play the game, something that otherwise on a dead by SEGA console like Dreamcast would not be possible (when they don't own the console and why they should). A digital release would allow the game to be available to every current and future video game console; a good move would be to release it also on PCs via, exempli gratia, Steam. A big barrier of the Shenmue franchise is that is not widely known and not available to be played for real outside a dead Dreamcast console.

Nevertheless, a release of a Shenmue I-II HD will set the merits that the Shenmue franchise can be a successful one and, furthermore, convice SEGA or any financially interested investor/partner, that the magnum opus of Yu Suzuki, would hit the ultimate success in a next generation console (exempli gratia, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U et cetera) in the form of Shenmue 3, that is the expected majestic and spectacular -most waited- ending of a game series. Yu Suzuki, the man who pioneered the foundations of the gaming industry, whose paradigms big AAA game studios are following even to this day (for a current example, see Grand Theft Auto V), will set once again what a truly innovative and ground-breaking game ought to be. If not that, at least he will be able to give a conclusion to ones of the most loyal fans of a game series, ever. Yu Suzuki by any means would love that, both for his fans and because Shenmue exists as a part of him.

With Shenmue I-II HD, SEGA, you will reboot not just the series, but your prestige as one of the most innovative game companies of all time. Or, at least, let Yu Suzuki make it while you negotiate with another company who will pay you for the exclusive rights. And, in that note, any company who would take the lead to bring Shenmue I-II HD and Shenmue 3 on their console, is guaranteed that will earn the utmost respect from the loyal Shenmue fans; their loyalty will be shared with the company (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, whatever that be) which will adopt them.

Shenmue series needs a saviour; which major company would be the one? The first one will get the loyal Shenmue fans on its own side, forever. Would be Microsoft? Praise for Xbox, forever. Would be Sony? An eternal support and praise for PlayStation! Would be Nintendo? Fans will stick with Nintendo's products. Anyone will be benefited by the respect and further support of the loyal fans, because that company which took the initiative and the lead, brought to them what they have been patiently waiting all this time; and that is, Shenmue 3; the conclusion of Yu Suzuki's captivating magnum opus.

«JM: So, back to your plans for the future. I don't know if you've heard, but [Resident Evil creator] Shinji Mikami's studio, Tango, was recently acquired by Bethesda parent company, ZeniMax. Would you ever consider working with a Western publisher if you could get the funding to make Shenmue 3?

YS: That depends on the terms of negotiations. If we're given the freedom to make what we want, it doesn't matter where the company is from. I would take my family and move to the States.»

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