Last month Shenmue III developer Ys Net announced that they were partnering with Deep Silver on the creation of the game. According to a new interview with director Yu Suzuki however, this partnership was crucial to Shenmue 3 since if they only relied on Kickstarter funds, as they had planned, the game would not be open-world.
Anyone who's played a Shenmue game knows that they are proto-GTA games, so taking away the open world elements would have been a major blow to fans.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Suzuki admits that when they started Shenmue 3 with Kickstarter, they would not be able to make a game with open-world elements, something that's crucial to many fans' enjoyment of the games and why they still get praise. Imagine a linear GTA or Yakuza game. Well, we very nearly got that with Shenmue 3.
"Although we had a lot of success on Kickstarter, when we started the project we soon realized it would be very difficult to make an open world game with that budget. Since then, we have been looking for another partner to give us additional funding and to also make the game with open world elements."
Fortunately Ys Net found it with Deep Silver, so now they can make the game Shenmue fans actually want to play - which is Shenmue 3.
""We originally pitched a scalable game since, as you know, Kickstarter has stretch goals and now, after finding a new partner with Deep Silver, we're able to scale up based on the original plan. I'm fully ready to make the game with a larger scale featuring open world elements."
A linear Shenmue 3 where you can't explore is a terrifying thought, and it's shocking that it was planned that way before the Kickstarter - and certainly not communicated to fans or backers at the time. The original Kickstarter campaign frequently mentions that the Shenmue series is about open world gameplay and sandbox storytelling, but looking back at it now it notably does not say that Shenmue 3 itself will contain open world gameplay. This line in particular is notable:
"We are balancing our ambitions for a grand sequel with the pragmatic realities of developing a game of this scale."
Which we now know means "cutting out open world gameplay". We're very fortunate then that Ys Net managed to find a partner in Deep Silver that could help them fund the game further and make it into a true Shenmue 3. It's still a long way off, but we're now slightly more confident that we'll be getting the Shenmue sequel we actually want to play.