E3: ‘Shenmue III’ Is Quickly Becoming KickStarter’s Latest Success Story

It seems that if the fans want a sequel to a popular series badly enough, they’ll certainly pay for it. That’s certainly been the case when it comes to projects that appear on the KickStarter crowdfunding site, as projects like Mighty No. 9 (the spiritual successor to Keiji Inafune’s Mega Man series) and the recently funded Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (producer Koji Igarashi’s follow-up to Konami’s now-dormant Castlevania series) were able to rack up millions in funding to assure their development.

Now the latest success story has arrived, in the form of Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue III. The series first got its start in the early 2000’s on the Sega Dreamcast game console, where young hero Ryo Hazuki went on a quest to find a mysterious foe who killed his father. Along the way, Ryo faces encounters with foes, while interacting with the world on a much different level than other games offered at the time.

Both Shenmue and its follow-up, Shenmue II (which came out for the original Xbox) were fan favorites at the time, but over the past few years, Sega, the series publisher, balked at releasing a sequel, mainly due to developmental reasons. The company has fallen on financial hardship as of late, forced to stick with mobile development rather than console. So the idea of a sequel ever arriving seemed very unlikely.

Until this week at E3, that is. During Sony’s press conference Monday night, Suzuki came out with a unique pitch for Shenmue III using a KickStarter campaign. While the pitch was met with a certain amount of criticism from some fans (who felt that Sony should’ve just backed the game as a PlayStation 4 exclusive outright, instead of relying on crowdfunding), there’s no doubt it’s on its way to being the site’s next success story, as it’s already reached nearly $3 million in funding, securing its success and guaranteeing, in a way, that the story will continue onward.

Now the main question is where it will continue. Suzuki didn’t mention a specific platform that the final game would arrive on, leaving fans wondering which consoles it will appear on. However, according to this story from GamesIndustry International, Sony may lend a hand after all to assure some form of PlayStation exclusivity.

The publisher’s director of third-party development, Gio Corsi, explained that “if the fans come in and back it, then absolutely, we’re going to make this a reality,” he said, stopping just short of calling it a PS4 exclusive.

However, it’d be quite a catch for the company, especially considering the hits it announced at the show, including a long-awaited remake of fan favorite Final Fantasy VII and the revived The Last Guardian project, as well as more upcoming hits like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Dreams.

With funding in place, Shenmue III is the latest title to show just how effectively KickStarter can work with the right campaign – though a legacy to back it up, along with avid fans, certainly doesn’t hurt either. More details about the game can be found here.

WWE Launches Gaming (Yes, Gaming) Channel On YouTube

by Sahil Patel

Gaming is huge on YouTube — there’s a reason the video giant is launching a new website and mobile app exclusively for its community of gamers and game lovers. WWE is also pretty big on YouTube. Its top channel, for instance, has more than 6.4 million subscribers. And let’s be honest, there’s probably a decent overlap between the gaming and wrestling fan communities.

To reach that audience, the WWE has launched a new YouTube channel entirely dedicated to gaming. Called UpUpDownDown, the channel will aim to cover all aspects of the world of video gaming and will be hosted by WWE star (and, we’re told, avid gamer) Xavier Woods.

“By leveraging WWE’s massive influence on YouTube and tapping into a content vertical that scores highly among our fans, we’re poised to make an immediate impact with this new channel,” said Lisa Fox, WWE’s EVP of content, in a statement.

Keep reading…

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via thevideoink.com for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.



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Razer Exec Explains What X-Games And ESPN Has Done For ESports

At the recent X-Games Austin, which was the third X-Games to feature video game competition with Major League Gaming, Razer used the event and the extreme sports fans it attracts to market its line of PC gaming gear. Razer gave away Nabu X wearables to attendees.

Razer-sponsored Call of Duty team eLevate earned a bronze X-Games medal at the event. Razer also sponsored pro skater Tom Schaar, the first skateboarder to pull off a 1080 in a halfpipe. He earned bronze medals in the X Games Skateboard Big Air and Big Air Doubles events. Razer released a “Life is just a game” video featuring Schaar via social media.

Razer was the first company to sponsor a professional gamer in 2000 when it sponsored Jonathan “Fatality” Wendel with the Razer Boomslang, the world’s first gaming mouse that helped shape the 10-figure gaming peripheral industry. Today, Razer sponsors 27 teams and 270 competitive players in 33 countries worldwide.

