Speaking during an earnings presentation on Wednesday, Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors claimed the YsNet title’s performance showed it’s not a mass market product.
“Shenmue 3 is an IP and a product I love and, you know, I think financially it’s fine and I’m glad that the core fans are pleased,” he said.
“However, I think it’s a challenge to see this as a mass market product. This is a core niche product and I think that’s the comment I’d like to do on that game.”
The long-awaited RPG sequel released for PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store in November 2019. It appeared to get off to a difficult start, debuting at No. 17 on the UK chart and selling just 18,000 copies during its launch week in Japan.
In the UK, Shenmue 3 sold a little more than half of the previous year’s Shenmue 1 and 2 remaster at launch.
However, sales will have been skewed by Shenmue 3’s huge Kickstarter success. In 2016 the project raised over $6.3 million from 69,320 backers, making it the highest funded video game Kickstarter in history.
Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki had previously pledged to continue making Shenmue games “as long as there are those who wish to see Shenmue live on.”
The commitment was made via an in-game letter to fans shown during Shenmue 3’s staff credits.
In the letter, Suzuki said he would “never give up” on his ambition to complete the overall Shenmue story, which has previously been estimated to be less than 50% complete by the end of the third game. In a 2015 AMA, Suzuki said he would like to complete 11 story chapters across at least five games.
The designer told VGC at Gamescom 2019 that plans for Shenmue 4 would be made easier if sales of the third game are good. However, he added that the future of the series would be more dependent on which partners he can secure.
In the same interview, the veteran Sega designer suggested he could be in discussions to return to his classic series Virtua Fighter and Out Run.