Crowdfunding and Shenmue 3: Where We Are and What It Means

A couple years back I wrote an article about how Crowdfunding was increasingly a route for independent developers to use to jump start and create their passion products. I asked the question as to when we would see bigger developers and franchises turn towards crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe to revive beloved franchises that didn’t receive the financial response they needed to secure sequels. Well, that’s happened. The dream is real, and Shenmue 3 is now something that will be made.

qO727H4I could gush on for hours on why I am excited about Shenmue 3, but I won’t. The game’s announcement, however, has some historical importance I believe should be discussed. The game represents a shift in the gaming industry that may change how certain developers gain funds and support for titles. Yu Suzuki tentatively “announced” Shenmue 3 at the Sony E3 conference to gauge support for the game. Obviously support and interest was  there, as the 2 million goal was reached in less than 10 hours.  Once reached, backers (specifically Sony) agreed to contribute support to the game to ensure its development. Not only was it the fastest funded video game project yet, it looks like it may be the highest funded one when it concludes.

Why does this matter to sociology? With games like Shenmue 3, Yooka-Laylee, and the Mighty Number 9, developers have options to create games that may not otherwise  be made. Not only that, but with fans being a major force in backing the game the game really becomes by the fans for the fans. Yu Suzuki has stated that he will involve fans in numerous ways  during the development, including even potentially having major donors be characters or voices inside the game. This form of development creates a unique exchange between developer and fans and links the two more prominently than ever before. In doing so, this relationship between fans and developers creates a community around the game that may lead to a strengthening in development and experience. This community and exchange between developers and fans is a sociologically interesting one because it dramatically changes how we view and interact with the game’s we play.  Games and gaming developers are no longer entities that exist outside of the reach of gamers; we are all now apart of the process.Obviously we’re at the start of this process, but the prospects are quite exciting.

Beyond development, Shenmue 3 proves that a niche crowd in gaming, one that is vocal and proactive enough, can make their desires reality. That’s an important shift in gaming, one that can inspire other passion projects or long awaited sequels to see the light of day.

So, let’s start out on this new journey of an era in which no game’s development is out of the question.

SUPPORT THE KICKSTARTER HERE!

WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO HERE!

Sony is Offering a “Playstation Class” at a Korean University

“Hey kids, get off those video games and do your homework!”

“But Dad! These video games ARE our homework”

That’s the dream for many young kids, and it seems like that dream just may come true, at least for some lucky college kids in Korea. Sony has partnered with Sangmyung University Seoul to bring the first ever Playstation college course focusing on the development and branding of Sony Playstation products and games. As seen in the picture, Sony has created unique desks for the students, each with their very own Dualshock 4 and PS Vita. Is this insane? Yeah, kind of

The class, which started today, is said to have weekly lecturers come in and speak about different facets of the video game industry. Will it be worthwhile? Will it make participants live and breathe Sony products? Time will tell. Next week’s guest lecturer is Kratos, who will tell you about how to kill Gods.

It’s certainly is a forward thinking tactic on Sony’s part to jump on the next wave of video game developers. With so many universities and schools beginning to include  video game design programs or classes at their school, it’s not that surprising that a major company has decided to invest in the next generation of developers. With the industry on the rise, getting the best and brightest students will be important for many companies. Still, I can’t help but think it’s pretty heavy handed; one look at the classroom an I can’t imagine the class is going to be very objective to the industry as a whole. However, it’s positive to see video game get their rightful place in the academic world, sponsored by Sony or not.

It’s still better than Sega’s attempt in the 90s in which Sonic indoctrinated children via a staff and student populations made up primarily nightmare inducing animals.

Check out GaminginAsia’s piece for more details!

PS4/XboxOne Midnight Release: Dos and Don’ts You’ll Need to know before You Line Up

With both Playstation and Microsoft releasing their next consoles in the upcoming weeks, it’s inevitable that people are preparing for the tried and true tradition of lining up for the midnight releases. Midnight release parties are a culture in their own right; New laws exist, the meek become the strong, and getting your hands on a console is the only thing that matters. Thus, for your sake and mine, I’ve decided it’s time to learn a little bit about the dos-and-don’ts of Console Midnight Releases.

Fair warning: Midnight releases get can get rough. Not dangerous or sketchy or anything, but rough on the sights and sounds. We’re talking lines of gamers, mostly dudes, whom have been standing in line for hours, if not days. While standing in a midnight release line for the Ouya I became inebriated by the fumes of my fellow gamers. I then begin to hallucinate for hours that I was in the game BattleToads.  I awoke hours past midnight in a nearby Pinkberry covered in yogurt and toppings with a screaming teenage employee holding a large spoon yelling at me. That story, of course, was a lie; no one cared about the Ouya.

Without further ado:

DO: Show up earlier than later.

Yeah, not standing in is nice, but so it getting a console at midnight. If you’re dedicated to getting a midnight released console, arrive earlier than later. Don’t wait until a line starts forming, if you’re really dedicated you won’t be afraid to be the first one in line. All of your waiting and patience will pay off when you get to play those sweet sweet launch titles…well, maybe not.

DON’T: Go Alone 

This one probably is the least followed rule of the midnight release, since many of us won’t be able to find a friend as passionate about having their console directly at midnight. That said, you’re still standing outside in the middle of the night with strangers. Launch lineups can be dangerous places, you’re essentially in a crowd of individuals each with the intention to spend at least 400 dollars on a video game console. Many muggings and thefts have occurred during midnight releases, often time after gamers have received their consoles. For your safety, please bring a friend, family member, or someone who will have your back even if they are only there to keep you company.

