I have to admit that before writing this article about Shangri-La, I had no knowledge of the company outside of their Dreamcast title. I suspect that most readers of this article will realistically be equally as unfamiliar with the company as either a development studio or publishing label as I was. Personally, I believe that there are a few compelling reasons as to why this is the case, which mainly relates to the company’s establishment & subsequent demise.
A major point of contention is the company was, initially established as another entity known as Copya System., Ltd. I have to confess I know absolutely nothing about this early incarnation of the company. Sadly, when attempting to research this initial period, information is quite contradictory with regards to which titles they developed. However, it seems they were a prolific development studio with many of their titles, being published by Asmik Ace Entertainment, Inc. Despite attempting to ascertain the exact nature of their relationship, I’ve been unable to find any officially confirmed information relating to their association. Given the apparent fondness for some of Copya System’s titles, I’m convinced that with enough time and effort, it would be possible to document the company’s history in greater detail. But this is beyond the scope of this article.
Arguably, a key piece of information that I’ve been unfortunately unable to document is the transition from Copya System to Shangri-La. I had hoped that it might be possible to find an archived early version of the company’s, website that would detail the change. Sadly, this wasn’t the case and, while Shangri-La’s official site has been, almost completely preserved, it has no information relating to this aspect of the company. Of course, given the time in question, it’s also entirely possible Copya System never had any online presence. I did manage to find the last titles attributed to the company in the mid-nineties and, those titles don’t display any URL on their packaging. So I’m currently uncertain if indeed they operated an official site or not.
While not directly relating to Shangri-La’s Dreamcast output, I do still think it’s worth recognising their previous incarnation of Copya System. Despite almost no acknowledgement of their earlier studio name, Shangri-La’s official site still lists their establishment as the same date as Copya System. This is quite strange as I had expected them to have a date in the mid-nineties when they transitioned as no other connection to their early history is, mentioned. To be honest, both companies share a distinct lack of information online that presents something of a challenge when attempting to document their shared history.
As I’ve previously mentioned Shangri-La’s archived site doesn’t feature, a great deal of information relating to the company. Their archived, official site only has a very rudimentary corporate history section that gives the date, of their establishment as August ’86. At the time of the company’s Dreamcast development, they list their main, business interest as the development & production of computer software. Sadly I’ve been unable to confirm when Shangri-La came into existence but, online consensus attributes ’96’ as the year of their formation. While this does seem plausible, I will add that this is just speculation. The only other relevant information I could uncover was that they operated a Chinese subsidiary named Shanghai Corporation. Unfortunately, my attempt to research them was even more challenging than their parent company to the extent I could find nothing about them.
While information regarding the company’s formation is generally scarce, this situation is, mirrored as nothing seemingly exists about their subsequent demise. The prevailing theory online is that they became defunct in early ’01’ with April, being mentioned online as the actual month they ceased operation. However, I have to dispute this as the company themselves issued a press release on the ’17th of July ’01’ detailing the sudden end of support for their best selling computer franchise. In this release, they announced that their subscription billing service would cease, at the end of June ’01’. The actual servers which the software relied on would be, shut on the 24th of July ’01’. They also thanked patrons and apologised for the situation they found themselves in and stated they had tried to find a solution but, it simply wasn’t possible. Again while unconfirmed, I believe that this represented the end of Shangri-La with the date they became defunct likely being the end of July or early August ’01’.
As the date of Shangri-la’s demise is unconfirmed so is the actual cause that led to them becoming defunct. The theory online is that they became bankrupt which, is a perfectly reasonable assumption. While I can’t claim this not to be the case, I can’t confirm it either. Almost all Japanese Dreamcast developers that became defunct due to bankruptcy I’ve been able to either find articles relating to this or the actual court documents. With Shangri-la, I’ve been unable to locate anything that details a potential date of any bankruptcy judgement, or contemporary reports or articles which corroborates this theory.
While I can’t claim to know the exact reason that caused the company’s demise, I’m also of the opinion that bankruptcy was indeed the reason. I do however take issue with the date as it can’t have been in April of ’01’ as speculated online. This is simply due to the Shangri-La being known to have still been active in July of that year. Hopefully, in the future, this situation will be resolved by an official confirmation by former employees, or a contemporary report will come to light. If new information does come to light, I’ll update the article accordingly.