X-Games Austin 2015 was also noteworthy because of ESPN2 airing the Dota 2 finals on TV. Call of Duty competition was seen digitally on ESPN3. Drew Holt-Kentwell, associate manager of global eSports at Razer, explains what X-Games and ESPN have opened up for Razer and all of eSports in this exclusive interview. 

What’s your background in eSports?

I started as a competitive Battlefield and Counter-Strike: Source player 10 years ago and was heavily involved in the ecosystem at large of the former — I captained the UK national side and went on to create my own team before running the ESL Nations Cup and becoming a part-time journalist for then Cadred.org {link no longer active}; during the same time I was also volunteering as an ESL admin. I moved on to join Reason Gaming, a UK-based team where I was brought on as Director of Marketing where I was handling sponsorships, social media, and business development. After that I joined Razer in July 2011, and that’s where I am today happily heading up our global eSports team. 

Why did you decide to join Razer?

It was an easy choice for me because Razer sponsored Reason Gaming at the time and I was already working closely with employees at Razer for sponsorship engagement. I knew Razer had been one of the early pioneers of eSports, and given Razer’s history in eSports and some of the plans it had for Team Razer, it was a challenge I knew I’d wake up looking forward to conquering every single day of the year. No regrets, and still as devoted and passionate as ever. 

What’s the perception of Razer among eSports fans? 

ESports fans have seen Razer involved in the industry for nearly as long as eSports itself has been around, and I think like us they’re just happy to see long-term to supporting and growing the industry on as many levels as possible. Fans are aware that we have and always will continue to work with the world’s best teams, players and events and we hope that fans can put their faith in us to inspire and pioneer eSports for a very long time to come.

Today we sponsor teams and events in nearly every major competitive title out there — some 300 professional eSports athletes from all over the world. These professionals have a direct impact on the lives of fans, and we hope that through the work we do with them that fans can also be inspired to get out there and help nurture the industry in the right ways.

How have you seen Razer products used by pros over the years?

It has been an incredible journey to see how Razer products have been shaped by feedback from our professional athletes, and in turn how some of their habits have changed over the years too, since the days of the Boomslang. In 2007 we built the Razer office in Korea solely for the purpose of testing with our professional teams and players that were based out there at the time — the feedback we received helped us build more accurate tools for them to dominate their trade, and in turn we could help the casual gamer or semi-competitive individuals improve their game too.

Today, our eSports athletes are integral to the testing of all of our products and initiatives, not just gaming peripherals. With the launch of the Razer Blade, Nabu X, Team Razer apparel, and software, pros are now part of a much bigger digital revolution, and we’re excited to have them with us every step of the way. 

What do you hope to bring to Razer’s eSports focus?

We want to continue to be pioneers for the eSports industry at large as we’ve done since 2000 and really lead the way on crafting the next crucial steps for eSports as a whole. We want to ensure that eSports is sending the right message to the general public around the world and attracting the right sorts of investors, teams, players and fans. Today the industry is growing at such a rapid rate that it’s even more important than ever before that we see professionalization among teams and managers especially, so we’d like to encourage proper legal practice, but also to encourage the right marketing and business practices among teams so that they can learn to develop and grow in the right ways themselves (and inspire others to do the same).

Above all we just want people to enjoy the passion, entertainment and friendships that eSports brings to millions around the world, and we hope that it continues to inspire many millions more for many years ahead. We’ll be there doing everything we can to make sure that happens. 

How have you seen MLG’s involvement in the X-Games evolve since last summer?

When MLG first announced its involvement in the 2014 X Games, I remember being a bit skeptical. I couldn’t imagine that MLG’s tournament was actually going to be integrated in to the extreme sports event. However, players were treated as athletes by the ESPN staff including the receipt of medals, the tournament received off-hours television broadcast time, and MLG’s event was a listed activity on any and all X Games program materials. In 2015, all of these elements of integration were taken a step further with ESPN taking a very hands on approach in building the “Gaming Shack”, an area of the X Games campus dedicated to gaming. This year’s X Games included two separate MLG tournaments, live event interaction between the professional gamers and extreme sports athletes, live television air time, and PA announcements updating the entire X Games venue of what was going on with the MLG tournaments. In both years, major strides were made for eSports as whole and we’re honored to have played a part in the latest iteration of the X Games. Â

How do you utilize social media to connect with the larger Dota 2 and Call of Duty fan base?

