It's the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.
It's hardly a secret that the video game industry is drastically different now than it was in Shenmue 's heyday. In fact, one could say we've seen almost a complete reversal.
Japanese games dominated the market not long ago and despite a few remaining blockbusters, that simply isn't the case anymore. When I was a teenager, it didn't really matter if you were intrigued by Japanese culture; if you wanted to play video games, you didn't have much choice. Well, you didn't have much choice with console software; Western developers made bigger splashes sooner on PC.
But these days, we have all kinds of choices. Younger individuals just getting involved in the hobby have no reason whatsoever to indulge in highly Japanese-centric games unless they're interested. They can just keep buying Western-made products that – let's face it – probably appeal more to them. We all know that projects like Shenmue 3 and the Final Fantasy VII Remake will thrive on nostalgia, and the former title set the all-time Kickstarter record ($6.4 million) for games. A great sign, right?
Perhaps. But one has to wonder how consumers under the age of 30 are going to respond, and I also wonder how critics will respond. There are lingering trends in Japanese games that are simply seen as outdated and amateurish these days (and a lot of times, such analyses aren't wrong). If Shenmue 3 retains those old and cherished, yet widely frowned upon, aspects of yesteryear, what will the reviews look like? And is it fair to say that the only way the uninitiated – those who have never heard of the franchise – are going to consider a purchase is if scores are crazy high?
I think all of these questions are worth asking.
Related Game(s): Shenmue 3