Psychonauts 2 = Shenmue III? The Manchester City approach to videogame financing.

Under the traditional financial model, Manchester City would never be in the position they are in. Not a chance. To succeed at the highest level, they required huge levels of financial support – that’s where the Sheikh came in. As a passion project for the super wealthy, football clubs are becoming an increasingly popular venture. They’re very unlikely to provide anything in the way of financial returns (at least not in the short term), but they do offer a chance for the wealthiest members of society to be directly involved in the sports/clubs that they love.

With the news that Markus ‘Minecraft’ Persson is looking to at least partially finance development of a sequel to Tim Schafer’s much loved but commercially unsuccessful Psychonauts, it looks like that same financial development model might be sneaking its way into the world of videogames. Within the confines of traditional videogame financing, the odds of Psychonauts 2 ever being made were always slim. Loved or not, the fact of the matter is, the original didn’t make any money. As a passion project for somebody with deep pockets though (Minecraft did rather well don’t you know), we could potentially see a slew of much loved but commercially unattractive projects finally getting off the ground.

While the lower costs and ever increasing popularity of the download market will inevitably help to keep many franchises alive that have all but flat lined at retail, for those larger money hungry series out there, the commitment of finances from singularly wealthy outside sources might be the only thing that can keep them from disappearing into obscurity – case in point; Shenmue III.

As much love as there is for the Shenmue franchise, upon release, Shenmue was the most expensive videogame ever made and didn’t come anywhere near recouping its development costs, let alone making any sort of profit for Sega. While I appreciate that development of Shenmue III could be achieved at a lower costs in today’s market, there is no way that Sega in their current financial position would throw large sums of money at something as potentially dangerous as a Shenmue III. Yu Suzuki has mentioned recently the potential for buying the rights from Sega, but combine the costs of rights acquirement with actual development and you’re already looking at a hugely expensive project. Realistically, Sega won’t be making a Shenmue III anytime soon, Yu Suzuki’s pockets certainly won’t be deep enough to do it himself and sadly, I have all my money tied up in offshore business investments – that leaves it to a wealthy fan to save the project from development limbo.

As much as I want to believe that Shenmue III might happen in the near future, I don’t think that the industry has come far enough to find the kind of personal investment required to make a project of that scale happen, but hey, some of today’s gamers will inevitably become tomorrow’s millionaires. Who knows, you could one day become the videogame equivalent of Sheikh Mansour……I just hope that you also happen to be a fan of Shenmue.

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