"Shenmue was the most expensive game made for its time" - ..no it wasn't. Why do people still think this?

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The original number that was floating around on the net for years was 70 million, which was said to cover the development and marketing.
Sometime around 2011, Yu Suzuki clarified that statement by saying it was somewhere closer to 47 million.

But varying number differences aside, lets say that it was 70 million:
First of all, this number combined Shenmue 2 as they were both developed the same time, originally for the Sega Saturn.
The costs of this game had to be further drawn from due to moving the project over the the Dreamcast, and developing a new engine for it.

However, ignoring even all that aside, there were plenty of games before Shenmue that cost more to develop such as Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II, and Final Fantasy VII, which had a development cost of 45 million and a marketing budget of 100 million, funded by Sony.

So why is this fib allowed to continue for 20 years?
 

LemonHaze

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I'm not too sure that figure is entirely a 'fib'. AFAIK, it took a lot of money partnering with Yamaha for the audio chip (the 64 channel Yamaha AICA Super Intelligent Sound Processor) and NEC for the PowerVR GPU, without even factoring in their own development costs. It's really not hard to see how that figure would be accurate, IMO.
 
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I'm not too sure that figure is entirely a 'fib'. AFAIK, it took a lot of money partnering with Yamaha for the audio chip (the 64 channel Yamaha AICA Super Intelligent Sound Processor) and NEC for the PowerVR GPU, without even factoring in their own development costs. It's really not hard to see how that figure would be accurate, IMO.


Like I said in my initial post, even if the initial estimate # was true and we ignore Suzuki's later adjusted # quote, its still not "the most expensive' game made at its time" by that number. So I dont know why it ever was coined as such. Perhaps back then game dev data wasn't as open to the public as it is now and people simply didnt have access to the numbers and Sega was one of the first to publicly state theirs. But my point is people still to this day run with this 'fib' as the gospel. Its kinda absurd really and only served to hinder the series by keeping it in this long going negative shadow of 'oh my god most expensive waste of time game ever made' etc

Its really the cost to profit ratio that was the main deal here; meaning, did they actually make a profit. Because no matter how expensive the other games in the 90's were to make; nobody dwells on those because their profits were a resounding success so it doesnt matter. But "most expensive game ever made during its time' is a fallacy.
 
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I’m a little confused. You say that Shenmue wasn’t the most expensive game ever made for the time and then post a bunch of games with out clarifying their development budget. The only game you actually quote a development budget for (FFVII), it is lower than even the more conservative estimate of Shenmue’s budget. As far as I can see, your post only confirms that when considering the data we have, Shenmue was in fact the most expensive game ever made at the time of its release.
 
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The original number that was floating around on the net for years was 70 million, which was said to cover the development and marketing.
Sometime around 2011, Yu Suzuki clarified that statement by saying it was somewhere closer to 47 million.

But varying number differences aside, lets say that it was 70 million:
First of all, this number combined Shenmue 2 as they were both developed the same time, originally for the Sega Saturn.
The costs of this game had to be further drawn from due to moving the project over the the Dreamcast, and developing a new engine for it.

However, ignoring even all that aside, there were plenty of games before Shenmue that cost more to develop such as Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II, and Final Fantasy VII, which had a development cost of 45 million and a marketing budget of 100 million, funded by Sony.

So why is this fib allowed to continue for 20 years?

I highly doubt any 2D 16-bit game costed any amount in the same ballpark as Shenmue. What are your sources to affirm that?

On the other hand, i give you that it's reasonable to split the cost between Shenmue I & II, although the $70 million figure was told at the time of Shenmue I release, and II was heavily reworked, in development for about two extra years, which of course added to the cost.

But, finally, I don't think the fact they developed so much for the Saturn and then changed platforms should be substracted from the cost. It was a real cost that they had, probably because of mismanagement (we don't know what other possible sources of mismanagement added to the cost, actually).
 
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Budgiecat
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I highly doubt any 2D 16-bit game costed any amount in the same ballpark as Shenmue. What are your sources to affirm that?

I'd have to look it up but I remember seeing a site that had listed some of the biggest games with some crazy numbers. Like +100 to even 200 million numbers. But this was bracketed with dev/distribution/marketing rolled into one. Like I mentioned, making arcade cabinets in addition to software often wasn't made known to the public or even factored into the dev costs which is disingenuous to me. Its still a cost. Even producing the cartridges.