It It seems that Shangri-La found something of a niche market with equestrian software that they successfully managed to exploit to their advantage. Arguably, they experienced the majority of their success with domestic computer instalments but they did release iterations of this genre on both the Sony PlayStation & Dreamcast. The issue that I have is I have no knowledge or indeed any sort, of interest in horse racing in general. This extends to the various terminology or procedures of actually betting on horses. Given that Shangri-La’s Dreamcast title is a horse racing analysis & prediction utility software puts me at a disadvantage regarding judging how accurate its content is.
While the company had numerous releases on console systems notably, the Sony Playstation, the main focus was the domestic computer market. Their flagship title was undoubtedly the High Stakes Owners Club software. My admittedly limited understanding of this title was that it, allowed the user to become a virtual stable owner and train, breed and race their horses online. It also offered users the added incentive of being able to bet on the results. They also sanctioned official events that users could win, physical trophies presented by company officials, at special events. Initially, the High Stakes Owners Club software was distributed, as a physical boxed retail product on a CD-ROM disc. But later instalments were subsequently changed to a digital download.
To use the company’s High Stakes Owners Club software users were required to have an active subscription that was a bespoke server that Shangri-La operated themselves. Although information, in general, is limited about this aspect so I’ve not been able to confirm, this conclusively. The archived site does detail the actual cost which, was ¥1,250 per month and, it seems it was well supported, with continual updates. The final update for the software was in April ’01 that is after the company had supposedly ceased operation. I’ve mentioned this is as a similar subscription model was implemented for the company’s Dreamcast title.
I have to admit the Japanese computer market is not something I know anything about. Despite my lack of knowledge about equestrian pursuits, I’m much more interested in the company’s home console titles. I have a rudimentary understanding of how Shangri-La’s Dreamcast title functioned but, I found their PlayStation titles even more intriguing as that console lacked internet connectivity. The company circumvented this issue by regularly releasing updated seasonal iterations of Spring/Summer & Autumn/Winter editions. It was probably quite expensive to press updated discs due to the license fee payable to Sony, but with these disc’s users could have access to current statistics that would allow for more accurate predictions. Obviously, this would require purchasing a new disc but it would mean that patrons could rely on additional updated content. Although perhaps small, this probably represented a continual revenue stream for Shangri-La on hardware not traditionally known for such utility software releases. I’m quite sure if horse racing enthusiasts found merit in the company’s software, they would likely endeavour to support subsequent releases.
While the reason for this article is the company’s self-published Dreamcast title, they also developed another title for the system but they didn’t actually publish it themselves so i’ll briefly discuss it at the end of this article for completeness sake. The company’s only published title for the Dreamcast was 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. Shangri-La’s software has its genre description listed on SEGA’s archived Dreamcast catalogue in the slightly matter of fact dedicated communication simulation software. Given the lack of general information surrounding Yume Baken ’99’ Internet this resource provides plenty of basic technical specifications about this software utility and i’ve linked to an archived version of it below. ©1999 Shangri･La © SEGA
Perhaps to more casual users of SEGA’s Dreamcast especially those in western regions it might not be immediately obvious why software utilities like Yume Baken ’99’ Internet were released on the system. With the online connectivity being a key tenet of SEGA’s strategy for the Dreamcast it’s clear the online potential offered by the system would be an enticing prospect as it was also marketed as a network terminal in Japan. As for Shangri-La’s release of their horse racing simulation & prediction software on a new system it would allow them to expand their market and with internet ready hardware would allow them to mitigate the need to constantly produce updated discs as the end user could just download the data needed.
Perhaps an important financial aspect would’ve been the implementation of a subscription fee to cover the cost of servers and the licensing cost of accessing the Japan Racing association’s (JRA) data. This would also generate a monthly revenue stream for the company which potentially could substantially impact Shangri-La if they managed to attract enough subscribers. This is an important consideration for publishers currently as subscription fees / additional content can expand the core experience and generate massive profits much more than the original retail packaged title. Shangri-La’s software is now over two decades old which just shows how forward thinking some studios were when maximising the potential of their utility software for SEGA’s last home system.
Shangri-La employed their own unique payment service which handled the subscription fees for Yume Baken ’99’ Internet. Dream Horse Ticket Pass offered two different subscription lengths the first was a thirty-day pass which cost ¥1,500 the second was a longer ninety-day pass which retailed for ¥4,050. It used three payment options which being completely honest i only have experiences of one method myself. The three payment options were QQQ, Accosis & Web Money which was a common payment option for Dreamcast titles online fees. To entice new users to try the online service provided by the software every copy came with a free fourteen-day trial. This was a separate sheet with a twenty-digit code which allowed access if you happen to purchase a used copy and want it complete make sure this sheet is included.
