Refunds for the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter are going out soon, but it turns out not every backer is eligible to receive one. The refunds were offered earlier this year after Ys Net announced that Shenmue 3 would be an Epic Games Store exclusive on PC, drawing the ire of backers who had pledged for a Steam copy.
Shenmue 3 has been a long time coming, and this last twist has soured the long-awaited game for some fans of the series. The first two Shenmue games gained a cult following shortly after their release, but their poor sales kept development of Shenmue 3 in limbo for more than 10 years. It wasn’t until Shenmue director Yu Suzuki left Sega to form Ys Net that momentum on the game picked up. Shenmue 3 was successfully crowdfunded in 2015, beginning yet another protracted period of development that’s finally coming to an end. Shenmue 3’s latest trailer has some fans excited for the sequel, but anticipation is being overshadowed by Ys Net’s handling of the PC version.
When Ys Net first announced that the PC version of Shenmue 3 was switching from Steam to the Epic Games Store, it gave PC backers the option to switch to a PS4 version or await instructions concerning refunds. The developer also said that PC backers might be eligible for an additional Steam code once the one-year Epic exclusivity period ends. A new Kickstarter update throws that all into question, with Ys Net announcing that only players currently signed up for a PC copy of Shenmue 3 will be eligible for refunds, and the possibility of free Steam codes down the line is still up in the air. That means that backers who switched their pledge to the PS4 version of the game while they waited for the refund policy to be made clear won’t be eligible for a refund at all.
Deals like the one Ys Net made with Epic are reportedly great for developers. The publisher is apparently paying top dollar for exclusive distribution rights, including the $10.45 million Epic Games paid for Control exclusivity. While that figure might not be quite as high for games like Shenmue 3, Epic seems to be making attractive deals to even small indie developers. However, developers now have to consider whether signing a deal with Epic will be worth the backlash, as some players have gone to extreme lengths to show their displeasure with such deals. While Epic exclusivity doesn’t seem to have hurt Borderlands 3, which is still selling well, it has left smaller developers like the team behind Ooblets enduring harassment and even death threats.
In Shenmue 3’s case, the exclusivity outrage is somewhat understandable. While the difference between a key for Steam and one for the Epic Games Store may be minimal, backers are still receiving something different from what they paid for. However, in such a precarious industry, with even beloved developers laying off huge numbers of people or closing down completely, the entire medium may be better served by players being advocates for developers rather than siding with one distribution platform over another.
Source: Ys Net