On the other hand, i give you that it's reasonable to split the cost between Shenmue I & II, although the $70 million figure was told at the time of Shenmue I release, and II was heavily reworked, in development for about two extra years, which of course added to the cost.

But, finally, I don't think the fact they developed so much for the Saturn and then changed platforms should be subtracted from the cost. It was a real cost that they had, probably because of mismanagement (we don't know what other possible sources of mismanagement added to the cost, actually).


I never stated the Saturn stuff should be subtracted from the cost.

Whenever I'd ever talk about FF XV's budget for example; people would often 'subtract FF Versus XIII' budget costs from the total number; and choose to only refer to when it was rebranded as XV publically as when 'dev costs really started'. Thats BS, so I wouldnt do that for Shenmue either.

I'm just saying that a lot of the costs for this game was due to them having to also move the title over to another console into another gen. If we're talking about 'mismanagement', thats more on the Sega upper end side, not the game itself; particularly how they mismanaged the Saturn from day one; wasted time on the 32X right before it, which led to them cutting off the Saturn early and moving the the Dreamcast, which inherited the Saturn's financial woes and was released imo '1 year too early' to not be able to take financial advantage of using DVD technology (was too expensive to manufacture in 98) which Sony fully took advantage of in late 99/00.

Hell, there were TWO completely separate teams, one in Japan, one in America, designing their own "Dreamcast" in some sort of weird competition. That had to be further bleeding Sega as it was. Two teams??
 
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I assume he was looking at the video games fandom wiki which included manufacturing costs and marketing costs. Given that each snes cartridge is said to have cost $15 to produce (and Sega cartridges not far behind) this obviously skews the list quite a bit as a game that sells ten million copies like Super Mario World has $150m in ‘manufacturing’ costs added to the total ‘cost’.

That Shenmue had a Guinness world record for being the most expensive game ever made and the distinct lack of information when it comes to production costs for other large scale games of that era is enough for me to accept that Shenmue was more than likely the most expensive game made in the late 90’s-early 00’s (probably until Halo 4 or GTA 4).
 
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Budgiecat
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That Shenmue had a Guinness world record for being the most expensive game ever made and the distinct lack of information when it comes to production costs for other large scale games of that era is enough for me to accept that Shenmue was more than likely the most expensive game made in the late 90’s-early 00’s (probably until Halo 4 or GTA 4).


Doesn't that sound weird to you?

Its like 'congrats sir! You are the winner!'

'where are the other contestants though?'

'they didnt show up! So you win by default!'
 
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Doesn't that sound weird to you?

Its like 'congrats sir! You are the winner!'

'where are the other contestants though?'

'they didnt show up! So you win by default!'
Not really, no. The idea that a 2D game could cost anywhere near as much to produce as a 3D game is a little laughable. We don’t have the figures, but do you honestly think Mario, Sonic or Street Fighter cost anywhere near to produce as Shenmue did, let alone more?

The only two games of that era that I could believe would cost more than Shenmue would be MGS and FFVII. We don’t have the figures for MGS, but due to its relatively short development time (3 years), I’d be surprised if it was higher than Shenmue. We do have the figure for FFVII ($45m) and so we know it to be cheaper.

If I had to guess why people talk about Shenmue’s development costs so much it’s probably down to how badly it failed. The other two games sold very well and turned a large profit whereas Shenmue cost more to make and likely played a big part in Sega crashing out of the console market due to how much money was lost on the project.
 

Mittens2317

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First of all, they were both developed originally for the Sega Saturn.
The costs of this game had to be further drawn from due to moving the project over the the Dreamcast

It was confirmed (either by Suzuki or someone else, I can't remember) that Shenmue was never developed for the Saturn, but certain systems and scenes were prototyped on there.

So why is this fib allowed to continue for 20 years?
 
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Well...adding marketing costs could make some sense, but manufacturing and distribution is absurd, since those costs are directly proportional to game sales. Meaning that a low budget game becoming a super-big success might turn into the most expensive game ever!!

Anyway, I kind of like that Shenmue is remembered as being the most or one of the most expensive games ever. I'm surely reminded of that when I play them, and enjoy that overwhelming amount of density and content (music, locations, dialogue branches, multiple paths, etc.).
 
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It was confirmed (either by Suzuki or someone else, I can't remember) that Shenmue was never developed for the Saturn, but certain systems and scenes were prototyped on there.

