Inspired by a recent interview with French fan site Shenmue Master at the Toulouse Game Show, the Team Yu project is founded with the aim of educating gamers on the distinction between Sega's unwillingness to publish Shenmue III, and Suzuki's own desire to continue the series for its fans.
Building on partnerships with fan communities Shenmue-UK and Shenmue 500K, the first Shenmue Tweetathon is held on March 3rd, inviting fans to converge on Twitter for a day's activity around the hashtag #GiveYuTheShenmueLicense - expressing that if Sega is not committed to the future of the franchise, then the company may as well give up the rights to someone who is.
Days after the inaugural Tweetathon, tenuous interpretations of a GameReactor interview with then-Sega brand manager Ben Harbourne lead to widespread hysteria in anticipation of Shenmue HD re-releases. A questionably sourced report on the unknown GamerZines website then fuels speculation (and advertising revenue) with a supposed leak that HD remakes have been completed for over a year. Despite the story being dismissed by another then-Sega employee the wider media still runs with it and continues to reference the rumor for years to come.
Cédric Biscay's Shibuya International, a company built around business links between France and Japan and which helped organize Suzuki's appearances at the Toulouse Game Show the previous November, launches Shibuya Productions, a subsidiary specializing in the production of video games and animations.
Yosuke Okunari & Steve Lycett
Steve Lycett, head of Sumo Digital, expresses his desire in an interview with the UK's Official Xbox Magazine to see Yu Suzuki put Shenmue III on Kickstarter. Cédric Biscay tells the Shenmue Master fan site that Suzuki is aware of crowdfunding operations but Sega is not considering this option and will not release the Shenmue license without compensation.
Fans complete a Spanish translation of Shenmue.
Yu Suzuki receives an award from the ACMI Game Masters exhibition in Australia.
Yu Suzuki & Ryan Payton
On the day of the fifth monthly Tweetathon, 1UP.com publishes an article about the campaign, approaching various friends for comment. One of whom - Camouflaj founder and recently successful crowdfunder of République, Ryan Payton - espouses the virtues of crowdfunding for Shenmue III, noting "somebody's got to mobilize this rabid community - they will help make this game a reality." Some months later, Payton approaches Suzuki with this idea and begins selling him on the concept of Kickstarter.
A fan recreates Ryo Hazuki's bedroom using CryEngine 3.
Cédric Biscay & Yu Suzuki
GBR gamebytesradio begins supporting the Tweetathon each month with a 24-hour playlist of Shenmue tunes streaming throughout the event.
Shenmue Dojo gets involved in the Tweetathon for the first time.
Yu Suzuki appears at the Monaco Anime Game Show, promoted by Shibuya International. Reports from fans in attendance help us clear up numerous cases of mistranslation and misreporting of the on-stage Q&A session. Most noteable amongst the genuine news that did emerge from the event is Suzuki being unaware of any plans by Sega to re-release Shenmue 1 & 2.
Yu Suzuki & Mark Cerny
Having barely unpacked his bags after the trip to MAGS, Suzuki jets off to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference. Whilst there, a photograph taken with former Sega colleague (and architect of the PlayStation 4) Mark Cerny creates a stir when GDC's general manager claims they are "talking strategy for Shenmue III," declining requests to confirm whether she was joking. MAGS promoter and future Shenmue III co-producer Cédric Biscay dismisses the tweet as "a simple publicity shot for the GDC," reiterating this sentiment in a later interview with Shenmue Master.
One month after the Tweetathon's first anniversary, the event is continuing to grow and makes its first use of Thunderclap to simultaneously release a batch of tweets pre-loaded by fans leading up to the deadline. This is later replaced by a custom AutoTweet tool on the Team Yu website, coded by David Brown of Mooncalf Studios.
Shenmue Dojo holds a 70 Man Battle contest, assisted by Team Yu, inviting fans to film themselves completing this climactic section of the first game in the fastest time to win an Exclusive edition Ryo Hazuki statue supplied by First 4 Figures.
Corey Marshall's autograph
Voice actor Corey Marshall dispels rumors of new studio work on Shenmue III, stemming purely from a change to his Facebook profile.
Art by Jonathan Neasham
The campaign begins targeting Sony's #BuildingTheList survey, run by Gio Corsi's Third Party Productions team in search of requests for titles to bring to PlayStation platforms.
