How Twitter helped bring a cult game back to life

The gaming community on Twitter is massive, and it brings together many interconnecting subcommunities, including esports, gaming tribes and hardware. But this is the story of how Twitter helped revive the much-loved console game Shenmue...

How Twitter helped bring a cult game back to life

Gamers go on Twitter to share tips, tricks, and game footage. But that’s not all. They also change culture on the platform bringing games back from the dead. This is the story of how fans revived the classic action-adventure game Shenmue. 

Shenmue is a Japanese video game, produced and directed by Yu Suzuki, and developed by Sega in 1999. Fans regularly celebrate it on Twitter with the game even having its own day – the third day of each month named #ShenmueDay. People come together on Twitter to talk and debate about the game they love. 

But Shenmue II, its last release, was in 2001. Fans loved it so much that they wanted it to make a comeback and they used Twitter to drive a campaign to do exactly that, raising funds for the creation of a long-awaited third instalment. 

And it worked.

Crowdfunders aimed for £1.6m ($2m) and raised nearly four times that amount. It hit its original target in eight hours 43 minutes of the campaign going live. #Shenmue3 is set for release nearly 20 years after its previous chapter. 

Neilo and Ys Net are developing the game and Deep Silver are hoping to publish it by the end of 2019 for Windows and PlayStation 4. The story continues teenage martial artist Ryo Hazuki's quest to find his father's killer in 1980s China.

Game on Twitter
The passion shared on Twitter for Shenmue highlights how gaming thrives on the platform. It's why Twitter focused on gaming as a part of research to understand the audience on Twitter in the UK. The study uncovered the communities that thrive on Twitter and drive conversation.

Using a combination of cutting-edge data science analysis2 and traditional market research, The study1 identified 75 subcommunities, finding what motivates them and how brands can best engage. 

The gaming industry has come a long way since the ‎#retrogaming days of Atari arcades, the Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum. On Twitter, gaming fans are redefining how the rest of the world sees the gaming community. The gaming industry has grown into a rapidly growing audience of ‎esports legends, gaming tribes, and hardware loyalists.

Three ways brands can get in with gamers on Twitter

The research found that there are numerous ways brands can connect with the gaming community. Here are the top three:

 1. Esports sponsorship
Sponsoring esports players and tournaments is a great way to increase brand visibility on Twitter. It also further legitimises the sport and provides money for competitions, which is a win for players and tournament organisers.

2. Collaborate with gamers
Like in other interests, aligning with high-profile gamers is an effective way for brands to build affinity.

3. Increase awareness and promote inclusivity
Brands can help gamers challenge stereotypes and bring gaming to a broader audience.  

Sources | 1. Jaywing, Join The Dots and Twitter, 'Flocks - Uncovering communities on Twitter', June 2019, UK 2. To conduct the research, Twitter partnered with data-science agency Jaywing (‎@jaywingsays) and insight agency Join the Dots (‎@WeJoinTheDots) to crunch and analyse the data based on follower graphs and Twitter bios. It combined this work with online diaries from each community, in-depth interviews, cultural analysis, and a quantitative survey (total n=1,500) to ensure the most robust results.

The analysis uncovered the unique roles that Twitter plays within each community and the reasons people engage with their communities. For brands, the research identified what they can do to make sure that when they get involved with these communities, they can be successful.