The Growing Trouble with WayForward, LRG, and Shantae

Monday, September 28th, 2020

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Over the past few years, Limited Run Games has (rightfully) engineered a lot of goodwill by releasing physical editions of video games for everything from the SEGA CD to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. One of the biggest surprises from them was that they were re-releasing, as an open preorder, 1) Shantae on both the Game Boy Color and the Nintendo Switch and 2) Risky’s Revenge on Switch. This has, inadvertently, created a new problem for the franchise with the third game in the series, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. To understand why this game is suddenly a problem, it is first important to understand the history of the Shantae series.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse | LRG Image

This third game in the series was released as a LRG-exclusive title. (Image owned by Limited Run Games).

A platformer/adventure title staring a half-genie named Shantae, the self-titled first game in this series was released on June 2, 2002 as a Game Boy Color exclusive. Well received by IGN, GameSpot, and more, Shantae seemed poised for success…except for one thing: the Game Boy Advance had already been out for a year by the time that the game was released. Ultimately, it did not sell well. The sequel, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, was released as a DSi digital-only title and then later for iOS, Windows, PlayStation 4, and Wii U. Despite the wide availability to play Risky’s Revenge, the first Game Boy Color game continued to languish in obscurity and the price for the game continued to increase on resell sites such as eBay (even though it was later re-released for the Nintendo eShop in 2013).

Shantae | 3DS re-release

This is an image of Shantae from her eShop re-release. (Image courtesy of WayForward).

And this brings us to the third game, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, which was originally released for the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U in late 2014. After the Nintendo Switch launched in March 2017, Limited Run Games announced that they were printing a physical edition of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse as an open preorder from December 7 to December 21, 2018. During that three-week window, people could order the titled “Switch Limited Run #21” as many times as they wanted. It is important to keep in mind that during this pre-order window, you still could not play the GBC Shantae without spending a lot of money on eBay for a physical copy, and there were no announced plans to release Shantae: Risky’s Revenge on the Switch. Both games were only available at that point to play digitally on dead/dying systems. There were two more games released in the Shantae franchise after that point: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and Shantae and the Seven Sirens.

Shantae was a focus during LRG’s 2020 E3 presentation.

During the Limited Run Games E3 2020 announcement event, LRG announced that they were bringing back the original Game Boy Color Shantae, a Switch remastering of Shantae, and a Switch version of Risky’s Revenge later on in 2020 for an open pre-order window. In addition, it emerged that LRG and XSEED have partnered up to re-release an open-preorder print of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero for the Switch at the same time. In fact, you can still order all of these games now from LimitedRunGames.com. As for Shantae and the Seven Sirens, LRG has confirmed that a limited number of those Switch physical games will be sold at Best Buy stores around the country. What this means is that you can currently buy (or will be able to buy) the first two games and the last two games of the Shantae franchise on the Switch.

And thus lies the Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse problem.

As I mentioned earlier, when Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was listed as an open pre-order back in late 2018, the first two games were only to be found on two rapidly-dying Nintendo platforms. It was a big ask for people to jump into the third game of a story-based franchise when the first two were really not available anymore. Since pre-orders for the physical Switch Shantae games have gone live, the price of the physical Switch edition of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has only jumped up in price and are currently retailing for around 250/300 (or more) US dollars. It makes sense, as people now want to have the complete series in a Switch physical edition.

As a result, the price gouging for the first Game Boy Color game that was corrected when LRG started a pre-order re-release has now been replaced by price gouging for the third game in the series. In other words: one Shantae availability problem has been replaced by another.

The natural solution, of course, is to just re-print the game like they are doing for Shantae and the Half-Genie Hero. However, both WayForward and Limited Run Games refuse to re-print Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for the Nintendo Switch. This is despite Limited Run Games having said in the past that they do not sign exclusivity deals, and that a developer is free to have whoever publish their games outside of LRG. And yet, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse continues to languish in an ever-more expensive secondhand marketplace. WayForward could also recruit another boutique publisher, like Strictly Limited Games, to run a new set of Pirate’s Curse for the Switch, so LRG still has their numbered title and new copies are made. When WayForward was asked over the weekend on Twitter to clarify if LRG had the exclusive publication rights to Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and if they would re-print the game, they only responded with a very cryptic tweet:

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse | WayForward Twitter Chat

You can read the exchange for yourself here.

I reached out to both WayForward and Limited Run Games for comment about re-releasing Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for Switch and if LRG has the exclusive physical rights for the game. At the time of publishing, LRG did not respond but I received this from WayForward PR:

Limited Run Games has been a fantastic partner for bringing Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and other games into physical form that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, and at this point we don’t anticipate a reprint of the game or a new release through a different publisher. The great thing about current technology, however, is that digital distribution makes games much more readily available than they have been in the past, and we’ve got Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse on almost every platform, so hopefully nobody will feel like they’re missing out.

Now don’t get me wrong: You can still buy Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse digitally. Unlike the original Shantae game, people will still be able to play the third Shantae game whenever they want thanks to various digital stores. However, for anyone who subscribes to Limited Run Games’ creed of The Future is Physical, a digital version is not a great solution. Not to mention, it limits people who didn’t want to jump midway into a franchise from being able to get the full physical series now. Frankly, this third game should be made available again as a pre-order, if only for people who couldn’t jump into the series now or who didn’t even have a Switch console until this point. Otherwise, many people (including our editor-in-chief) will have a gap in their physical Switch series of the games.

So until one/both companies agrees to re-release a physical Switch edition of the game for people to buy alongside the other four titles in the series, people will have to continue to pay what the marketplace will bear for a physical copy of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse as one Shantae problem is replaced by another.

UPDATE 9/30/20: Limited Run Games responded to my e-mail:

We have no plans at this time to reprint the game and the rights are with WayForward.

It looks like, based upon this, that WayForward can have Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse reprinted, but they will just need to find a partner (XSEED, maybe? They are publishing Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition at the moment…) to work with…and also be willing to reprint the game.



Do you think Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse should be re-released physically on Switch again? Would you buy it?

Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it. Do you want to do an interview? You can reach me at interviews@oprainfall.com