This ultimately explains why Yume Baken ’99’ Internet retailed at a budget price point as with the utility needing a monthly subscription to access data from the JRA meant a more expensive initial price might alienate potential purchasers. I suspect that the reduced price point had another motive as while being ¥2,000 yen cheaper than standard Dreamcast titles it might be more appealing to horse racing enthusiasts who had purchased a Dreamcast for more traditional gaming pursuits.
Personally, i’ve not encountered much in the way of promotional material for Yume Baken ’99’ Internet so i can only assume it was designed to rival the more commonly used traditional print media. The software would fulfil the exact same function as traditional in-print media but without the hassle of acquiring and storing multiple racing papers. Of course, it still needed a continuous outlay to cover its subscription costs but being essentially an online portal, it could provide some unique improvements over what a physical racing paper could offer. Realistically, a large part of its appeal and i have to admit i’m speculating would’ve been the convenance afforded as you could browse almost any information relating to horse racing instantly anytime from the comfort of your own home.
Shangri-La’s utility is quite staggering in just how comprehensive in its breadth the information which it could provide actually was. You could browse any JRA race results stretching back over a decade when the software was first released. Every aspect of the sport was covered in minute detail with examples relating to the jockeys including their names, age, win/loss ratio & their complete career history. It won’t be surprising to find the horses themselves also feature a similar level of insight while also having their pedigree, trainers & stables all searchable. Even the type of weather on a particular race day can be researched and to be perfectly honest i’m probably doing Yume Baken ’99’ Internet something of a disservice as the amount of information which is navigable is simply overwhelming especially to someone not familiar with the nuances of the sport.
Unfortunately, there are two major issues i have with Yume Baken ’99’ Internet the first is no fault on the part of Shangri-La’s software but relates to my ignorance about horse racing in general. This understandably puts myself and others of a similar position at a disadvantage when attempting to discuss the utilities merits especially when using the predictive simulation mode. The company attempted to alleviate this as it did feature a beginner’s mode which explained to novices how to use the statistics & explained the various terminology used unfortunately, this was only available when connected online which is now impossible. Obviously, if you happen to be a Japanese racing enthusiast this wouldn’t be a factor and realistically only people in this niche group would’ve likely purchased a copy of Yume Baken ’99’ Internet in the first place.
The second reason is much more serious more so now than for previous users and that relates to how Yume Baken ’99’ Internet was designed and the functionally it provided. The easiest way to think of this is that the disc was essentially a portal to an online service which through its subscribers could access and download data directly from the JRA’s servers. Given that the software needed an active subscription to take full advantage of the data accessible means that this poses a major hurdle as Shangri-La have been defunct for twenty years and any possibility of acquiring a subscription ended with the company.
The disc isn’t completely devoid of content as it includes some historical statistical data stored on the disc itself. It also features the ability to digitally recreate a limited number of races without either a subscription or internet connection. However, this realistically, pales in comparison to the full functionality that was offered by an online enabled Yume Baken ’99’ Internet and its now impossible to update with the disc now being more akin to a very limited historical archive.
I have to admit that despite my limited interaction with the software i was quite impressed with its overall presentation. It employs a neon aesthetic for its main menus which i found quite unusual as i thought it might be slightly bland given the subject matter and the amount of text it featured. The various sub menus of which there are many are all easily navigable and the information found is easily readable with clear text which in some similar software sadly isn’t always the case. Undoubtedly, the most impressive aspect of Yume Baken ’99’ Internet that i encountered was its predictive simulation race mode which features a comprehensive suite of camera options. Almost every angle conceivable is available all of which are adjustable in realtime and its quite easy to simulate a race just as i’d assume you’d see on a television broadcast.
The only real negative to the games visuals was quite surprising in that it doesn’t support the Dreamcast high-resolution VGA display option which for a mainly text based software whose developer released similar genre software for the Japanese computer market just struck me as something of a missed opportunity. While slightly disappointing i suspect this might’ve been due to the high initial cost & lack of necessary additional hardware by potential patrons but i’m probably overthinking the situation. Certainly, the lack of VGA support is quite baffling but it doesn’t detract as much as you might expect.
