Thursday, April 4, 2024

Sega's Precautions with Phone Numbers in Shenmue

On its initial release in Japan in December 1999, Shenmue impressed players with its realistic settings and attention to detail.

One such detail was the accuracy with which phone calls were reproduced in order to check the weather forecast, speak with Nozomi or gain access to Warehouse No. 8. Local phone numbers even had the correct area code for Yokosuka city (0468). 

This proved to be a slight headache for Sega, as some of the eager players tried actually calling the numbers. While the numbers used in the game were said to have been reserved beforehand by Sega to prevent nuisance calls, nonetheless a warning was issued in the February 2000 edition of the Weekly AM2 online magazine (which we recently translated) asking players to refrain from trying to call the numbers.

"Attention: Regarding the phone numbers used in Shenmue

The phone numbers used in the game Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka are intentionally designed not to allow actual calls. Recently, there has been an increase in attempted calls, leading to nuisances such as wrong numbers.

We kindly request your cooperation to refrain from making actual calls. Thank you for your understanding".

More on this topic was revealed in an interview with Shenmue game director Eigo Kasahara in Adam Sipione's Shenmue Documentary, "A Gamers Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue" 

Eigo Kasahara: Yu-san wanted to display the proper area codes in the game. The problem we raised was that players would try to call them. And we couldn't just make something up. In which case, Yu-san proposed we get hold of those phone numbers. We wondered how many we should get. We ended up getting about five.

When he gave us that instruction, the first thing we did was to check whether there was anyone at Sega who lived in Yokosuka and in fact there was one person who did. So we approached that person and explained that we wanted to obtain five phone lines, with any costs of course being covered by Sega. His house already had a telephone connection, although it didn't have an actual telephone. So we were able to obtain four, I think it was, real phone numbers.

At that time, there was someone who actually tried calling the number for Master Chen. Apparently, when he heard a proper ringing tone, he got spooked and hung up! However, the phone numbers were all ones where definitely nobody would answer.

In truth, I had been thinking of having them connect in the future to something like "Shenmue Fun Facts", although that part didn't get implemented.

Those numbers were actually held for several years afterwards. Then the Sega employee who had let us obtain the numbers informed us that he would be retiring, and asked us to do something about those phone lines. So we actually went along and arranged the infrastructure work needed to deregister the phone numbers.

Eigo Kasahara was also in charge of the Shenmue I & II re-releases, and he explained that he took the opportunity to avoid potential problems by shortening the phone numbers used in the game by omitting the last digit:

Eigo Kasahara: These days, we don't know where they connect to, and registering phone numbers was out of the question at this late stage, so for the remake we abandoned that idea and dropped a digit instead. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Shenmue Day!

Become a Patron!

No comments:

Post a Comment