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Sony commits to helping Shenmue 3 development

Upon reaching his Kickstarter goal, Yu Suzuki secured the assistance of some powerful friends

Sony will help Yu Suzuki to develop Shenmue 3, but only if the game's Kickstarter campaign reaches its funding target.

Of course, that happened in just a few hours following Sony's E3 press conference, where the campaign was officially announced. Indeed, it seemed odd that Sony would give stage time to a completely independent project, even if it was the long-awaited sequel to Shenmue 2.

However, according to Polygon, Sony's director of third-party development, Gio Corsi, confirmed the company's intention to help develop the game. The Kickstarter was simply a tool to measure demand for more Shenmue.

"If the fans come in and back it, then absolutely we're going to make this a reality," Corsi said during the PlayStation E3 livestream, which took place before the game eclipsed its $2 million funding target.

This will be welcome news for fans of the series. who will have noticed the huge difference between Shenmue 3's funding target and the huge budgets attached to the previous two games. the original Shenmue, for example, cost a reported $70 million all the way back in 1999.

In an introductory post on the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter page, Yu Suzuki indicated that, if the funding goal wasn't met, the project wouldn't go ahead. Evidently Sony was a bigger part of that decision than we first thought.

At the time of writing Shenmue 3 had raised $2.9 million, with 30 days remaining until its deadline.

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Latest comments (43)

John McCaul Web Developer, DevPhase.Net4 years ago
Last time I checked Kickstarter wasn't for publishers. I'm happy Shenmue 3 is finally getting made, but Sony are abusing crowd funding. This marks the second time (to my knowledge) Sony have done this, which is disappointing and presents the ugly side of Kickstarter.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
Again this is dubious behavior from Sony, using KS as a marketing tool to gauge interest in a game. Why not set up a website and do your own gauging? Its not like they don't have the money or influence to do so.

Shitty behavior IMO and because it is Shenmue, any words against anything to do with it will get jumped on instantly.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios4 years ago
I worry about this, I thought Sony were a big enough corporation, to have the money to make it.
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Show all comments (43)
Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
It was OK as an independent project launched by YS but this doesn't feel particularly right. Quite deceptive now they've shown their intentions.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
I would hazard a guess that they were in this from the very beginning, as I wonder how the IP exchanged hands so easily.
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I really feel like this is a serious misuse of Kickstarter. The service was intended to be a way for projects that couldn't finance themselves otherwise to secure funds from fans, not for multinational publishers to gauge consumer interest.
Pegging the project at $2 million is a blatant misrepresentation of how much it's actually going to cost to develop the game and futher skews public perception of how much it really costs to make a game.

This has turned out very well for Sony I'm sure, but the knock-on effect for small developers who really need realistic Kickstarter budgets is worrying.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 17th June 2015 1:30pm

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Ged McMillan Retail Manager 4 years ago
@John: Presumably you're refering to Amplitude HD. In that scenario, Sony were approached by Harmonix and declined the opportunity to fund and publish a sequel/remake. Which was understandable. They funded the 2 previous games to little to no commercial success. They did however agree to allow Harmonix the use of the IP, who Kickstarted the title.

As for Shenmue, it seemed obvious to me from the start that Sony/Sega/Someone was going to be contributing to the funding of the game, over and above the money requested. And that's really not new in the World of Kickstarter though, is it? I'm sure there's plenty of examples of investors/publishers getting involved in a project once the target has been achieved and I doubt such conversations were never conceived between all parties prior to that point. Plus kickstarting Shenmue perhaps sets some realistic expectations of the scale of the final delivered game. Fortunately there are still 30 days to go, plenty of time for backers to revoke their pledge should they wish to.

Fwiw I've only ever backed 2 projects mind, Amplitude HD and Shenmue 3.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ged McMillan on 17th June 2015 1:32pm

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship4 years ago
I'm not sure that skewing public perceptions of how much it costs to make a game is really a problem. Kickstarter backers are firmly entrenched at the enthusiast end of the market. Everyone else *already* thinks that games should be free.

I really don't have a problem with this; even if the project does now get lots of publisher backing, or has had some already, I think it absolutely is a valid way to really test consumer interest before committing large amounts of funding.