Social media is an incredible tool through which we can reach like-minded eSports fans. On a small scale we try to bring daily content to fans about the teams and players we work with, the events we visit, and some of the people we meet while working in the industry. It’s also a great opportunity to give people a spotlight into the lives of professionals — their daily routines, the places they live and train, what their parents are like, and how they deal with the pressure of the professional gaming lifestyle.

On a much bigger level we use social media to help our teams connect to the rest of the eSports audience at large. It’s a platform which they can use to grow and develop their own brands, and we’re always encouraging teams to make use of this. We try to run widespread campaigns with most teams through the year which allow fans to jump in and get involved, whether through competitions and giveaways to visit pros at events, or to win some of the actual gear the professionals use for themselves.

ESPN2 aired Heroes of the Dorm earlier this year and Dota 2 at X-Games. What role do you see traditional broadcast playing for eSports in the U.S. moving forward?

Traditional broadcast has a part to play in showing the mainstream audience what eSports is and how it’s changing today’s younger generations for the better. 205 million people watch eSports around the world, and it’s generating thousands of jobs — at developers and publishers, tournaments, professional organizations, and tech companies like Razer. Today, eSports is a $612 million market with plenty of opportunities — traditional broadcast can help bring these opportunities to the mainstream and help inspire eSports around the world.

As far as broadcasting events, it’s fantastic to see companies like ESPN step up and invest in the production of eSports. There’s a lot we can learn from traditional companies, on a technical and strategic level, about how to better broadcast competitive gaming.

What are your thoughts on the recent rise of Fantasy eSports and eSports betting sites and how this could help the growth of eSports?

Seeing the whole ecosystem grow is fantastic, and I think the introduction of fantasy eSports and betting sites encourage people to support the games they like to play and watch on a deeper level — people will be able to follow their favorite teams like never before, and it allows them to focus on teams they may not previously have been interested in as well. It adds an element of excitement and makes it more exciting to follow. It’s a great way to generate exposure for eSports at large.

Are there issues that gambling can open up at the player level once this business takes off and the money grows?

That’s always a concern in any sport, but we expect that if companies, tournament organizers and teams work together to implement the correct regulations that any wrongdoing will be minimized. At the end of the day players want to be the best they can, and their passion is competing on the world stage — we don’t think eSports fantasy or betting sites will change that basic instinct.

E3: Nintendo’s Direct Approach To E3 Marketing

The press events traditionally held by major game companies at E3 are an important opportunity for multiple reasons. The event generates plenty of attention for your brand among consumers and in the industry, and hopefully creates anticipation for upcoming products and in the end increases sales. Of course, with all the attention comes endless analyses, declarations of who “won” E3, and opinions all over the place about how well each company or game did or didn’t do.

Into this charged atmosphere Nintendo is taking a different approach than other console-makers Sony and Microsoft. Rather than a large live, well-attended event that’s streamed to the audience all over the world, Nintendo delivers Nintendo Direct as a video presentation. The advantage to Nintendo is not only a much lower cost (staging a large event in Los Angeles costs millions), but more precise control over the presentation. Embarrassing glitches can be edited out, special effects can be added, and everything optimized for maximum effect.

Regardless of the choice of presentation method, what’s important is the content. From a practical viewpoint, evaluating these events should first be done on how well they set the company up to have a successful holiday season, and only secondarily how much longer term (2016 and beyond) excitement the company generated. Nintendo succeeded well on both criteria.

Nintendo’s in an odd position for the company, where it’s already announced that it’s working on new console hardware, yet trying to keep people interested in — and purchasing — it’s existing hardware. Nintendo did mention that it is working on mobile games, and new hardware called NX — then moved on to what’s exciting right now. The company certainly has a good lineup of software for the rest of the year for both the Wii U and the 3DS line, with Super Mario Maker coming out soon to let players create and share Mario levels, to the return of the smash IP Star Fox in Star Fox Zero. That one is well-timed for the holidays, and should help generate some Wii U sales.

