As we are approaching the important final week of the Kickstarter campaign for Shenmue III I start to see a few worrying patterns reoccurring that I would like to address. Comparably successful Kickstarter projects such as Torment: Tides of Numenera, Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night all had a steady and significant climb in both funding and backers in their last week. Shenmue III is still falling after the significant surge a week ago when Playstation 4 physical disc reward was introduced on the same day as the #30onthe3rd campaign took place. In the case of Shenmue III I have hard to imagine a scenario giving rise to a similar bump in funds before the end of the campaign. The only aces in the sleeve that they might have, that I can think of, would be to offer an Xbox One-version or to confirm ports of Shenmue I+II to relevant formats.
Now it is most likely that none of those will happen so that YS Net and Awesome Japan need to play lesser but still important cards during the final week. At the very least; more frequent updates, more fan-interaction and one hell of a final hours-stream.
To be honest, I am still struggling with value at the initial tiers that were there. While I certainly want as much as possible of my pledge to go straight to the development it is still understandably hard to motivate further bump-ups for most people I believe. I would like, just for a moment, to focus attention on another Kickstarter, The Bards Tale IV, that is entering it’s final days. I backed Inxile’s previous project Torment: Tides of Numenera and got Wasteland 2 at the same time. I very much enjoyed Wasteland 2 and I adore the spiritual predecessor Planescape: Torment. Still I did not back The Bards Tale IV until yesterday. Partly due to that I have absolutely no connection to The Bards Tale-franchise. Furthermore, the US dollar is reaching record levels as we speak, making $20 for the digital version not really feeling like the greatest of deals, considering also what I usually pay for PC games.
It is likely that Shenmue III might make others feel the same way. $29 is as I have said before a good deal but it will not on it’s own make thousands of people to get in on an impulse, thinking they have little to loose as they do with other Kickstarters offering the same at a lower tier. Still, $29 is fair and I think it should stay as it is. I do however really think that:
- There is too much focus on Kickstarter exclusive in-game content. Even funding at the base level should give you the same fundamental game experience as everyone else.
- In particular, I think scrolls and the phone card are too inflicting on gameplay to be in any rewards.
- Such items should at the very least be available as add-ons or not demand that people who have pledged for digital/physical must step up several tiers. For example, a $35-$45 tier offering these rewards on top of the digital would do.
- Clothes, photos and other visual tweaks are ok to sell separately.
- More physical reward value would help. Go for relatively cheap things as posters, stickers, post cards, coasters, key rings, coffee cups, beer glasses, t-shirts etc. Add the cheapest things into current physical tiers, e.g. $100 and up. Sell some things as add-ons!
- More digital rewards/add-ons. E.g. digital copy+soundtrack for $50 or digital soundtrack an add-on.
- Fix the Shenmue III-logo everywhere, please! I still can not believe the logo displayed all around the Kickstarter and in videos is the correct one. During the E3 announcement it looked as expected and not like a quick construction after playing around with fonts in Word.
- Things are either not happening or happening too late. PS4 physical was late. Paypal is not there yet. Presentation is lacking. Really look at the masterpiece of a Kickstarter that is The Bards Tale IV. It makes you interested in what the game is about and has such a colorful campaign page with several community goals.
- This leads to that the focus has been too much on people upping their pledges and that by a lot instead of a bit. Instead of working on these rewards, a much improved trailer could have made wonders at an earlier stage.
- Too little concept art, artwork and no new gameplay or even speculation of it has been properly shown on the campaign page. Instead the art is found in the trailer marked as stretch goals or on Yu Suzuki’s Twitter.
We have no time to dwell on these things but we must all get into action and make July 11-18 Shenmue III-week. Not by focusing all attention on new $XXontheXXth-campaigns but by increasing value in smaller steps and sending out a better message in terms of presentation and details. The community may set daily goals that are more likely to be achieved, especially after passing $4.6M and the voids betweens stretch goals start to kick in. $4.6M could be a goal for tomorrow, then 54K backers on monday, 55K tuesday and so on. Of course adjusting if/when the final climb starts.
All of YS Net, Awesome Japan and the fans need to put in an effort to make the last week, and in particular the last days, special. Stay strong and let’s push through to the end of the campaign!