People seem to have a hard time not projecting what *they* think Kickstarter is for onto everyone else. Kickstarter is *for* whatever the public support, and it looks like they support this.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
I dunno... replace "publisher" with "investor", and this really isn't new. Star Citizen's initial funding amount was based on having silent investors who could put down the remaining development cost, for instance. Why, then, did SC go to Kickstarter, instead of having it fully investory-funded? I expect part of the reason was because the investors were uncertain of how much consumer interest there was in it, as well as creative-control issues. I believe Elite: Dangerous was much the same.

Certainly it's somewhat cynical on Sony's part, but, really, "nothing new under the sun".
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters4 years ago
The last I heard, Kickstarter doesn't put a gun to anyone's head and force them to back anything. It's not like they're spending your taxes without you getting a say in it. If you don't agree with a project, don't back it. Reducing/spreading investor risk is how I've always seen Kickstarter.
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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 4 years ago
There's a massive difference between the funding message being:
"Help us as an indie developer to come together to bring a cherished something we all love back, which we just can't fund otherwise"
yesterday to
"Sony are funding the game, but they want $2m up front."
Either that was the fastest deal in history, or they knew that when they announced the "Save Shenmue" campaign, and knew that the first message plays better than the second.

I agree that no-one has a gun to their head when it comes to Kickstarter, but you SHOULD expect that the campaign is giving you all the information you need to make a decision. This had nothing like that, and eventually this will harm KS as a fundraising platform - as an industry I think we should be trying to protect it as a platform for those that really need it, and frowning at opportunistic behaviour like this campaign has seemed to be.
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It might make sigh to see KS overused like this but ultimately any dev (in fact any fucker at all) has the right to launch a Kickstarter. The fact that KS was initially used by small/Indie devs is not evidence of its natural community, merely of a community that at the time needed money and an audience more than most.
What was weird about the Shenmue/KS/Sony situation was Sony schlepping a legendary game designer onto the stage only to declare publicly that they have no faith in him but that we should because memories. I don't know how they meant it to come across but all I thought was "severe lack of confidence".
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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe4 years ago
As for the why Kickstarter: it's been already discussed here:
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-06-16-the-last-guardian-shenmue-iii-ff-vii-remake-sonys-e3

So why not just make a website instead counting votes or anything along those lines as people suggested here?
Because voting by clicks is free - so really committed fans would do anything to increase the vote count on such a site, it might cost a little time, but nothing more..
Voting by Kickstarter on the other hand is not free: you have to put your wallet where your mouth is, so the result is much more realistic in terms of potential customers.
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Iain McNulty Software / Game Developer, Yanxen4 years ago
Nice to see the bigger developers are now using Kickstarter as disingenuously as many of the smaller developers who use it.

*Golf clap*
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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 4 years ago
I don't think anyone's questioning *why* a developer/publisher would use Kickstarter in this way.
The question I'm posing, albeit a rhetorical one, is "why did no-one mention Sony's involvement until they had essentially pocketed $3m worth of pre-orders?".
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
It all just smacks of "taking the piss" if you ignore the fact that it is Shenmue that is central to this. Apply this practice to something like Call of Duty and I guess people would not be so forgiving.

How long before this becomes standard practice for big publishers to use KS in this way for any upcoming game??

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 17th June 2015 5:35pm

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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 4 years ago
There's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't use Kickstarter! It's as valid a funding route as any, and as someone has already noted people should be allowed to vote with their wallet... BUT they should be given all the information they require to make an informed decision.
I've worked mostly in publishing, and there have been potential games that I've wanted to sign where there was a lot of doubt - I wouldn't have hesitated to use KS in order to prove the point. BUT I wouldn't have done it under false pretenses, which the more cynical will suggest has happened here to an extent.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
I find this a blatant misuse of KickStarter, an abuse of fan trust, a vile business tactic and abhorrent means of securing funding.

Fund the game from the outset Sony and I'll buy it full price. Violate my trust and you lose a customer.

