GTA: Chinatown Wars sales a 'disappointment'

Mature handheld game sells under 90,000 units, analysts slash full-year expectations for DS title

Rockstar and Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars sold under 89,000 units during March in the US, according to the latest investor note from Cowan and Company.

The firm had originally suggested the game could sell as many as 2 million units in if first year of sale in the US, but has now slashed forecasts to just 500,000 units.

"Despite a strong critical reception, Take-Two's GTA: Chinatown Wars sold a very disappointing 89,000 units in March, well below our more recent 200-250,000 estimate and far below the 400-450,000 we thought the title might sell upon its release," wrote Doug Creutz.

Although sales did not meet expectations, Cowan suggested it was an indication of the difficulties third-party publishers face in the Nintendo market, and not due to the quality of the title.

"Take-Two exported their most valuable IP onto the most widely distributed gaming platform, and created the most highly-rated title in the history of that platform," detailed Creutz. "We knew there were some uphill challenges due to the demographics of the platform, but believed there were enough core gamers/adults owning a DS that the title could still perform very well.

"However, either the demographics are more challenging than we thought, or core gamers did not view the title as an essential purchase due to the nature of the platform.

"We believe the experiment was a worthwhile one for Take-Two, and still expect the title to be profitable (though likely marginally so). However, the disappointing first month sales reinforce our view that achieving meaningful success on Nintendo platforms remains a very difficult proposition for third party publishers," he added.

US sales results from The NPD Group last night revealed that March software sales for the US were down 17 per cent to USD 792.83 million, comared to USD 952.14 million for the same period in 2008.

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Latest comments (9)

Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire13 years ago
At what point is anyone likely to admit to the huge problem of piracy on this platform? Given this title targets elder/mature and presumably more streetwise consumers, this is in the hotspot of R4 (and similar) piracy. The more hard-core a title is on this platform, the more likely sales will suffer - the quality of the title only makes it even more acute.
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games13 years ago
I think i would agree with Martyn here about the target audience and piracy. They are usually more prone to it than casual gamers.

Maybe the game will pick up pace later on. Lets see.

I'd like to see the sales pattern in this period. Perhaps people buy less games on portables and more on home consoles and PC??
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.13 years ago
While it's a critical success, I believe fans of the series were completely unimpressed with the top down perspective. Those who have played it know it's a fantastic game but I've known many fans of the series who won't even touch the game because of the perspective.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jim Webb on 17th April 2009 1:41pm

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Samer Abbas Co founder & COO, Play 3arabi13 years ago
Another thing they didn't factor in their analysis is the game's advertising campaign.

Did Chinatown Wars get as much or comparable spots and exposure as the home console ones got? (I'd like to know)

That, and I think it has less to do with the demographics and more with the platform itself. GTA might just not be the game for portables, esp. when you have a compelling home console alternative experience.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samer Abbas on 17th April 2009 3:20pm

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Pat Forde , Gamesnash13 years ago
I think Martyn has hit the nail on the head. Piracy among DS titles is absolutely rife. For every one of those disappointing 89,000 sales you can safely assume another 89,000 people purchased or downloaded for free a pirated copy. We've noticed DS software sales decline dramatically over the past year. Even the mothers in the local playgroup are trading pirated cards around as a way to beat the recession !

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.13 years ago
Samer, you are correct regarding the marketing. It was not even up to the same level as the PSP GTA titles.

Ironically enough, I do believe that GTA: CW on DS has sold similarly to the first month as GTA: VCS did on PSP. I don't recall it being labeled a failure upon release.
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Caspar Field Consultant, Talk Management13 years ago
Perhaps we as an industry should be asking ourselves whether saturation bombing the DS shelf space in Game and Gamestation with substandard/ cash-in products might have some bearing on both the public's desire to pirate games, and on its reluctance to keep buying the titles we shovel out? Didn't the same thing happen on PS2 towards the end of its life? Massive piracy at a time of massive numbers of me-too, unimaginative releases?

I've heard complaints about piracy in this industry for the best part of 30 years. Given that we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of technology, isn't it about time we found a technical solution to this problem and put an end to it once and for all?

The faster we translate the audience to a totally digital download model the better. I note that below this story sits a link to 'Lost and Damned hits 1m sales' and another to 'GTA IV add-on sells 323,000 in two weeks in US' - there lies the future!
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire13 years ago
I tend to agree Caspar, although I wouldn't necessarily blame a bloated and saturated 3rd party market on DS for the disappointing sales of GTA on DS :) visiting the UK stores lately, Chinatown was exceptionally prominent in terms of in-store-promotion. Just a pity that the ROM was leaked (as is traditional) a week or so prior to hitting retail after what I know was concerted efforts at R*Leeds to try and make the game crash/lock on R4. If I learned one thing in our Amiga days and the fight against outrageous levels of piracy was that every week spent on developing copy protection usually meant an hour or so of actual protection.

The most effective way to combat this is to fight fire with fire and confuse the torrents and usergroups with tons of fake ISO's, ROMs and builds in the build up to release, creating confusion and distrust of what's being downloaded.

But yeah, effective digital DRM and it'll be much better.
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These sales only cover 2 weeks of NPD coverage - very conveniently not mentioned. Sales in April NPD will be the litmus test - Easter, DSi launch, full month of sales.

Do agree that more hard-core DS titles are likely to suffer from more piracy - pretty much the same reason PSP software sales are generally so poor (piracy is even worse).

I'm currently playing Chinatown Wars - and its an amazing game.
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