The eagle eyed staff at Dualshockers has reported that Sega have lost the trademark of its much beloved title Shenmue. The trademark has been cancelled in the United States by the Patent and Trademark Office due to either ‘a lack of use’ or ‘an excusable nonuse.’ If Sega had complied with section 8 of the trademark registration and been able to explain the dormant state, they would still retain the rights to Shenmue. Instead the series has laid pretty much dormant for the best part of 13 years.
Back in 1999 Shenmue hit the shelves. It felt revolutionary. It’s look and style somewhat unique, even its timed event combat was applauded. Shenmue was one of the first games to truly pioneer free roam and possibly inspired GTA 3 a couple of years later.
However, Sega themselves have suffered many financial and critical set back in recent years, largely due to many of their major franchises undergoing poor sales. Chief mascots or leading flagship titles have often been seen as a shadow of their former glory. Even when Sega’s Aliens: Colonial Marines sold well, it was panned by the critics. Perhaps all of this is why Sega have allowed such an oversight to happen.
Whilst Shenmue 2 failed commercially (mainly due to the poor sales of the Dreamcast itself), the Shenmue series has continued to gather a strong and large fan base since it’s release way back in 2001. Internet forums are rife with pleas from adoring fans begging Sega to make and release Shenmue 3. You couldn’t help but feel if Sega somehow got the balance right in terms of making a contemporary game that embodied the spirit of the originals – that Sega would be on to a winner. Perhaps past failures have made Sega a little too tentative?
What all this means remains unclear. Sega may appeal the decision or try to (if possible) win the rights back. Perhaps other companies may be able to make a claim on Shenmue. Maybe our greatest nightmare will become a reality and Shenmue will never see the light of day. Curse the old gods. However, one big question mark remains. Many fans asked Sega to re-release Shenmue 1+2 via a download on the PSN and Xbox Live market places – they weren’t exactly forthcoming. So will we see these much beloved classics make their way for a re-release? Once again time will tell.
Stay tuned with Twinstickgaming for any further developments.