I have rescinded my pledge.
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Benjamin Crause Supervisor Central Support, Nintendo of Europe4 years ago
I too believe this was not very well done. Sony's involvement was not clear at all and only came to light later. Shady move of Sony and this is not what KS has been designed for. And the $2M+ they got trough it certainly would not have hurt Sony if they would have went ahead with the project directly. Now there is a taste of salt all over this project.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
Annnnnnnd the "funny" thing? Outside industry sites, I'd bet 90%+ of the backers really don't give a rat's ass because they're going to be getting a new Shenmue game "by hook or by crook" (he said in his best Patrick McGoohan impression). I had the feeling this was weird (because of the low amount requested) that Sony would maybe be helping out in that cost and possibly development.

The corker for me is this:
The Kickstarter was simply a tool to measure demand for more Shenmue.
DUH. Has anyone at Sony been on the internet since 2005 or so? People have be screaming at Sega about this for Ages (ha and ha). Of course a new Shenmue game would have been a hit. Maybe not in the half dozen millions, but it would have done well even as a PS3 game.
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Alex Barnfield Lead Engineer, 17-BIT4 years ago
The beauty of Kickstarter is that it gives the public a voice, it's not an exclusive right of the indies to easier investment.
This is a title that was never going to get made without Kickstarter.There is nothing wrong with getting additional investment from other sources, in fact it benefits the people pledging to the title.

I think the issues here, are those of publicity. Sony put it forward, Sony are funding it. Were they always going to do so, or only if the project showed enough traction? If on the stage at e3 Sony had announced what it would take for them to get financially behind the project neither they nor Shenmue 3 would be suffering this ill will.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 4 years ago
I find this a blatant misuse of KickStarter, an abuse of fan trust, a vile business tactic and abhorrent means of securing funding.

Fund the game from the outset Sony and I'll buy it full price. Violate my trust and you lose a customer.

I have rescinded my pledge.
You pretty much took the words out of my mouth. Actually I said something similar in another thread yesterday about how Sony should have just funded it from the start and announced it as a PS4 exclusive at the show. But you said it much more eloquently than I would have.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 18th June 2015 2:41am

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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe4 years ago
I have a feeling that without the public voting with their wallet (rather than just posting on internet forums for years) this project would never have been funded by Sony or any other corporation - it's simply way too risky, since although the previous two games do have cult status financially they only made losses. It is also possible that this game won't be financially too successful either - however at least Sony has been shown that it really is a crowd pleaser, so the real development bill and losses will be easier to swallow as a retainer for fans - rather than get it classed later as a bad business decision...

So yes, this project actually did need the Kickstarter treatment, just not necessarily in the conventional sense.
It certainly fulfills the criteria of "would never have been made" without the Kickstarter campaign.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Istvan Fabian on 18th June 2015 9:54am

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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
I get that you are fighting your corner Istvan and being a Sony employee I would expect no less, but it still doesn't change the fact they should have been upfront about it in the first place.

The whole "Wouldn't have got made without KS" line is really not something I personally believe. If Sony want to make something they have more than enough resources to make it. This is just exploiting KS to be used as a pure marketing tool when its 'supposed' to be used by small teams who could never get money otherwise.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
I agree with a lot of the points made here and I do still feel the game wouldn't have been made without something as powerful as crowd funding behind it. It has put an even bigger weight behing the series than the voices of fans alone.

However, I agree a lot with what Jamie is saying - as much as it is a legitimate way to raise funds regardless of who the company is, all the information should be as honest and transparent as possible. It doesn't matter whether its Pebble, Shenmue or Call of Duty even.

The debate goes on as to whether or not big companies are damaging Kickstarter and if there is an issue with the platform being used as some form of pre-order service. Though, that is basically what it is, except in many cases the funds to go (upfront) towards actually developing the product.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
@Istvan

Yeah, "Gauging public interest" is a lot of times a euphemism for "We don't want to lose metric-tons of money on this." Full-funding a title in a franchise when at least some of the targeted demographic wouldn't even have been born when the originals were released is a shockingly risky venture. System-exclusive something that has a projected release date of 4 years into the lifespan of that system is also financially and technically unwise. But creatively, a new Shenmue is a good thing. So, Sony/Sega/Yu Suzuki are caught between a rock and a hard place - the passion is there, this isn't a greedy cash-grab, but that doesn't mean it will make a profit, or even cover losses.

