The Man and the Company Behind Shenmue’s Revival
When it comes to revivals, nothing comes close to the tale of Shenmue. First released on the Dreamcast, Shenmue and Shenmue II were supposed to be part of an on-going saga detailing a young man’s attempt to get revenge for the death of his father. Unfortunately, thanks to Sega’s rapid financial decline in the early 2000s, Shenmue’s sequels were indefinitely shelved. That was, until last years E3 press conference.
I’m sure you know the story by now if you’ve kept in the video game loop for the past year, but Shenmue’s return after a 15 year absence was like nothing else before it and the attention it garnered was unprecedented. Shortly after the reveal, many in the games media began to question who was funding and promoting the re-emergence of Shenmue III. The answer to that question, was Shibuya Productions.
We chatted with Cedric Biscay who created the company and has been the main point of contact for Shenmue fans since the reveal last summer.
During our time with Cedric he touched on his love for arcade games, how a previous project with Yu Suzuki led to Shenmue III and on dealing with the enthusiasm and media attention that followed him after Shenmue III’s reveal.
Please note that we decided to post the original interview with Cedric Biscay in order to not manipulate his quotes. So please bear that in mind while you read through the interview.
Who are Shibuya Productions?
Pause Resume’s Craig Shields: Before we start can you give our readers a little bit of background information about Shibuya Productions and how you grew to where you are today?
Cedric Biscay from Shibuya Productions: Our aim is to produce cartoons and video games with standards that are different, as much as possible, from those often imposed by distributors.
We want to create content for an audience that is not necessarily representative of the masses but big enough to make it worth taking an interest in it.
The risk is quite big but it’s kind of our philosophy to try and stand out from the competition and, most importantly, keep enjoying what we do.
We are fans and we want to reach fans, as a priority. This is not compatible with the general audience’s expectations, who only gets those same old contents they are too often offered, sadly.
CS: Many fans will of course be aware of your involvement with Shenmue III but is there anything else they may know you from?
CB: We started creating the buzz worldwide with the announcement about Astroboy Reboot. Getting the agreement from the Astroboy licence owners to make a new Astroboy anime with a new story and western design was no mean feat. This shows how much Japanese companies trust Shibuya Productions.
Also, we recently announced Cobra: Return of Joe Gillian which has been widely talked about as well. We are so excited about revealing even more contents!
Not as much of a big deal, but still very exciting, in addition to our other productions such as Swaptales Leon, Petz Club or Lilly And The Magic Pearl, we host and sponsor the yearly Monaco Anime Game International Conferences, featuring the most famous international artists as guests, in a big pop-culture party.
CS: What’s the long-term strategy for Shibuya Productions?
CB: Besides strong IPs such as Astroboy Reboot, Cobra: Return of Joe Gillian and Shenmue 3, we are also working on new original contents of our own.
We believe that making the company known with identifiable titles is a first step in building a fanbase who will share our vision and be interested in further following us on new projects.
We are not afraid about working with teen/adult targets while still focusing on “family” projects when we enjoy them.
Cedric Biscay and making Shenmue III a reality
CS: Would you mind telling our readers a bit about yourself and what you might do on a day-to-day basis:
Cedric Biscay: Originally, I am a fan of video games and cartoons. Most of my favourite ones were made in Japan so I started digging this country. I am a total fan of Sega’s Saturn and Dreamcast but I still enjoy playing Neo Geo, Playstation 2 or Nec Pc Engine.
Today I admit I have very little time to play video games but I am still finding the necessary time to play Uncharted 4 😉
Back in 2002, I created my first company – Shibuya International – in France and Japan, with the money I made by working as a monitor in high schools.
This first company, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary next year, made it possible for me to make a large number of contacts that I am still using every day for Shibuya Productions, which I created in 2014 in Monaco with an office in Japan as well.
Besides this business, I also work as a teacher at Ecole Polytechnique in Nice / Sophia Antipolis for the Master degree, teaching students the characteristics of the Japanese, Korean and Chinese video game markets.
Regarding Shenmue, my role is to make sure that everything meets the expectations of the producer, the fans and the general audience.
We carefully supervise the work in progress and even assist with the content when we feel it can be positive for the team and the game.
My will is just to let Yu Suzuki do what he does – making a great game! I would never consider explaining to him how to make a game, especially when it’s about the 3rd episode of his flagship licence.
“We decided to work together on another project. Honestly, I was still so happy to be working with Yu Suzuki even if it was not on Shenmue. But the other project was finally abandoned…”
CS: How did you become involved with the Shenmue III project and at what point did you realise that it might become a reality?
CB: I had been talking with Yu Suzuki about the possibility to make Shenmue 3 for a while, just as a fan of the game at first, as I didn’t think it was possible, and then as a real producer when I realised it wasn’t just an utopia.
At the beginning, many issues were standing in the way, making the project almost impossible. So we decided to work together on another project. Honestly, I was still so happy to be working with Yu Suzuki even if it was not on Shenmue. But the other project was finally abandoned, unfortunately, which just coincided with a new, greater possibility to launch Shenmue 3. You know what happened next. The twists and turns of destiny…
CS: Yourself, Shibuya Productions and Yu Suzuki and his team appear to have been quite overwhelmed at the sheer amount of support Shenmue received when the Kickstarter launched. Did you ever think it would reach that level of enthusiasm beforehand and how did you handle it all?
CB: I am not the biggest hardcore fan of Shenmue, as I do not know each and every details of the game, but I still consider myself a “standard fan” as I played the first two episodes in Japanese without really understanding, and I’ve been playing the game several times since then, waiting for the 3rd episode.
I was aware of the shock wave such announcement would create. I just never anticipated to see all those journalists cry right in front of me at E3 2015. It was just crazy!
The truth is that Shenmue 3 was then the most anticipated game in the world. Such anticipation first came from the fans and then from the journalists who informed the general public. It created such an enthusiasm that helped us make it to the Guiness book, so we are extremely happy about that amount of press around the project, as it truly deserves it.
Today, there is a lot of enthusiasm and many in the industry are aligning themselves with Shenmue 3. However, obviously, there were not a lot of people around the table in the beginning, when it was about taking actual risks to get this project started.
CS: We’ve seen that you’ve recently been teasing on Twitter that you’ve played Shenmue III, what does that feel like and can you give us any early impressions?
CB: I’m using Twitter just like anyone else, so it always surprises me when I see magazines re-tweeting me into articles. Sometimes it just gets blown out of proportion. But I’m not quite willing to change my habits with this and Twitter has a character limit so there will always be the risk of finding clickbait…
I’ve actually played it but it is just the beginning so nothing can be shown to the fans at this stage in terms of gameplay. I just had to share with the fans my emotion to be able to control Ryo, years after, and finally get out of this cave!!!
We have been revealing lots of things at MAGIC 2016. We will obviously show more at MAGIC 2017, probably even sooner. What I can say at this point is that it’s very promising.
CS: Lastly, are you currently playing any games? If so, which ones?
CB: I don’t have a lot of time to play but I never refuse an arcade gaming session – generally, the good old SEGA and SNK games are my favourite ones 😉
Please note that three members of the Pause Resume team have backed Shenmue III on Kickstarter.
Image sourced from GameBlog.fr