Interestingly, Nintendo announced a partnership with Activision to bring some iconic Amiibo into Skylanders. It seems the toy/game hybrid market is big enough to include cooperation, and certainly kids will get a big kick out of mixing and matching some of their favorite IPs. It’s a smart way for Nintendo to get some more brand impressions out there, and for Activision to bring some of the Nintendo brand luster to its Skylanders line. Might we see a Disney Infinity connection in the future

Nintendo also provided plenty to look forward to in the future, with Metroid Prime returning next year along with a new Legend of Zelda title. In the meantime, though, there will be plenty of 3DS and Wii U titles to capture some holiday dollars

The interesting thing is to compare Nintendo’s presentation to Sony and Microsoft. Microsoft had some significant announcements, including backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games, the new Minecraft title for the HoloLens, a new customizable controller for both Xbox One and Windows 10, as well as a slew of upcoming titles both for this year and next. Microsoft seems to be much more intent on using its success as the PC gaming platform to boost the Xbox, and to bring some of the best of the Xbox to the PC. It’s some smart marketing

Sony generated tremendous excitement at its event, but that was most evident for the titles furthest away (in 2016 and even beyond). Closer to this holiday, Sony offered some exclusive content for the PS4, but on titles that you’ll be able to get on other platforms as well. They did not have as strong a lineup of exclusive titles for the holiday as either Nintendo or Microsoft, but then again Sony still has the lead in next-gen console sales.

Overall, Nintendo’s event stood out for its family-friendly focus. If you were looking to get something for the kids, or to get the kids excited, Nintendo had much more of that than either Sony or Microsoft. Nintendo offered some familiar IP in exciting new configurations, with a lot of it coming in the near future. That should help the company do very well this holiday, despite a rough competitive environment expected at retail.

Four Keys To Analyzing E3

The massive media extravaganza that is the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is already under way for 2015, with press events beginning Sunday night and occupying all day Monday. The Expo floor itself opens from Tuesday through Thursday, with around 50,000 attendees expected to flood the show, taking in all the news and trying to get as close to the new games as possible. The amount of information being pushed out this week is immense, and then there’s all of the other information to be inferred at the show, as well as what you can learn from networking.

How do you sort through all of this information, evaluate it, and gain the insights you need to discern the direction of the industry, where the competition is headed, and what’s going to be important in gaming for the rest of 2015 and beyond Your needs will vary, but here are some solid guidelines to analyzing and gaining actionable insights from E3.

Follow the Money
Don’t be misled by the press releases coming from companies if you’re trying to figure out just how important a particular game is, or how innovative, or how central that game is to the company’s new releases. The simple rule is: Follow the money. Spending is a reliable guide to how important something is to a company. Ignore the rhetoric, count the dollar signs. Yes, yes, every game is great and fun and hopefully everyone will love it. But how much booth space and signage is devoted to the title If there’s just one or two screens and a small sign, that’s not the company’s marketing focus for the holidays. What’s the first game that you see when you come to the booth That’s the most important game for that company this fall.

The Play’s The Thing
So you’re trying to determine just how good an upcoming game will be – will it be a strong competitor to other games, or a disappointing also-ran One thing is for sure – you won’t be able to tell from the video alone. Yes, it looks good – but so does every other game. There may be an occasional video where a game doesn’t look good, and you can be pretty sure that game won’t do well if they can’t even make a compelling video. Otherwise, all those game trailers should be impressive. But what really matters, in the end, is how well the game plays.

Watching game play tells you more – and actually getting your own hands on it tells you even more. But that’s really not enough for a full evaluation of most games, because there are factors you won’t uncover until the game is completed and gone live. Several games from top publishers had sever problems last year, and some games were unplayable for days, weeks, or even months in some cases. Bottom line: Don’t judge a game’s sales potential solely on its video. A better assessment can be made when people have hands-on experience to report, and even that is not the same as the experience millions of consumers will have when the game launches. Don’t be too sure you know what game sales will be until some time after the game has launched.

The Experience Hardware Delivers Is Key
Don’t let yourself get too excited over the sleek design and high-powered specs of some new hardware. Those are good things, to be sure, and so is an affordable price. None of that will matter, though, if the hardware can’t deliver compelling experiences. Some of the best-selling consoles in the game business had a great start because of a strong software title. More recently, we’ve seen Wii U sales lag initially because the really great software for the console took time to arrive.

