Shenmue fans are on the move again, this time taking out a Times Square ad

You’ve really gotta hand it to Shenmue fans. Few video game fandoms have been this persistent in efforts to keep alive a cult hit. Their latest action: Renting out a video board in New York’s Times Square to demand a publishing partner team up with series creator Ys Net to deliver a Shenmue 4.

As IGN points out, short advertisements in the heart of Manhattan can still cost as little as $40, so it’s not like this was a mighty crowdfunding campaign like the one that raised millions in 2015 and delivered Shenmue 3 in 2019. It’s still an impressive gesture of loyalty to a video game series that got the classic game trending on X (the former Twitter) and grabbed a lot of mainstream attention.

The campaign got started after series creator Yu Suzuki gave an interview in early May in which he said he was down for a Shenmue 4, assuming a publishing partner could be found. That’s all Shenmue fans needed to hear. The hashtag #LetsGetShenmue4 started trending on Tuesday thanks to a coordinated social media campaign led by the fansite Shenmue Dojo.

Why is Shenmue so popular?

For those unfamiliar with the game, Shenmue (1999) and its sequel Shenmue II (2001) were action-adventures following the story of protagonist Ryo Hazuki. Essentially a martial arts fighting game, Shenmue and its sequel were early exponents of the modern open-world approach, going so far to deliver an immersive story for Ryo’s life that players ended up driving forklifts and doing other menial jobs, while also visiting arcades to buy gachapon toys or play classic Sega arcade cabinets. Shenmue is widely celebrated for its no-detail-is-too-small approach to Ryo’s life.

Shenmue and Shenmue II were also closely associated with the Sega Dreamcast, the last console that company produced, still revered (and lamented) by hardcore video games enthusiasts since it was discontinued in 2001. They held a torch for the series for almost 15 years until Suzuki appeared at PlayStation’s E3 2015 keynote to announce a crowdfunding effort to create Shenmue 3. It raised its initial goal of $2 million less than nine hours after the initial announcement, and ended up raising more than $7 million to help develop a game that ultimately launched in 2019 on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.

While the critical reception to Shenmue 3 was middling to nonplussed, Shenmue fans reveled in the delivery of a long-demanded sequel, as well as the fan service it represented and their grassroots triumph in getting it published. Clearly they’re feeling the same vibes again with this latest campaign. And who could begrudge this kind of enthusiasm, really?

We’ll see if any publisher picks up the bit, though. Deep Silver was the Shenmue III publisher, and its parent company, Embracer Group, has been staggered by layoffs and a series of expensive bets on licensed titles that did not pan out. It has since sold off Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine 2 studio/publisher Saber Interactive and split into three spinoff companies as part of an overall cost-saving strategy meant to appease restive investors.

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Washington Digital News

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