The journey of Shenmue III has been nothing but dramatic. Ever since Shenmue II released back in 2001, fans had been waiting for the third installment. After it was revealed there were no further plans to develop it, fans spent the next fourteen years campaigning for a sequel. This included monthly “tweetathons” from February 2012, where fans would tweet at the same time ask for a sequel. Their efforts came to fruition at E3 2015 when the creator of the game, Yu Suzuki, introduced a Kickstarter campaign. Work officially began on Shenmue III in July 2015. The Kickstarter campaign closed in July 2015, far exceeding expectations.
A PayPal option was later on introduced for those who could not back on Kickstarter. Four years later, in 2019, backers were sent a survey asking them if they wanted a Steam version or PS4 version. But then Epic games went all out in its war against steam. Following that strategy, Epic games made Shenmue III an EGS exclusive. This was confirmed by Yu at E3 2019. This meant that all the backers who had chosen the Steam key option would have the option to either wait for a year or choose the PS4 option instead.
The cherry on top was the fact that Ys Net wasn’t going to offer refunds. The internet would not have it and the backlash was immense. As a result of the outrage, Ys Net announced that all backers could get a refund, wait till next year for the steam key or switch to the PS4 version. In what seems to be a face-saving exercise, Epic Games announced that it would be paying for the refund out of their own pocket. What went wrong? In hindsight, the trouble was easily predictable.
Epic games store and the publisher of Shenmue III, Deep Silver had already tried this with Metro Exodus. After much backlash, the Epic games Store head had claimed they wouldn’t try to make beloved games exclusives. Yet they did exactly that. Shenmue III had only gone into development because of the massive fan support and a lot of those fans were Steam users. For them to do this, it felt like a betrayal. Coupled with the anger at Epic Games Store for just throwing money at everything, a very explosive situation occurred. So what can Epic Games store do? Epic games cannot compete with Steam without getting exclusives.
Steam already has a 300,000 games library. Epic Games is trying to cut into their market by offering an 88/12 split in profits with developers instead of the traditional 70/ 30. But that will take time, as developers have to also take into account the audience offered by both platforms. What EGC can do is follow the PlayStation 4 way of exclusives. Instead of acquiring beloved franchises and making them exclusives, they should acquire/form new studios. Then they should try to develop new franchises.
Currently, the gaming community views them as shameless capitalists, just trying to throw money to earn money. If they were to help make new franchises, this would help them revamp their image and the gaming industry would accept them more happily. In the meantime, we can only wait and see, especially as Stadia is sure to shake up the market later this year.