Those holding out for Steam keys for Shenmue 3 will have to wait a while. Today, the dev team announced that there wouldn't be day-one Steam keys for those who backed the campaign expecting one, leaving only a few options: wait, accept a different platform, or accept a refund.
In a blog post on the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter today, the team confirmed it had originally planned for distribution through Steam, but later partnered with Epic after "taking publishing and sales considerations into account." There were discussions to offer Steam keys on day of release, but coordination with involved companies was "untenable," so now Steam keys are being offered, albeit one year later.
PC backers can change their selected version of the game to an Epic Games Store key or a physical disc with an EGS key, though they note that the physical version's disc contains the Epic Games Store launcher and not the game's data. If you select a PC physical or digital version, then there's also an option to receive a Steam key in one year's time as part of that package.
If none of those options appeals to you, there's always a refund. The Shenmue team has agreed to honor refund requests following a future update announcing the process—with the caveat that in the case of rewards within a tier such as in-game content that have already been created and implemented, a full refund may not be possible.
Alongside this news, the team announced a number of backer rewards that managed to make it, as well as one stretch goal it was not able to implement. "In order to maximize game quality under the adjusted budget, game planning was fundamentally altered and ultimately allowed us to incorporate a number of different elements beyond our original expectations," writes the dev team.
The stretch goal for the "Character Perspective System" has not been implemented, while expanded side activities beyond the stretch goals have been added. The team also notes more cinematic scenes and nostalgic flashbacks involving the world of Shenmue have been implemented, alongside a greater scale and a deeper battle system.
Longtime series director Yu Suzuki closed the post with an update, thanking fans for the support while addressing the changes to the campaign. "Along with the significant project changes at the heart of this announcement, there have been many other changes since our original assumptions," writes Suzuki. "I believe, however, that the game overall has been strengthened and that Shenmue III has assuredly been transformed and is heading in a positive direction."
Shenmue 3 has been in turbulent waters, suffering several delays leading up to its current November 19 release date and experiencing backlash over its exclusivity deal with Epic. Also, with so many years in development and this story only getting up to 40% towards the finish line, it's hard to imagine what a conclusion to Shenmue might look like. Still, I played it at E3 2019, and while it's certainly a game frozen out of time, that isn't a wholly unappealing pitch. Part of me really wants to play a Dreamcast-style Shenmue in 2019. We'll see what that actually pans out to be in November.