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Toys and games come together, as Disney merges divisions

Disney Infinity is having a big effect on the company, and its consumer products and interactive divisions are becoming one. …


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Opinion – Sony And Suzuki Need To Come Clean On Shenmue Budget And Funding

Last night, Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki posted an update to the Shenmue III Kickstarter. The note amounted to an apology for deception regarding the game’s budget and outside investors, including Sony, who invited Suzuki to announce the project during its E3 press conference. It doesn’t go nearly far enough, and fans should be demanding more.

I’ve written about Kickstarter before, cautioning backers to be smart with their funding. I recognize that Shenmue III is a game long anticipated and a white whale for many, but that isn’t reason to give project managers a pass. Rather, this is exactly the time to be hyper vigilant.

Kickstarter is many things, but at its core, it's fundraising. It doesn't have the charitable connotations of that traditional American nonprofit practice, but the parallels are plentiful. The Kickstarter pitch is an appeal for financing. It's a prospectus that must include all relevant details about inputs and outputs, risks and rewards, reasonable assurances and potential barriers to fulfilling those promises.

Kickstarter is not a store. It is not a mechanism for pre-ordering, though many project managers skirt that line as closely as they can.

Backers and donors both take significant risk when they opt to fund a campaign. There's no return on those funds, rather the reward (beyond tangibles awarded at certain tiers) is the satisfaction of seeing a project come to fruition. Backing a Kickstarter is not an investment, just like contributing to a nonprofit organization will not yield dividends.  

In order to make an informed decision, backers deserve transparency. They are entitled to know what they are getting into. Put simply: the campaign and its manager, Ys Net, failed to fulfill its obligation in the initial pitch. As the project manager, the buck stops with Suzuki. Because the campaign didn't state that there were other funders, if Sony or other investors pull out, Suzuki is still responsible for delivering the game as promised with the funding available via the Kickstarter. It's unlikely that this will happen, but the way the pitch was framed sets up expectations that seem exceedingly difficult to meet without outside funding sources. The first Shenmue game cost $ 47 million to make, so the $ 2 million won't go far in making a true sequel that fans expect Suzuki to deliver. That primary funding coming from other sources is essential to this project's potential success.

Whether Suzuki received bad counsel from Sony or other investors or thought it wise to obfuscate the true nature of the project budget doesn't matter.  There is one currency that rules everything on Kickstarter. It is not cash. It is trust, and Yu Suzuki has so far squandered it.


Yu Suzuki

Smart backers knew from the start, though it wasn't stated explicitly in the campaign pitch, that the $ 2 million funding target for the campaign was a pebble at the foot of Shenmue III’s mountain. The model of using Kickstarter as proof of interest isn’t new or outrageous (Koji Igarashi's record-breaking Bloodstained employed this method). However, from the moment the campaign was announced, something about this felt wrong.

Sony gave up valuable time during its E3 stage presentation, minutes that cost thousands of dollars, to present the campaign. Sony’s Adam Boyes went out of his way to tell those in the audience and watching via livestream that Sony had nothing to do with the project. 

“Recently, a developer told us they were bringing back a fan-favorite game for PC and PS4,” Boyes said. “Now, this is very much their project, but we wanted to celebrate their announcement on our stage, since this is a game that PlayStation fans have been very, very, very vocal about.”

When the Kickstarter went live, there was no mention of the other investors. When questioned directly, Suzuki admitted there were outside partners, but declined to say who. We asked Sony directly, who admitted that an agreement had been in place from the beginning. If Shenmue III hit its goal (which it did quickly), Sony would invest in the project. 

I do agree with Boyes that Kickstarter has made a number of wonderful projects a reality. However, when publishers use the platform to diminish their own risk and aren't clear about that, it's misleading to a hungry fanbase that simply wants to see a game finally realized.


Sony's Adam Boyes introducing Shenmue III Kickstarter

It took longer to get concrete evidence (not just budget-based supposition) that someone else was investing (and even longer to determine who) than it did for the project to reach its funding goal. That isn’t right, and it disrespects those fans who have been waiting years to see this game realized.

The problem here isn’t a matter of a major publisher mitigating its risk by ensuring fan interest. If Sony wanted to use its stage to strike a deal with fans, this wouldn’t feel so wrong. But the Shenmue III Kickstarter was launched in an extremely misleading fashion. This isn’t “very much their project.” It’s Sony’s too, even if the company isn’t the lead partner.

Now that the misleading nature of the campaign has been exposed, Suzuki’s apology yesterday isn’t enough. Sony doesn’t typically talk project budgets, but Suzuki must. Backers have every right to ask the hard questions and demand transparency from a project manager, whether that person is an unknown developer with his or her first game or an industry monument like Yu Suzuki.

Despite the new information, the Shenmue III Kickstarter still carries a number of oddities. Ys Net says that $ 10 million from fans is required to fund an open world. Not only is this budget number disconnected from the reality of game development (and Shenmue's budget history), but no gaming Kickstarter has ever approached that amount. Koji Igarashi's Bloodstained set the record at just over $ 5.5 million when it closed earlier this month.  If fans knew how much Sony and other investors were ready to contribute against fan funding, perhaps there would be more confidence and trust built to reach that milestone. 

It’s time for Suzuki and Sony to come clean on the Shenmue III budget and financing arrangement. Stop taking advantage of backers’ nostalgia and a 14-year-old cliffhanger.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Come Tour Jurassic Park In Latest Lego Jurassic World Trailer

The latest Lego Jurassic World trailer is all about eye candy, movie tie-ins, and getting you excited about hearing John Williams' score all over again. You'll also get to see Lego Chris Pratt, if that's a thing you're into.

