Sega today announced plans to enter the Chinese market, expanding its PC portfolio with titles including Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst, CTRacer and, most intriguingly of all, Shenmue Online.
Shenmue Online is being produced in collaboration with Korean online game developer JC Entertainment, Sega Europe announced today, but according to a spokesperson the game has not yet been confirmed for release outside of China.
To clarify, it is a massively-multiplayer online RPG based on Yu Suzuki's Dreamcast adventure Shenmue, and according to a report in a Korean newspaper unearthed overnight, it's been in development since last February and has a budget of around 30 billion won (around 21.4 million).
According to the same report, closed testing is scheduled for this November, with an open test set for the first half of 2005. Sega's own announcement this morning says, "The commercial launch will take place in 2005."
However, when quizzed today, a Sega Europe spokesperson couldn't confirm that the game would be released outside China. Given Shenmue's cult popularity in the West though, we'd be surprise if the fans let it go without a fuss. Watch this space...