The Kickstarter was just a hype machine.
You might not have noticed through the thick fog of fan fervor surrounding yesterday's announcement of a Kickstarter for Shenmue 3, but the $2 million Ys Net is aiming to raise is an awfully low budget for a game these days - especially when you consider that at the time of its release, the original Shenmue held the record for the highest production costs with a budget of over $47 million. The Kickstarter met its goal within nine hours, and at the time of writing, it's pulled in nearly $2.8 million from over 35,000 backers, making it reasonably likely that the project will hit its highest stretch goal of $4 million before time's up. But even so, where's the rest of the money coming from?
During the PlayStation E3 livestream today, Sony's Gio Corsi confirmed the publisher is aiding development. Corsi said that Shenmue 3 was the most frequently requested title for his Third-Party Production team to work on, so the Kickstarter was a way to test the waters and see if fans were willing to put their money where their mouth is: "If the fans come in and back it, then absolutely we're going to make this a reality."
While some previous Kickstarters have underestimated production costs and needed further funding to bail them out, Shenmue 3 marks the first time that a campaign has so clearly set funding goals at arbitrary price points to assess player interest rather than choosing a figure that reflects the true cost of development. It's a strange statement on the role that crowdfunding has come to play in both generating and gauging hype for a game.