So, what do people here want? A game that would never have been made, or a game made under slightly duplicitous circumstances?
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I'd have preferred option 3, where Sony set up their own pre-order/'crowdfund'/register-your-interest-via-cash website for Shenmue, makes it plain their involvement from day one and doesn't pretend that $2 million is anything more than an initial show of interest from consumers.

That said, I personally have zero interest nor nostalgic longing for Shenmue so 'this particular game never gets made' wouldn't have ruffled my feathers in the slightest. Plenty of games that have realistic funding goals and are forthright about how their KS backers money is spent don't get funded, so I don't see why Shenmue should get to be an exception.

It's not that I don't want Shenmue 3 to be made. Clearly, lots of people do and feel very passionate about it. My fiancÚ's face lit up when he heard about the KS campaign! I just personally don't feel that Kickstarter is the place for a AAA publisher-backed project like this.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 18th June 2015 10:54am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Mmmm... I never got around to playing the originals on the DC, so I'm very... uninterested in the creative side, but very curious about the financial deal. :)

Your Option 3 is actually not far off something I thought of just after hitting post: Sony/MS/Nintendo go in on an investment firm/incubator company, with cash taken like KS. If X game gets Y dollars from the public, then the remainder of costs are shouldered by the company. No system exclusives, publisher involvement is up-front, no loss of creative-control to actual investors who don't understand the industry.

And, since we're wishing upon a star... :p

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 18th June 2015 11:03am

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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe4 years ago
@Darren
Rest assured I would have posted the exact same thing if I was working for any other company - this is my personal opinion, not in any way associated with any company whatsoever.
Shenmue 3 is quite simply a loss-leader - it's a very niche product. It is also very unlikely that it will even recover the development costs, if they are going to be any similar to the previous incarnations. So there has to be at least some justification for committing to a title like this.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
Look at it this way.

If Sony aren't going to make any money out of it then why don't they just come out and say "Hey we love you guys and girls so much that we want to make Shenmue 3 to show you how much we care even though we expect to make no profit from it. Please visit out new Shenmue website and pledge your support". That would have had the fanboys foaming at the mouth and would have been a PR win for Sony, but they chose the route of underhanded behavior which now makes them look bad.

In this day and age honesty is a valuable commodity because so many people/companies/politicians refuse to tell the truth. All they had to do was roll it out themselves (IE not use KS), be honest and this would have been seen in a completely different light.
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@Istvan nobody doubts that, just that that was the part Sony failed to mention when announcing. If KS is about anything at all, it's transparency and I think its legit if some backers feel a bit duped. It's cool a new Shenmue is the result but it prolly could have been handled in a better spirit is all.
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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe4 years ago
@Barry,
No doubt about that - I think the best idea was here where you don't make it a Kickstarter, but people would pre-order it (with real money) if it was greenlit.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend4 years ago
That is pretty much it Istvan, hit the nail on the head.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
Shenumue 3 too risky to publish up front?

This is an excuse nobody should feel comfortable hiding behind. It's a paper thin bomb blanket made out of tenuous and dubious.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
Shenumue 3 too risky to publish up front?

This is an excuse nobody should feel comfortable hiding behind. It's a paper thin bomb blanket made out of tenuous and dubious.
Ah come on... Really? 12 years since the last title, both titles released on a system that sold poorly. Projected release date of 3 is December 2017, which means there'll be PS4 owners who were literally not born when the first title was released.

You can't argue that's a financial sure-thing. Nostalgia with 30-something gamers will cover the costs by quite a bit, but I doubt anyone's gonna get rich off this.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 18th June 2015 4:57pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
Morville, I can list a dozen games published by Sony without KickStarter that were far riskier than Shenmue 3.

