Sega announces Shenmue Online

Massively multiplayer version of Shenmue set for a 2005 release for the PC in Korea and China.

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TOKYO--Sega announced today that it is developing the long-rumored online version of Shenmue for the PC, titled Shenmue Online. The game is being codeveloped with JC Entertainment, an online game developer and operator in Korea, and its creation will be supervised by the father of the series, Yu Suzuki.

Shenmue Online will be a massively multiplayer role-playing game that takes place in various locations in China (including Hong Kong) in the 1980s. Players will step into the role of fighters and battle in real-time action, using kung fu, Chinese weapons, qi (ki) energy, and other mystic powers.

JC Entertainment will operate Shenmue Online’s game services and marketing in Korea, while Sega will hold licensing rights for all other countries. A license has already been granted to T2 Technology, which will operate Shenmue Online in China.

Closed beta testing of Shenmue Online will take place in Korea starting this November, followed by a period of open beta testing. The game is scheduled to launch its commercial services in Korea in spring 2005 and in China sometime later that year. No specific plans for the online game have been made for Japan, North America, or Europe.

According to Korean news site Digital Chosun, development of Shenmue Online began in February 2003, and a total of 30 billion won ($25.7 million) is planned for investment into the project, including development fees and international marketing costs.

Sega has also launced the game's official Web site, which at the moment consists of press releases and a link to a more detailed Korean site.

In related news, Sega established an office in China (SOA-Sega of China) in June in preparation to expand into the country’s gaming market. Along with today’s announcement of Shenmue Online, Sega revealed that it has also licensed two online PC games to third-party operators in China: Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst and CTRacer. CTRacer is a massively multiplayer online racing game codeveloped by Sega and Korean developer Hyundai Digital Entertainment.

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