Sega's CS Research and Development producer Yosuke Okunari claims that their next line-up of HD re-releases "will depend on all of your voices, so please continue to support us." When approached by fans on Twitter, he clarifies that although he would like to play more Shenmue, requests should be directed to Sega West - the most common addressee during 20 monthly Tweetathons thus far.
Overlapping the Tweetathon, gamers raise money for the SickKids charity by playing Shenmue 1 & 2 on Twitch for 25 straight hours.
Answering a tweet, Microsoft's Phil Spencer makes his first public comments on the prospect of Shenmue III on Xbox One: "I like Shenmue as well but it's a Sega IP. MS Studios doesn't have much pull at Sega. I'll recommend to our 3rd party team."
The campaign replaces its old hashtag #GiveYuTheShenmueLicense with the newly announced #SaveShenmue.
Fan-made smartphone app Shenmue Cassette Player is released for Android.
A Team Yu Twibbon is introduced to help Twitter and Facebook users raise awareness of the campaign in their profile pictures.
Fan-made browser game Excite QTT (Quick Time Typing) is launched online.
Ys Net reveals a new browser-based Virtua Fighter spin-off, and Suzuki continues to debate Kickstarter for Shenmue III.
Spencer follows up by using the #SaveShenmue hashtag on Twitter.
Rumors continue over Shenmue III being "as close to being announced as it has ever been over the past decade," according to a reporter following a "small private audience with Yu Suzuki" at GDC in March.
Phil Spencer encourages gamers to lobby for the return of their favorite games from the original Xbox. Fans waste no time in reminding him which console was required to play Shenmue II in North America.
Team Yu gets a discreet message to Yu Suzuki via Ali Novin, encouraging the view that if neither private investment nor crowdfunding is shaping up to be wholly workable for Shenmue III on its own, then both methods could be used to offset each other, with any risk-averse investors possibly agreeing to support the project on the condition that measurable demand for the game is proven by fans pledging a minimum target amount.
Yu Suzuki & Gamelab guests
Another E3 comes and goes without a Shenmue III announcement, but Yu Suzuki remains active and reassuring words are offered by Sony's Adam Boyes, while fans continue to petition Microsoft through an official Xbox poll.
Lisle Wilkerson's autographs
Team Yu's founder appears on the Chipped Podcast to promote the campaign.
Fans complete English, Spanish, and German translations of the "What's Shenmue?" demo.
Corey Marshall and other performers restate their support for the #SaveShenmue campaign.
A documentary is announced, later to be titled A Gamer's Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue. The project receives publicity from IGN while supporting the campaign.
On the 20th anniversary of PlayStation, only one game appears on every wishlist for Christmas.
Organizers of the ACMI Game Masters exhibition featuring Yu Suzuki titles promote the Tweetathon.
Ali Novin & Takeyuki Ogura
A second attempt is made to vote Shenmue's soundtrack into the Classic FM Hall of Fame.
The campaign passes a milestone of three years of monthly Tweetathons.
With Yu Suzuki attending another GDC, a former colleague who worked on Shenmue's dynamic weather system comments on the importance of fans actively campaigning to save Shenmue.
Tweetathon participants continue to influence their fellow gamers into showing solidarity for the cause.
Yu Suzuki resumes activity on his long-dormant Twitter account.
Data Discs offers a limited edition copy of its official Shenmue soundtrack LP to participants in the Tweetathon.
Yu Suzuki & Adam Boyes
Suzuki-san is introduced by Adam Boyes onto Sony's stage at E3 and, to a reaction like no other, announces a Kickstarter for Shenmue III that crashes the site and reaches its $2 million target in record time. Ys Net, PlayStation, and the main Sony account all tweet the campaign hashtag.
Co-producer Cédric Biscay of Shibuya Productions comments on the manufactured drama: "I think that the media's desire to create buzz around this issue will strain our campaign by at least $2m. I don't have any words for the minority of journalists who seem to sometimes forget their duty to provide information by writing about their interpretations rather than facts."
The first ever #SaveShenmue QTE is announced by Team Yu and retweeted by Suzuki-san, introducing a new campaign concept requiring fans to converge online at the exact same time for a chance to win two names in the credits of Shenmue III by spreading useful information about the game.