Do: Prepare before hand

One of the worst things you can do is line-up without having prepared to stand in a line for hours. Beyond sheer will, you’ll need other essentials including food, drink, and entertainment. That means plan ahead, bring bottles of water and snacks to get you through the night. Plan accordingly for the night: don’t go in just a t-shirt and shorts, even though you’re lining up at 3pm in the day. Also, bring your 3DS or Vitas, as you’ll be a line of gamers who may also have their handhelds on them; It’s a great way to pass the time and maybe even make some friends in the mean time.

Don’t: Go.

I know, it’s a little contradictory of me to give you some advise about going to midnight releases and then flat our advise not to go. But really, don’t go. You’re really not gaining that much by getting a game at midnight, at most you’re getting a few extra hours with a console that you’ll probably be too tired to really appreciate. Stay home, sleep, and wait until the morning and get a console at a store that isn’t holding a midnight release. Better yet, preorder in advance or have it shipped to you the day it releases.  If you’re worried that you won’t get a console at midnight unless you line up then just wait, the drought of consoles typically only last a few weeks at most. You’ll be able to eventually get your hands on a console, and besides: Launch games typically aren’t all that great.

For those who of you set on being there for a midnight release: Be safe and enjoy.

Conflict Minerals: Should Gamers Care?

This is an issue I didn’t know too much about until recently. I promise to try and not be preachy and only focus on the facts. More aware gamers probably can already imagine that many of their favorite consoles or games come from low-wage factories or sweatshops in foreign countries, but where the minerals that actually go into their consoles come from is a whole other step beyond that many gamers might not know. Bear with me on this one, I admit that I am not too knowledgeable on this subject (Most subjects, really) and there are countless better sources for this subject, but I thought I would share as I learn.

This issue has been getting more news recently as “Walk Free”, an anti-slavery movement, has targeted targeted Nintendo to release their policy on conflict minerals. But of course this isn’t a new issue, there has been wars waged over these conflict minerals in Africa, specifically The Democratic Republic of Congo, for years. The Playstation wars, as they were nicknamed, were/are wars waged in Africa for over a decade  over precious minerals that are used in many common electrical devices like phones, laptops, and, of course, Video game consoles. The mineral in question is Coltran, a mineral that when refined can be used to make the powder tantalum, a common product in electronics. To make matters worse, many of the miners and retrievers of these conflict minerals have been found out to be prisoners of war and children, which is at the heart of Walk Free’s movement. With so many deaths and acts against humanity surrounding these minerals consumer began to question what was in their products.

The United State has adopted a policy of encouraging American companies to not use mineral sources originating from the DRC, and recent studies have show that American companies have complied. Bringing the issue to the attention of the had an impact, as most large electronic manufacturers released policies against the usage of conflict minerals. Sony addressed issues of Conflict Minerals in their products, and their official statement on their website says

Sony shares the concern that conflict minerals might be used in the electronics industry supply chain and is taking steps to eliminate conflict minerals from the supply chain. It is Sony policy to refrain from purchasing any products, parts and materials that are known to contain conflict minerals. Suppliers are also expected to ensure that products, parts and materials delivered to Sony do not contain conflict minerals. Sony is currently formulating an appropriate framework and measures to implement this policy.
Recognizing that these issues are common across the electronics industry, Sony is also participating in the creation of an industry-wide framework, an effort spearheaded by the EICC/GeSI, to improve traceability of minerals and ensure responsible sourcing.

However, other big developers, namely the big N, have not released as formal statements or policy regard conflict minerals. In late 2012 Nintendo stated publicly

“Nintendo’s CSR Procurement Guidelines provide specific directions to our production partners regarding socially responsible procurement practices. We implemented these guidelines based on relevant laws, international standards and guidelines that focus on protecting human rights, ensuring workplace safety, promoting corporate ethics, and safeguarding the environment. These guidelines include provisions on avoiding the use of conflict minerals and the importance of investigating the source of raw materials.”

However, unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo has yet to release specific details of their policies regarding conflict minerals, which has caused groups like Walk Free to urge them to do so.sad-mario-nintendo-loss  Whether Nintendo will release such detailed reports in unknown, but it certainly is an issue that has plagued the gaming industry for sometime. With a whole new generation of consoles on there way, activist groups like Walk Free have their eyes on big companies like Nintendo and Sony more than ever. In making our companies socially responsible we take a step towards ensuring better practices world wide, but certainly to end conflict over minerals and the usage of forced labor will require far more than companies enacting policies.

That’s all back story that a good portion of gamers probably don’t know. Should they? Or should we just have faith in our gaming companies to enact policies that are fair? Should we even be bothered if these minerals are in our video games? There’s no easy answers for questions like these, as the balance between cheap consumer goods and fair treatment across the globe is joined together. Many Americans choose to ignore or remain ignorant of where their goods come from, and often with viable reasons. It’s not an easy situation with black and white answers, and I certainly don’t claim to have any answers. However, certainly by knowing the issues and being better informed we become better individuals and better consumer of games.

I hope this was worthwhile, even if you already knew all of this information. I learned some stuff, so I’m content.

Here are some links for further information:

Walk Free’s “Slavery is not a game campaign”

Raise Hope for the Congo