Shangri-La is a complete enigma which i have to confess before researching the company for the purpose of this article i had no knowledge of their existence. I believe a reasonable assumption would likely be that most readers of this article would realistically be equally unfamiliar with Shangri-La as either a development studio or publishing label. I believe that there are a few compelling reasons why the company is such a conundrum and this mainly relates to their establishment & subsequent demise.
The company was initially established as another entity known as Copya System Co., Ltd who were by all accounts a prolific development studio. The majority of their titles were seemingly published by Asmik Ace Entertainment, Inc and in all honesty i’m not sure of the exact relationship between the two companies. I won’t dwell on this period simply because i don’t really know anything about Copya System and i don’t think that it realistically relates to their later separate incarnation of Shangri-La. There is however a notable difference between Shangri-La & their earlier incarnation of Copya System and that is the fact that Copya System has a wealth of confirmed information about the company compared to the dearth of officially confirmed information relating to Shangri-La.
One key piece of information that i’ve been unfortunately unable to uncover is the reason for the transition from Copya System to Shangri-La. I suspect that the earliest incarnation of the newly formed Shangri-La’s official site might possibly have shed some light on the subject but sadly that incarnation hasn’t been archived. I’ve been unable to locate Copya System’s official website and it’s quite possible that they might not even have maintained one. Copya System’s last few titles were published for the Super Famicom & Sony PlayStation in the mid ’90’s and don’t feature any URL’s on the packaging so i’m currently at a loss trying to ascertain if they had an official site or not.
Shangri-La’s archived site while not containing a wealth of information does contain some rudimentary corporate information relating to the company’s history. They have the same establishment date as their former incarnation of Copya System being in August ’86 and they list their business concerns as the development & production of computer software. Shangri-La itself is generally attributed to have originated sometime in ’96 and at no point seems to have any mention of their previous incarnation of Copya System or their published output. Shangri-La’s official site does however note that they operated a subsidiary company based in China named China Shanghai Corporation which trying to find any information on has been so far a fruitless endeavour.
While information about the early period of Shangri-La is relatively scarce information about their subsequent demise is basically non-existent. It’s the general consensus that Shangri-La became defunct in early ’01 with April of that year being bandied about as the likely candidate by various online articles. The reason for the company becoming defunct is generally attributed to them becoming bankrupt which while likely strangely i’ve been unable to find any contemporary sources that corroborates this theory.
While i obviously don’t dispute that Shangri-La did indeed become defunct in all likelihood through bankruptcy at some point in ’01 i do however take issue with April ’01 as the date that they ceased operation. This is due to their flagship computer title receiving official updates till at least late ’01 which is after the given date of their demise. Truthfully i’m unable to categorically state when or indeed why Shangri-La actually became defunct.
Shangri-La seems to have found a niche market that they successfully exploited in both their computer and consumer software for various home console systems. All the company’s later titles predominantly related to equestrian sports of some description generally being horse racing prediction & simulation software. I must confess that i have no knowledge or indeed interest in horse racing or the procedures of betting on horse racing in general so as you might appreciate i can’t really discuss how their software compared to similar titles as i have simply no knowledge of the sport. What did intrigue me was after establishing their PlayStation titles were indeed horse racing prediction & simulation software how they actually functioned. Shangri-La’s home computer & Dreamcast titles took advantage of their respective systems online capabilities which the original PlayStation hardware obviously lacked. It seems to circumvent the lack of any network connectivity on the PlayStation Shangri-La simply released seasonal discs with updated information in Spring/Summer & Autumn /Winter incarnations. While a novel approach i’m not convinced on how reliable the information would be.
Undoubtably the main platform for Shangri-La was the Japanese home computer market and the company’s flagship title was their High States Owners Club Software. From what i can gather this allowed the player to become a virtual stable owner and train, breed and race their horses online with the added incentive of being able to bet on the results. By winning sanctioned events players would win physical trophies that would be presented by Shangri-La. Initially the High States Owners Club Software was a physical packaged product being a CD-Rom which was later changed to a digital download.
To use the high States Owners Club Software required a subscription fee which was provided by the Credit Pass service which i believe was operated by Shangri-La themselves although i can’t be certain that this was the case. The subscription was ¥1,250 per month and it was seemingly well supported with continual updates with the final one i could find being in late ’01 which is well after the company was rumoured to have become defunct.
Shangri-La actually developed two titles for the Dreamcast but they only actually self-published one of those for the system. I’ll briefly discuss their other developed title at the end of this article. Their self-published title was rather unsurprisingly a horse racing prediction & simulation software utility. 夢馬券’99 or Yume Baken ’99 Internet was released on the 21st of October ’99 and it retailed at the budget price point of ¥2,800. Strangely the official genre designation for the title was according to the game’s entry on SEGA’s Dreamcast catalogue as an Adventure title. Personally, i’d of thought it would make more sense is if it was classed in the sports genre but i’m confident purchasers of Yume Baken ’99 Internet knew exactly what they were getting despite its strange official genre designation.
Unsurprisingly Yume Baken ’99 Internet was a Japanese region exclusive as you might imagine. The games official site has been archived but sadly doesn’t really provide much information about the title so below i’ve linked to Yume Baken ’99 Internet’s entry on the Dreamcast catalogue which at least provides some basic technical information about the title. ©1999 Shangri･La
Personally, i assume that there were realistically two competing factors behind the budget price point Yume Baken ’99 Internet retailed at. The first i suspect was to entice horse racing enthusiasts to transition from the more common traditional print media to a newer digital platform which could provide the same function but with the added incentive of providing a much more comprehensive & instantly searchable database at their fingertips.