So when you look at new hardware, focus on what it delivers when you’re trying to evaluate how well it will sell. Are those experiences available, or promised for some time in the future How compelling are they, and are those experiences delivered on other platforms as well If the phrase “we can’t wait to see what developers will do with this!” is used, it means they haven’t actually seen anything compelling yet, but they are hopeful something will turn up. That may well happen… or it may not.

Value Is The Way To A Consumer’s Heart
Whether it’s a new game, a new piece of hardware, or a new service, one thing will always be true – consumers look for good value. That’s true whether a game is $60 or it’s free-to-play, whether you are asking people to subscribe to a service or buy into a new hardware platform. Remember that when you look at a new game – how many hours of game play do you get, and how intense is that experience Consumers these days have numerous choices on how to spend their time, from social media to streaming video to mobile games and more, all only a click away. All other things being equal, a game that delivers 100 hours of game play for $60 will be seen as a better value than a game that delivers 10 hours of game play for the same price.

E3: Sony Wins With ‘Uncharted 4’ And Older Favorites

With Microsoft already delivering a powerhouse presentation during its press conference earlier in the day, the pressure was on Sony to match or exceed expectations with its own presentation, which took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Although it didn’t address the company’s intentions to make the Xbox One backwards compatible, it delivered in a completely different area – it brought plenty of games.

The first thing that took the crowd by surprise was the return of The Last Guardian, a game that was announced years ago, but then quietly went into obscurity for some time. This announcement, however, assured that it would finally arrive in 2016 for PlayStation 4. The game focuses on a heroic young boy, teaming up with a large, majestic creature as they attempt to make their way through a troubled world.

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The fighting game Street Fighter V, which is exclusive to PC and PlayStation 4, also returned, bringing with it a pair of new fighter announcements – Birdie and Cammy, both veterans of the popular series.

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Square Enix took huge precedence at the Sony event, taking the opportunity to announce the return of the Hitman franchise to consoles. The self-titled Hitman continues the journey of Agent 47, a seemingly unstoppable killer who’s got new targets in his sights.

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Square wasn’t done, however. It also introduced an entirely new Final Fantasy game to the PS4, World of Final Fantasy, which features a unique, kid-friendly visual approach, combined with plenty of action and role-playing tactics. The game should make its debut next year.


The original Final Fantasy VII, a popular hit in the 90’s, also made a return, as Square Enix finally confirmed that it would be remade with the PlayStation 4 in mind.

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Sony then debuted the latest game from Media Molecule, the developers of favorites like LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. In Dreams, players can actually build their own scenarios using a number of paint styles and techniques, with the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller working as their paintbrush. An example of this work can be seen in the trailer below.

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Campo Santo’s Firewatch also got a debut trailer, with Sony confirming that it will release for PlayStation 4, as well as PC, when it’s finished sometime next year. The game tells the story of a firefighter in the mountains, and the various adventures he faces.

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In rather unusual fashion, the show was also home to a special KickStarter project announcement, as legendary producer Yu Suzuki came out and confirmed that he wants to make the long-awaited adventure sequel Shenmue III. The move has been a bit of a success, as the project has already earned $2.5 million – thus guaranteeing that it will be produced.

Third-party companies also teamed with Sony for a variety of exclusives on PlayStation 4. The forthcoming add-on for the science fiction shooter Destiny, The Taken King, will feature new missions exclusive to PS3 and PS4 when it arrives this fall.

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Disney Interactive also scored an exclusive deal with Sony, with one of Disney Infinity 3.0’s playsets making its debut on PlayStation 3 and 4 a month early. In addition, a special Boba Fett toy will be introduced exclusively with this version of the game, as you can see in the trailer below.

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Finally, after spending years in an exclusive partnership with Microsoft that saw Call of Duty content hit Xbox consoles first, Activision announced that, starting with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, content will now be exclusive to PlayStation systems for a few weeks, before becoming available for Xbox and PC. Multiplayer footage can be seen below. 

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Last – but certainly not least – Sony debuted some brand new footage from next year’s forthcoming blockbuster, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. In this final go-around for Nathan Drake, the adventurer and his allies find themselves in deep trouble in a remote village, where an exciting car chase ensues.

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There’s no question that Sony brought an energetic presentation during its E3 showcase, and its show floor should have no shortage of great games to play. Keep an eye open for more reports over the week.