Following an outcry from players over Shenmue 3 PC recent Epic Games Store exclusivity announcement, developer YSNET Inc, publisher Deep Silver, and Epic Games announced today that there will be Shenmue 3 refunds—funded by Epic—available for Kickstarter backers.
The announcement of Shenmue 3 refunds came from an update post on Shenmue 3's Kickstarter page. In it, YSNET clarified their decision, writing,
As noted in the updates and survey at launch, we had originally planned for PC distribution through Steam. Taking publishing and sales considerations into account, YSNET and Deep Silver agreed to our partnership with Epic Games Store on PC version distribution. As a publishing partner, Deep Silver has greatly contributed not only to sales and marketing, but to scaling up the game so there is more Shenmue III to begin with. Also, Epic Games has been with us from the start of the project when we adopted Unreal Engine 4 for development, and have given us their support throughout the development process.The "untenable" coordination with sales policies that is preventing them from providing Steam keys is likely referring to Valve. A recent Tweet from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney regarding this controversy seemed to lay the inability to provide Steam keys at Valve's feet.
In response to backers who have requested Steam keys for their rewards, we discussed offering the keys on the day of release. However, coordination with the sales policies of the involved companies was untenable, and as a result we are not able to make a day one distribution option for Steam keys available.
This is a stark change from how the process worked several months ago when Deep Silver was able to provide Steam keys to those who pre-ordered Metro: Exodus prior to its Epic Games Store exclusivity announcement. For now, backers of Shenmue 3 will have the option of receiving the game on PC as an Epic Games Store Key or physical disk and on PlayStation 4 as voucher code or physical disk. Those that opt for the Shenmue 3 PC version can also receive a Steam key one year after the game's release. Any backers that do not want any of these options can instead request a full refund. Though YSNET was unable to share details about how the Shenmue 3 refund process will work yet, Tim Sweeney stepped in on Twitter to announce that Epic Games will be footing the bill for these refunds.
In a follow-up tweet, Sweeney also stated that future games that change over to Epic Games exclusivity will get a similar treatment, with Epic either guaranteeing refunds for crowdfunding backers or ensuring that keys are available at previously-announced stores.
Assuming there are no further delays for the project, Shenmue 3 is currently set to release on November 19th, 2019.