The second reason in all likelihood was to try to make the required subscription cost more palatable to potential purchasers of Yume Baken ’99 Internet. The software used the same Credit Pass subscription payment service as Shangri-La’s computer title High States Owners Club Software. Unlike their computer title Shangri-La’s Dreamcast title offered two separate subscription options the first was a thirty-day subscription which cost ¥1,500 & a second longer option of a ninety-day subscription for ¥4,050. While both of these subscription options weren’t inherently expensive by any means prospective users of Yume Baken ’99 Internet would have to factor this additional cost when purchasing the software. The Credit Pass website has been preserved and you’ll find it linked to below where it provides information on various payment options and how to actually purchase a subscription for Yume Baken ’99 Internet. © 1999 Shangri-La
As a way of providing users of the software a free trial of the full potential of Yume Baken ’99 Internet when purchased from new it came with an included free fourteen-day subscription. This was printed on a separate paper sheet included in the software’s packaging. while currently obsolete function wise today if you’re going to buy a used copy of Yume Baken ’99 Internet & want a complete copy make sure it’s included.
According to Yume Baken ’99 Internet’s archived site the software allowed subscribers to the service to predict race results by using the parameters entered by the user to simulate the race to determine the likely outcome. This was an alternative to constantly buying horse racing related papers and trying to collate the data yourself with the added bonus of being able to see a visual representation of your choices based on official JRA data.
Shangri-La’s Yume Baken ’99 Internet was staggeringly comprehensive in its breath with information on over 33,000 sanctioned Japan Racing Association (JRA) race results stretching back a decade. As well as race results it contained detailed information on Jockeys with in-depth information such as age, win loss ratio & career history. All importantly Yume Baken ’99 Internet had similarly exhaustive information on over 40,000 individual horses with the information so detailed you could even select the weather conditions for any race in the last decade.
Unfortunately, all the content that Yume Baken ’99 Internet could provide was contained on the JRA’s servers which means currently Yume Baken ’99 Internet is effectively obsolete as the network infrastructure has been defunct for nearly two decades. The software actually has a nice if surprising neon inspired aesthetic presentation with pleasantly upbeat title screen music which i wouldn’t really expect in a title of this nature. The only actual content currently available is a simulation of a pre-existing race which even for horse racing enthusiasts is meaningless. What this does allow through is being able to showcase the range of different camera options which is actually quite impressive and by deft manipulation you can create something resembling a tv broadcast. While not really the intended purpose of the software it shows some effort went into the software’s development and i assume would be welcomed by its subscribers.
Even through i have no interest in equestrian sports i can still appreciate that Yume Baken ’99 Internet certainly provided a comprehensive package to its subscribers & would represent an attractive software package to horse racing enthusiasts. Realistically Yume Baken ’99 Internet much like the Dreamcast itself was probably too foreword thinking in its execution and while specifically mentioning Shangri-La’s software competing in an incredibly niche market. Despite the fact the software was a reasonably early title it had already been beaten to market by Shouei Systems My TrackMan software which fulfilled much the same function as Shangri-La’s title which i assume would have affected Shangri-La’s title sales.
Obviously, i can’t really give a balanced opinion about Yume Baken ’99 Internet simply because it’s currently impossible for me or anyone else to experience what the software could offer. Since the servers that the software connected to are long since defunct the functionality provided by Yume Baken ’99 Internet is basically nothing. I did however engage in a fairly exhaustive search to find contemporary reports from former subscribers to Yume Baken ’99 Internet but i was unable to find any archived information from any users of the utility.
The problem with attempting to retrospectively review a title such as Yume Baken ’99 Internet is that it’s hard to currently imagine when the internet didn’t encompass all facets of daily life as it does presently. Twenty years ago, when Shangri-La published their software the internet was a very different entity to the one that currently exists with it being a rapidly expanding market with internet terminals like the Dreamcast representing a new opportunity to provide software for. Shangri-La with experience with their similar High Stakes Owner’s Club computer software probably saw SEGA’s new hardware platform as an enticing proposition and an opportunity to expand into a growing market.
As i previously mentioned at the start of this article Shangri-La developed two titles for the Dreamcast their self-published title which i’ve discussed above. Their second of their developed titles was パンツァーフロント or Panzer Front. The game was published by ASCII Corporation and by all accounts was a highly regarded title but i’ll discuss it in-depth on the respective ASCII Corporation article which i’ll link to here once it’s published for completeness sake.
T-40101M Yume Baken ’99 Internet
(NOT FOR SALE) 非売品 discs & other media
Personally, i’m currently unaware of any media relating to Yume Baken ’99 Internet. I’ve certainly never encountered any reports of any individual Not for Sale disc existing nor any content on discs like the Dreamcast demo discs. If any content was to exist outside of promotional posters i’d imagine it would be video footage due to the nature of the software.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article about Shangri-La and their self-published title Yume Baken ’99 Internet. Unfortunately, i haven’t been able to actually discover too much information about the software and there’s an almost complete lack of information about it online. hopefully the small amount contained in this article might help anyone who was interested in Yume Baken ’99 Internet. If anyone can help with any pertinent information about either Shangri-La or their Yume Baken ’99 Internet software please get in touch i’d appreciate it. You’re able to contact me directly through the site or on Twitter @dreamcastcollector