For many, the successful crowdfunding of Shenmue 3, a game that fans had waited years for, was a dream. As the fastest video game to ever raise $1m over at Kickstarter - in just under two hours - and a sequel to a beloved 2001 game on the much-dead Sega Dreamcast, Shenmue III showed the power of both collective action and nostalgia to make big projects happen.
Which makes it all the thornier when you don't like where the game is being sold.
- Epic Games Store exclusives, early access, and how it could take on Steam
- Shenmue 3: release date, trailers and news
- Borderlands 3: another Epic exclusive
We found out in June that Shenmue III would be exclusive to the Epic Games Store (on PC) for the first year after release, before then moving onto Valve's Steam marketplace. It's set to launch on PC and PS4 on November 19 of this year.
Not everyone is happy about this, though. Backers who feel strong-armed into playing a game they supported on a storefront they don't want to use have called for refunds - and it looks like they're being given them.
Backers can choose a physical PC disc with the EGS installer and download code, a sole EGS key, a PS4 disc, or a PSN voucher code (for use on PS4), regardless of the platform option they originally opted for.
A post by YSNET (via Engadget) has now announced that "Along with Deep Silver and Epic Games, we have agreed that should the above proposal not be acceptable to backers, refund requests will be honored.
"In the case rewards within your reward tier, such as in-game content, have already been created and implemented, a full refund may not be possible."
Epic is funding the cost of all Kickstarter refunds resulting from Shenmue III’s move to the Epic Games store, so that refunds won’t reduce Ys Net’s development funding. https://t.co/mSGdbzYPJ5July 2, 2019
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney waded onto Twitter to clarify the refund policy publicly, saying that it would be Epic funding the refunds for backers unhappy with the move to its store. It's a clear sign of goodwill towards players, even if some still feel slighted by the exclusive agreement.
Epic's strategy of timed exclusives has ruffled the feathers of those used to buying through Steam, which has built up a wider array of user features and conveniences, over Epic's nascent storefront. It also courted some controversy from trying to 'steal' games like Metro Exodus, which had previously been confirmed to launch on Steam.
It's worth noting that Shenmue III is being developed within Epic's Unreal Engine, too, making their relationship somewhat tied together already.
The post added that "Epic Games has been with us from the start of the project when we adopted Unreal Engine 4 for development, and have given us their support throughout the development process."
There's also a clear financial incentive to publishing first on the Epic Games Store, which only takes a 12% cut from game sales, compared to Steam's rather more sizeable 30%. Games made in Unreal Engine also see the usual 5% surcharge waived when sold through Epic's platform.
Sweeney has been open about Epic's reason for exclusives, saying he hopes to create lasting change in the industry to better compensate developers for their work - though as long as fans don't like the way it's being done, it doesn't seem like Steam will feel too pressured to change their own policies on the matter.
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Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.