While the visual element is fairly solid overall the soundtrack in Yume Baken ’99’ Internet is definitely an eclectic mix and being honest while upbeat it’s not in the same league as you’d find in a traditional game title. As background music while browsing through menus its unintrusive which if you are studying lots of text probably would be quite welcome. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about this musical genre but it seems it would fall under what currently would be described as the hold musical style being more commonly found in tele communication settings hence the name. It might sound like I’m damming it with faint praise but for a niche piece of utility software its audio is at least serviceable. The simulated race mode fares much better as it replicates quite realistically the sound of a real horse race complete with commentary which is quite immersive in its overall effect. As long as you can appreciate that this isn’t a ‘game’ as such I personally, can’t be too negative about the audio found in Shangri-La’s title.
Unfortunately, this leaves Yume Baken ’99’ Internet as an awkward proposition as effectively the whole reason for its existence is rendered obsolete without access to the online servers. Most of the content which is included on the disc is now historical data which possibly might be of very limited interest to a Japanese racing aficionado but I suspect the appeal is likely marginal at best. Arguably, this is compounded as the JRA ‘s current official site allows you to browse race results by each year going as far back as two decades with similar information about trainers, jockeys & horses all being just as easily searchable. It seems that the current JRA website offers everything that Yume Baken ’99’ Internet did and more with only the user editable predictive simulation mode not being replicated.
I suspect that the title realistically had limited appeal as the number of horse racing enthusiasts who firstly owned a Dreamcast then decided to purchase a copy of Shangri-La’s utility software and then take out a subscription was ultimately minuscule. The other issue is this was the second such horse racing and statistical analysis & prediction utility software to be released as Shouei Systems My TrackMan which was in association with five prestigious racing newspapers had already been released. Realistically this could only have negatively affected the sales potential of Yume Baken ’99’ Internet as the demand for two titles with access to the same JRA data must’ve been negligible at best. The only officially announced sales figures seem to support my theory with My TrackMan apparently selling around three thousand copies more than Yume Baken ’99 Internet managed to achieve in around the same time period.
I have tried to find contemporary firsthand accounts of previous users of the software to provide a more complete view but unsurprisingly it proved to be something of an impossible task. 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. Over twenty years ago, when Shangri-La published their software the internet was a very different entity to the one that currently exists with dedicated software for each individual service. This makes attempting to review a physical disc which allowed access to a dedicated online service which ceased two decades previously confusing to attempt to describe or actually use. Personally, i think that it was probably a decent utility when it was released but without access to its servers there’s little point to purchase a copy currently.
As i’ve previously mentioned at the start of the article Shangri-La actually developed two titles for the Dreamcast their self-published title Yume Baken ’99 Internet which is covered in this post. The second of their developed titles was パンツァーフロント or Panzer Front which was published by ASCII Corporation Possibly due to Shangri-La becoming defunct but i’ll discuss this in-depth on the respective ASCII Corporation article which i’ll link to here once it’s been published to provide a complete record of the company’s Dreamcast output.
T-40101M Yume Baken ’99 Internet
(NOT FOR SALE) 非売品 discs & other media
I can honestly state that I’ve never encountered any individual 非売品 disc for Yume Baken ’99 Internet and nor would I realistically expect one to exist just by the very nature of the software. I can’t remember any content relating to it on any of the Dreamcast Magazine GD-Rom’s or the partner exclusive Dreamcast Express volumes. However, there is surprisingly some content relating to Shangri-La’s self-published title on SEGA’s Dream Preview Vol. 8 disc.
The content on this disc as you can imagine by its nature isn’t interactive but rather the software’s official video advertisement. This is quite intriguing as it shows how Shangri-La promoted Yume Baken ’99 Internet and provided some information about the functionality that simply can’t be accessed currently.
I think the main reason why not much promotional material was produced in support of Yume Baken ’99 Internet was simply due to being effectively a physical key to an online portal which didn’t make it a particularly easy title to promote outside basic print media & point of sale material. The only realistic candidate for supplementary material would possibly be a guidebook that outlined the various functions or historic races available but I’ve found no evidence to support one was ever published but I can’t confirm it conclusively.
As always 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 provide that much information about it in the way I would’ve liked mainly due to the subject matter and the online service it once provided. Part of why I wanted to do this particular article about Shangri-La is the distinct lack of information about them and their self-published Dreamcast title which has almost nothing relating to it currently online. Sadly, even when it was released it never generated much in the way of a presence either online or in-print articles so there’s not much archived information to research.
The best-case scenario is that ideally, with this article it might bring some information from former subscribers which could elaborate about the functionality it provided and their thoughts on how it compared to print media. If anyone in general could provide any information about Shangri-La especially relating to their formation & demise, I’d be very grateful and would credit them accordingly. If anyone can help you can contact me directly through the site or on Twitter @dreamcastcollector or Instagram @dreamcastcollector