Well I thought so too, but in the latest post at Phantom River Stone blog (https://www.phantomriverstone.com/2019/11/part-1-shenmue-discussion-with-yu.html) there are some statements from Yu Suzuki and the original team that somewhat question that:

How far did development progress on the Saturn?

"It performed pretty well, for a Saturn", Yu says.

"For a Saturn, the quality was impressive. Although in terms of content, it was really just the first part," Okayasu adds, indicating with his hands.

Yu thinks otherwise with respect to this last statement: "Well, not just the first part. I had a look the other day, and it went a pretty long way. It went as far as Guilin, after all".

Although significant work had been put into the Saturn version, the decision was made to remake it for the new Dreamcast console.

"That was tough", reflects Okayasu. He explains that in fact this would be its second remake. The team had already remade it once in order to run on a Saturn that had been specially expanded with an acceleration board. "Then a while after that, we were told that a new console would be coming out, so to move onto that. We were like, 'Are you serious?'" he says, with a rueful chuckle.

It looks like they developed the most important parts of Shenmue I & II, up to Guilin (maybe something of III too?). And they re- did them twice (I would increase that number to three for some areas, like Wan Chai or Aberdeen, that showed a big overhaul between the early Dreamcast footage and the final release of II).
 

Mittens2317

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@jcjimher Mental that bands who chuck TVs outta hotel windows have fewer conflicting recollections than a fucking game development team.
 
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The original number that was floating around on the net for years was 70 million, which was said to cover the development and marketing.
Sometime around 2011, Yu Suzuki clarified that statement by saying it was somewhere closer to 47 million.

But varying number differences aside, lets say that it was 70 million:
First of all, this number combined Shenmue 2 as they were both developed the same time, originally for the Sega Saturn.
The costs of this game had to be further drawn from due to moving the project over the the Dreamcast, and developing a new engine for it.

However, ignoring even all that aside, there were plenty of games before Shenmue that cost more to develop such as Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II, and Final Fantasy VII, which had a development cost of 45 million and a marketing budget of 100 million, funded by Sony.

So why is this fib allowed to continue for 20 years?
How do we know Yu Suzuki is right? And being 47 million dollars would've still made it the most expensive game of all time back then.
 
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Budgiecat
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How do we know Yu Suzuki is right?

Either way that number included both games and marketing; whether its 47 or 70.

And being 47 million dollars would've still made it the most expensive game of all time back then.
No it wouldnt! FF VII cost 45 million to make and 100 million to market lmao

The ONLY reason people still think that statement is true is because SEGA originally said it themselves as some stupid form of failed marketing. No one else around those times bothered to divulge their dev costs of their games until years later
 
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Either way that number included both games and marketing; whether its 47 or 70.


No it wouldnt! FF VII cost 45 million to make and 100 million to market lmao

The ONLY reason people still think that statement is true is because SEGA originally said it themselves as some stupid form of failed marketing. No one else around those times bothered to divulge their dev costs of their games until years later
Any sources on the fact that marketing was included in shenmue budget? Panzer dragoon saga had a budget of 45-50 million and like 0 marketing. Shenmue didn't have much marketing either and I would love to have a source that says ff7 had 100 million marketing.
 

Ren

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The 70 million was Production cost, marketing cost doesn't count.
I would not be surprised if FFVII had a marketing cost of 100 million considering the game was aggressively marketed even on TV you would see an add of the game.

Shenmue Marketing was very low in comparison. I only heard of Shenmue because I play it at a friend's house.
While I heard of FFVII by watching the TV commercial a few times on TV.

Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II. None of those game had a budget of Even 10 million.

Street Fighter 2, he estimates took 10 months of development with no overtime pay, for around 35 people at an average cost of about $7,000 per person per month.
That is under 3 million.

There is no way a 2D had a budget higher than Shenmue where did you get the ridiculous data?

FFVII had a high production cost but in no way Higher than Shenmue.

Why?
Because FFVII had no:
Voice Acting
No Motion Capture
Game was actually not 3D but a mix of 2D and 3D.

Shenmue was like a movie than a game that is why it costed a LOT.
- Insane voice acting cast. Every single NPC had a voice and custom AI schedule
- Day/time/Weather/Date Events system
- Expensive motion capture system of a movie studio
- Probably best graphics in its time
- Cinematic Story cutscenes
- Huge Highly Detailed world.
- All the Research they did. Yes Yu went to the locations with a team to research to make the game.

Just watch this video and you will know why it was the most expensive game to product.
Because A Lot of Movie was invested in other areas that was not related to making the actual game.
 
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