WB Games is also reminding fans that there's some free DLC for pre-ordering. Digital pre-purchases on PlayStation systems get three characters (Dino Handler, Eric Kirby, and Paul Kirby) and the animal control vehicle.

On Xbox systems, you get the same quantity, but different content for pre-purchasing. The characters included are a Jurassic Park helicopter pilot, Lex Murphy, and Tim Murphy. The vehicle in this bundle is Iain Malcolm's San Diego cruiser.

Both of these will be available for purchase after June 12 for $ .99.

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Lego Jurassic World will be out on June 12 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, and PC. For more, check out a recent preview.

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Come to GDC Europe for tips on soft-launching your next mobile game

GDC Europe 2015 is months away, and conference organizers are highlighting two can’t-miss sessions on the process of soft-launching your iOS game and the trick to coding adaptive clothing systems for open-world games. …


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Developers come clean about the realities of crunch

Kotaku has published a thorough feature aimed at exposing crunch culture to a broader audience that features developers coming clean about how they had to crunch, or why they made others do so. …


Gamasutra News

Attack On Titan: Humanity In Chains Will Come With Free 3DS Theme

Atlus has delivered a new trailer of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains along with some details about when we can play it. Check out the video below to see the members of the Scout Regiment in action.

The trailer features Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Levi, and Sasha, along with a number of different Titans (and a lot of blood). You’ll be able to pick it up in North America on May 12 for $ 39.99.

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Unfortunately for European fans, the game has faced a delay due to a copyright claim. It’s still coming, but under the name Shingeki no Kyojin: Humanity in Chains. A release date will be announced for that territory at a later date.

Regardless of whether you’re in North America or Europe, you’ll get a free, exclusive 3DS theme. You won’t be able to purchase it independently on the eShop.

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This Week In Mobile – GDC Gives A Look At What’s To Come

This week in mobile has been dominated by news coming out of GDC. With the convention drowning out any new releases, it’s time to take a look at some of the more interesting mobile games that hit the show-floor this year.

This War of Mine
Developer: 11 bit
Platform(s): iOS (iPad)

Game Informer’s PC Editor, Dan Tack, walked away impressed by This War Of Mine when it released late last year, as did many others. Now, those who didn’t have an avenue through which to experience the grim survival game when it launched on PC will have another option. Developer 11 bit says it’s committed to keeping the iPad version as close to the original as possible, and that the game will be releasing as a premium app instead of free to play.

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Crashlands
Developer
: Butterscotch Shenanigans
Platform(s): TBA

While big sprawling survival games have taken over the PC space in recent years, they’re still somewhat of a rarity in the mobile space. Developer Buttersctoch Shenanigans is looking to fix that with Crashlands. The game features an absolutely massive procedurally generated world, and a genuinely interesting story behind how it came to exist if you have a few minutes to spare. 

Eisenhorn: Xenos
Developer:
Pixel Hero Games
Platform(s): TBA

Games Workshop has been fairly active with its Warhammer brand lately. We recently got a look at Warhammer: Endtimes – Vermintide, a co-op shooter set in the classic fantasy Warhammer universe. Eisenhorn: Xenos, based on the Warhammer novel Xenos by Dan Abnett, is an adventure game – with a dash of action – set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. While there aren’t many details surrounding the game at this point, its gorgeous visuals are enough to make it worth keeping an eye on.

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Zodiac
Developer: Kobojo
Platform(s): iOS, Vita, Others TBA

While turn-based JRPGs are certainly nothing new to the mobile market, few have the pedigree or good looks of Zodiac. With music from Hitoshi Sakimoto and writing from Kazushige Nojima, both of Final Fantasy fame, Zodiac is a game to pay attention to moving forward. Kobojo has already announced that the game is coming to Vita as well, so there’s intriguing potential for some unique cross platform interaction. 

Trial by Viking
Developer:
Last Life Games
Platform(s): Mobile TBA, (also headed to PC, Mac, and Wii U)

Trial by Viking is one of the more ambitious games to come out of GDC this year. While it’s coming to PC, Mac, and Wii U, the action platformer is also targeting mobile platforms. The game already promises more than 150 levels to fight through, and if developer Last Life Games gets the touch controls right it could pave the way for more traditional 2D platforming on phones and tablets.

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Watch winter come to LittleBigPlanet 3 in Game of Thrones intro

“Adorable” is not an adjective often used when describing HBO’s Game of Thrones; nor can it be used in reference to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Powered by LittleBigPlanet 3, however, the show’s theme does have a certain charm…
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Disney’s Big Hero 6 come to save LittleBigPlanet 3

Burgeoning crimestoppers with a copy of LittleBigPlanet 3, take heed: you can suit up and save the day as any of the heroes from Disney’s Big Hero 6 thanks to a costume pack made available this week. Wasabi, GoGo, Hiro, Honey and Fred (pictured above…
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Watch A Walking Dead Pinball Machine Come Together

Stern Pinball is the oldest running pinball machine maker in the world, and it does most of its work out of a factory in Chicago, Illinois. Get a virtual tour of the company's headquarters and watch them construct a Walking Dead table before your very eyes. Now you never need to go to Chicago.

The Awesomer recently visited the Stern Pinball factory and filmed 3,500 parts and 1/2 a mile of wire get reworked into The Walking Dead pinball machines. For more on Stern Pinball read our Behind The Wizardry feature where we interview Stern’s director of marketing, Jody Dankberg.

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