Fundraising on Kickstarter comes to a close with a record total of $6,333,295 pledged by 69,320 backers, and Yu Suzuki confirming on Twitch that due to strong demand, a PayPal option will be put in place for those who were unable to back the game through Kickstarter. Industry figures to have personally donated via Kickstarter include Peter Moore (now of EA) and Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida.
The campaign rebrands as #SaveShenmueHD to push for re-releases of Shenmue 1 & 2 on current formats, thus increasing potential sales of Shenmue III and securing the future of the series.
Gio Corsi, Adam Boyes & Yu Suzuki
NoconKid uses his latest video to promote the #SaveShenmueHD campaign.
NoconKid & Yu Suzuki
During the #SaveShenmueHD Tweetathon, Ys Net announces the hiring of NoconKid to apply the skills demonstrated in his homemade Shenmue HD videos to Shenmue III.
Sega Europe marketing director Jon Rooke appears to suggest the company is exploring the possibility of Shenmue 1 & 2 remakes, though paraphrasing of his precise words causes confusion amongst fans and reporters.
Corey Marshall signing an LP
Team Yu launches the Winning Can Raffle, providing Shenmue III's PayPal backers the chance to win coveted prizes donated by generous fans along with First 4 Figures, who offer their new exclusive edition Lan Di statue to one of the winning ticket holders, and Corey Marshall, who offers to sign and personalize some of the items up for grabs.
Shenmue III co-producer Cédric Biscay addresses the #SaveShenmueHD campaign and speaks of the importance of re-releasing Shenmue 1 & 2 in HD before the new sequel's release.
Shenmue Dojo's webmaster is interviewed by Retro Gamer magazine.
A decision not to add Kickstarter-exclusive rewards to those already available on the PayPal crowdfunding site is misreported by journalists implying PayPal backers will receive no rewards at all. Once again it's left to those paying attention to fight against the tide and show other sites how to research a story.
The final set of results in the Winning Can Raffle are announced, with tickets received for the contest representing over $2.5K spent on the Shenmue III PayPal campaign.
Yu Suzuki & David De ville
Fans make the most of an official survey from Sega to express demand for Shenmue 1 & 2 HD.
To mark the 50th consecutive monthly Tweetathon, contests are held throughout the day and a teaser video is revealed to announce an interview with Yu Suzuki secretly held by Team Yu and the Shenmue Dojo fan site at MAGIC Monaco. The full video and written report are published the following day.
Dan Sheridan & TheSkillJim
Responding to a deluge of fan questions about the whereabouts of Shenmue 1 & 2 HD, Sega Europe states the company "would love to release these tomorrow" and is "currently investigating how to make it a reality," but cites "complications from licensed products that were included in the original games." Most of the games media reports this as a step in the right direction with possible cause for concern over the licensing issues, while a minority of reporters exaggerate the story as confirmation of the games being greenlit.
In partnership with Japan Cat Network, Team Yu launches the Shenmue Heart of Gold campaign to raise funding for shelter animals in Japan, inspired by Ryo's compassion for an orphaned kitten in the game. Lisle Wilkerson's own rescue cat Princess Genki acts as feline ambassador, with Shenmue III music composer Ryuji Iuchi and co-producer Shibuya Productions also helping to raise awareness.
Now known as a Shenmue III advisor, Ryan Payton encourages campaigners to continue requesting Shenmue HD from Sega.
Without direct prompting, Sega Europe COO Jurgen Post acknowledges that Shenmue has been "pretty much at the top of every list of titles that people wanted to see revived."
Jurgen Post speaks in more detail about Shenmue, stating that Sega is "looking into" remakes of the first two games and that they have the company's "full attention," while reiterating his colleague's earlier comments from May about licensing contracts that Sega "will need to renegotiate" before the games can be greenlit. Meanwhile, Sega Europe registers several website domain names suggesting an active interest in Shenmue HD remasters.
Seventeen years after its release, hidden animation data is discovered by a fan within the code of the playable "What's Shenmue?" demo matching the victory pose of Virtua Fighter's Akira, formerly the lead character of the game during development.
Cédric Biscay restates the need for Sega to release new versions of Shenmue 1 & 2 on modern platforms.
On the 30th anniversary of the start date in Shenmue's story, a live playthrough on Twitch raises money for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Fan-made Mini Shenmue RPG is released for the Saturn platform, playable via emulator.
Cédric Biscay tweets his own direct plea to Sega to #SaveShenmueHD following the first Tweetathon of the year.