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On Running Feuds
The Untimely Death of Shadowrun
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on May 28, 2007   |   Episode 126 (Show Archive)  

   
devil may cry 4 art
Although pictures like this make Shadowrun look like a perfect fit for a first-person shooter, fans of the pen and paper series already know that it's better suited as a role-playing game!
I wish there was a way of being polite about it, but at this point there's no way of candy-coating it: Microsoft is sending their newest online first-person shooter, Shadowrun, out to die!

With all the talk these days revolving around a certain game called Halo 3, it's easy to forget that Microsoft actually has another shooter that they're hoping to turn into a major next generation game franchise. Unfortunately Microsoft seems to be doing everything it can to prevent Shadowrun from being a major Xbox 360 hit. The game hasn't even been released yet and they are already alienating the original fan base, stacking it up against the single most popular first-person shooter on the Xbox, overpricing it, and turning it into a game that only half of the user base can take part in. In other words, Shadowrun is destined to be one of Microsoft's biggest failures.

It's been a rocky road for Microsoft's first-person version of Shadowrun. To gamers of a certain age, the name Shadowrun is synonymous with pen-and-paper role-playing games. When it was released almost twenty years ago, Shadowrun was a nice
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It's a tragedy: Not only do Xbox 360 owners not get a Shadowrun full of computer hacking and cool adventure elements, but they also don't get the detailed artwork that fans have come to know and expect!
alternative to the extremely popular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series, it featured a futuristic setting where magic was real and cyberpunks had to fight against fantastical characters (like orcs, trolls, elves and dwarves). Shadowrun also introduced the idea of jacking into a computer world, something that the Wachowski brothers aped in their popular film series, The Matrix.

But Shadowrun was more than a popular book-based RPG, it also spawned two fun (albeit flawed) console adventures - one by Blue Sky Software for the Genesis and one by Beam Entertainment for the Super NES. Judging by these games (and a Japanese only Mega CD entry) Shadowrun would go down in history as a solid futuristic role-playing series that introduced cyberpunks to an entire generation of teenage boys.

Unfortunately if Microsoft has their way this will not be Shadowrun's legacy. At last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo Microsoft stunned the world by announcing a new Shadowrun game for the PC and Xbox 360. Fans of the series rejoiced ... until they realized that it wasn't going to be a role-playing game. It wasn't
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While nowhere near perfect, the Super NES and Sega Genesis versions of Shadowrun managed to get the spirit of the original game just right!
even going to be an adventure game. Heck, this Shadowrun wasn't even going to feature the matrix and mythology that made the old games so compelling. Instead Microsoft opted to resurrect the series as a first-person shooter, sort of a Halo clone with magic.

Obviously that's a hard pill to swallow, it would be like asking people to accept a Lord of the Rings first-person shooter; it just doesn't seem to fit with history of the game. But some gamers were willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, they knew it wouldn't be as cool as having a new western-themed role-playing game, but it was better than having nothing ... right?

In the time between last year's E3 and the game's May 29th release date, Microsoft has gone out of their way to make this as unpleasant as humanly possible. The first major problem came when they announced that Shadowrun would be an online-only experience; a first-person shooter without a single-player story or any other offline modes. Not only does this automatically stamp out any hope of
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I've never actually played the Mega CD version of Shadowrun, but I'm going to assume that it makes more sense than this upcoming Xbox 360 game!!
having a classic Shadowrun story in the game, but it also limits the amount of people who can actually play the game. By Microsoft's own count less than half of the Xbox 360 owners currently have a Gold account, the type of account you would need to have fun with this online-only game. So not only are they disappointing all of the original fans of Shadowrun, but they are making sure that more than half of their user base can't even play it.

And that's not all, instead of giving Xbox 360 owners a good deal, Microsoft decided to price the game at a whopping $59.99. Sixty bucks for what is an online-only experience? From day one most of Microsoft's first party games (Project Gotham Racing 3, Viva Pi?ata, Kameo) have all
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Even if Shadowrun proves to be the best first-person shooter of 2007, nobody is going to choose it over the upcoming Halo 3!
been priced at a reasonable $50 price point. To defend themselves Microsoft explained that this was not their first $60 game, last year's groundbreaking Gears of War also retailed for that price. While I'm certainly not a fan of the $60 price tag, at least with Gears of War you received a fun single-player experience (that you could enjoy online) and a rather robust online mode (that included more maps than what will be available in Shadowrun). If anything the multiplayer-only Shadowrun should have been priced at a more reasonable $39.99; that would have assured more sales and a lot of goodwill on Microsoft's part.

After shocking the world with the extreme price point, lack of a single player story and the removal of pretty much everything that made it a memorable adventure series, Microsoft had one more nail to pound into Shadowrun's coffin. For whatever reason, Microsoft decided that it would be a good idea to release the game on May 29, only four months before Halo 3 hit the shelves. And that's not even the worst of it, by launching on May 29
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Microsoft has already said that if Shadowrun is a success they may think about doing an adventure game based on the series ... too bad we'll never see that game on the Xbox 360!
they are throwing the game out there right in the middle of the Halo 3 beta test. So who exactly is going to rush out to their local EB Games to buy Shadowrun when they still have another week and a half of Halo 3 time?

On this point I can understand Microsoft's thinking, they hope that everybody that has been playing the Halo 3 beta will automatically rush out and buy the next best thing, which they think is Shadowrun. The time's up screen in the Halo 3 beta even goes as far as to suggest you check out Shadowrun, so it's pretty clear that they are praying that there will be a lot of people that go from Halo 3 to Shadowrun and then back to Halo 3.

But let's say these people go out and buy Shadowrun immediately after the Halo 3 beta ends, there's a mass exodus to the EB Games on June 11 and everybody buys this overpriced, online-only shooter. At that point the people have a little only three months to play Shadowrun before the main course hits stores, at which time almost 100% of the fan base will rush out and pick up their reserved Halo 3 discs. Does Microsoft
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Sure it has a diverse cast of characters, but when it really comes down to it Shadowrun does not fit as a shooter ... there are already too many of those on the Xbox 360 as it is!
only expect this game to have three or four months of life? The reason that Gears of War was so valuable to them is because month after month it posted impressive sales numbers, yet at most Shadowrun will only have three months to really push out units before Halo 3 comes and demolishes everything.

Obviously the right thing to do was to release Shadowrun early in the year, perhaps in the first quarter when there wasn't anything else to compete with it. Not only would they have had eight or nine months before Halo 3 hit, but Microsoft would also have been able to sell new levels and content. But then again, the obvious thing would have been to have a single-player campaign so that all Xbox 360 owners could enjoy it, sell it for $40 so it was an impulse purchase, and base it a little more heavily around the Shadowrun mythos. So clearly Microsoft wasn't interested in the "obvious" thing.

With all these factors working against it the only thing I can figure is that Microsoft is sending Shadowrun out to die. They know it's not going to sell Gears of Wars numbers, but it's better to get it out before Halo 3 and capitalize on the Xbox 360 owner's need for a new/fresh first-person shooter. Whether or not Shadowrun will be able to deliver strong numbers for Microsoft in the first few months has yet to be seen, but I can guarantee that once September rolls around this game will be nothing but an afterthought ... which is a real slap in the face for everybody that worked long hours making this game. I'm sorry Microsoft, but Shadowrun deserves better.
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