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It's not a secret that I am a huge fanboy of the Dreamcast, Segas classic console released in 1998. It's almost as great a secret that I am a huge fan of the adventure game genre. Later, when the epic adventure game Shenmue was released on the Dreamcast back in 1999 (not EXACTLY an adventure game but close) I got a bulge in my pants that still has not been satisfied. The reason for my not yet stilled erection? The series was never concluded.
Sega promised us an epic saga spanning over four games, featuring the teenager Ryo Hazuki's search for vengance and cuncluding in the man Ryo Hazuki finding a purpuse in life making sandals out of old rice cakes. Ending sounds wierd? Maybe thats because we never got to see the ending. Sega Delivered Shenmue in 1999, Shenmue 2 in 2001, a trailer for the cancelled Shenmue 3 and a trailer for the doomed Shenmue online. Sega teased us by making Ryo a playable character in the recent Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing and very recently announcing the Japan-only mobile game Shenmue City. But no Shenmue 3.
Next year it is ten years since Shenmue 2 was released and the Dreamcast was discontinued. It is time to bring Shenmue back for real, and I know how. Here is a step by step guide for how Sega can bring back Shenmue and make a profit.
STEP 1 - RE-RELEASE
The excuse Sega has given us why the series has not had a new chapter in almost ten years is the lack of interest in the series. This is of course understandable since the Dreamcast did not sell too well, especially not in the United States. The series does have a huge cult following though, but these are not the people Sega wants to get excitet for a sequel - they have had their boners (and vag... ers?) for over ten years. What sega wants to do is to reach the people who have heard of the series but never played it, most likely because they never owned a Dreamcast.
Reaching these people is very simple and you have probably already guessed what step one is - release Shenmue one and two on XBLA and PSN. The important thing is to make it a bundle, you get both games for one price. This might seem like a bad idea, but Sega needs to get gamers excited over the Shenmue saga as a complete entity, not the individual games. If you can only buy one game, there is a risk of not completing it and therefore losing interst in the saga. If you get both games there is still the same risk of you not finishing the first game, but since you payed for both games you might use youtube or other websites to see how the game ends so you can try the second game - no one want's to pay for a game then not play it. The second game is much more fluent and easily played since a lot of flaws from the first game were fixed so there is a stronger chance of you finishing the second game. After spending two games with Ryo there is a big chance that have gotten emotionally attached to the characters and the story - now you want to see how it ends and will most likely buy Shenmue 3 when released.
STEP 2 - PRICING
Sega has already made all the money they will make from Shenmue one and two- they must accept this fact before re-releasing the games on XBLA and PSA. The reason for this is simply that the re-release of the games are not for making money from the old games, it is for investing into the new games. Therefore the XBLA and PSN bundles with Shenmue one and two has to be very cheap. In fact, they should not count on making a single dime from the re-releases - calculate pricetag Sega must have to pay the salaries, marketing, fees, rent etc. My guess would be a pricetag of MAXIMUM 15-20 bucks. I KNOW how much it hurts, Sega. I KNOW how much you love making money, asking $60 for horrible Sonic games that takes 4 hours to complete - but if you want to get Shenmue running again you have to SUCK IT UP.
STEP 3 - TEASE
This is where you get the hype going. First of all, Sega should use the re-releases! Put some teasers in there, and by teasers I do not mean trailers, a teaser could be a character saying something out of place, a picture in a phone booth that was not there in the original game. This might not seem like much but it is more than enough to get the fanboys going. When asked about Shenmue 3, Sega should do like Simon Peter - deny. Over and over, deny everything! The more references the fanboys find, the more they should deny. "No, that is a picture from the new Yakuza", "The employee responsible for that line has been dealt with".
Finally, use PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Do not use E3 since it is a journalists only expo and it might not get the fans as excited reading the news on the internet. Why not Tokyo Game Show? That is a second alternative, but since I believe Sega needs to get the western audience excited for this release to work it think PAX would be a wiser choice.
Take notes from Gearbox - after PAX 2010 there is not a gamer out there who is not excited for Duke Nukem Forever. Keep it secret until the last minute, but "accidently" release someone leaving a hotel wearing a Shenmue 3 shirt minutes before the show starts. The internet will take care of the rest.
STEP 4 - RELEASE
If Sega has done everything right, releasing the game should be the easiest step. The important thing here is that Sega releases collectors editions, they should not be afraid to release more than one kind. I see this as a kind of fan-service but also a great way to promote your game. Even if gamers do not by the most expensive version they get more convinced that the game is of high quality when they see that Sega has put a lot of money and work into not only the game, but also marketing. Taking notes from Call of Duty is not a bad thing here. Shenmue 3 should have a normal $60 version for the people who hasn't waited for ten years. A a more expensive version with a nicer box, a lot of extra features and a soundtrack for people who might have waited ten years but might also just REALLY have enjoyed the re-releases. Finally, an ultimate version complete with replicas of the phoenix and dragon mirrors, extra content, posters, shirts, and all the riches in the world for the people cueing outside their local game store even though the game isn't releasing for another two weeks.
And if you see a guy in the front of the line who coloured his blonde hair brown, spiked it, put a band aid on his left chin and spent his last money on a pair of light blue jeans, a brown leather jacket with a white t-shirt underneath... don't be afraid to give him a free copy - cause that's me.