This was not about risk. It's about testing out a business tactic. If it truly were a risk factor, they could have put Shenmue 1 and 2 on PSN to gauge interest.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
I can list a dozen games published by Sony without KickStarter that were far riskier than Shenmue 3.
Genuinely don't mean to be rude, but you can't honestly know that without knowing the full-budget of Shenmue 3. Risk is simply a cost-benefit analysis. As an example, the concept of Journey (plucking a game from thin air) may make it riskier than Shenmue 3, but if its budget was one-tenth of what Shenmue's is, then it was substantially less risky to publish.
This was not about risk. It's about testing out a business tactic.
It also doesn't have to be either/or. It was both a risk management scenario, and a feeler for future business strategies. :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 18th June 2015 9:36pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
Here's a(nother) funny: I'm walking to the library and some kids are popping out of a GameStop talking about E3 stuff. "What's that Shenmue game supposed to be about anyway?" One asks another. "I dunno, some old Chinese shit or whatever, but like GTA I think" says the other. Cue me snickering inside and feeling really OLD at the same time.

I recall when Shenmue 2 arrived on the Xbox (I was working in a game shop then) some customers who never owned a Dreamcast asked the same question about it. I think that was one reason that game didn't do as well as it should have here in the US.

I'm at the stage where I'd have to go back and replay both games to see where things left off and if the games still hold my attention as they first did. I think I appreciated the game more back when it was a big deal to see new gameplay tossed around and working. These days with so many open world games that feature more things to do than Shenmue, I think nostalgia is carrying a lot of people over the Tear Falls and down onto the rocks where they land right on their heads.

In other words, it'll sell quite well but expect some younger and more jaded gamers to wonder what the fuss is all about. "I'm looking for sailors" won't go over as big as it did in the early 2000's, that's for sure.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
There are so many mixed messages about Sony's involvement. Latest reports suggesting they're only helping out with PS4 marketing. I think we should avoid getting into too much of twist before we find out more information but good debate.
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Shehzaan Abdulla Translator/QA 4 years ago
For me this entire issue throws up some major questions, but not about Kickstarter/Shenmue: What is the role of the videogame press? Are they are active participants and influencers in the videogame industry? Or are they supposed to be bystanders reporting upon it? It's no longer entirely clear to me.

For me this is a case of the videogame press going full political; assuming an influential position (whether they admit it or not, their misinformation is colouring perceptions) but without any of the responsibility normally inherent to that position (doing actual research or rectifying mistakes).

I find that incredibly sleazy, shady and quite frankly, disgusting. If you want to be a cowboy with a smoking gun, you have to be willing to be arrested for shooting someone down. And sadly the videogame press will never accept that they have a responsibility even though they trip over themselves as the scrounge up any and all influence they can. They are judge, jury and (apparently) executioner.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shehzaan Abdulla on 22nd June 2015 6:21am

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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 4 years ago
Shehzaan - This seems totally unrelated to this discussion? Do you feel like the press has misreported this story?
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Anthony Chan4 years ago
I think the issue here is most people believe KS is primarily for Indie to raise funds to make games for people who would love to play the game and, thus financially be motivated to share in the success of that game. But that truly has changed, and I think it's unfair for the indie devs posting here vilifying the big corp publishers for tainting/corrupting a system.

I think Kickstarter due to press and social media has become something more than just a alternative way for projects (not just in gaming) to get funded. Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general has become a way for project leaders in general to reach a wide audience globally and determine interest overall in an idea. The concept of an idea going viral, and the measurements of popularity of such concepts, have become extremely important for manufacturers of retail products.

While, Sony could have done a better job communicating it's intentions (not a first for Sony though); their use of KS for gauging market interest is unsurprising, given KS' evolution into a social media outlet. If we really wanted to blame somebody, I would blame social media in general for turning all things good to things of glamour and fame.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Anthony Chan on 22nd June 2015 4:12pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
Anthony, perhaps it's just that consumers see KickStarter as an outlet for those entities that are incapable of funding or obtaining the funding through traditional channels. An entity well capable of providing the funding is seen as invading a space it does not belong.

Look to other media. We don't see Sony Pictures Entertainment KickStarting the next Spider-Man movie. Or Sony Pictures Television KickStarting the next season of Jeopardy. Or Sony Music Entertainment KickStarting a new album.
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