Many people assume that games now have larger teams and bigger budgets to help with bigger developmental loads. This wasn’t the case with the recently released Shenmue III. The original Shenmue, which was released as a Sega Dreamcast exclusive in 1999, had a development team of 300 people. The game was known for having one of the largest budgets of any game at the time and would go on to spawn a sequel in 2001 and then sit dormant for 18 years until Shenmue III finally released earlier this month. However, a read of the credits shows that only 75 people worked on Shenmue III, with about another 100 people working as contracted artists and QA staff.
Furthermore, of these 75 staff members, only six of them actually worked on both of the original games, with another four having only worked on the original Shenmue. For the most part, the team was made up of new talent, with a few directors reprising their roles. It may not be that much of a surprise, considering there is a nearly 20-year gap between the original game and the recently released third entry. Still, it is impressive seeing that the work of several hundred can now be done by a smaller team.
Shenmue is a series of open-world games that became cult classics thanks to their unique style and accurate portrayal of both Japanese and Chinese towns. While the first two games were heavily praised at their release, they failed to gain much in the way of commercial success and became cult classics. This led the third game to be trapped in development hell for quite some time until a Kickstarter campaign managed to make $6.3 million. After several delays and some anger over the game’s PC version being exclusive to the Epic Games Store, it finally launched on November 19th, 2019.
And after the long wait, it seems like a fourth game in the series might be possible. The creator referenced Shenmue 4 in a letter to fans in Shenmue III’s credits, saying he hopes that the franchise can continue.