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GTA: Chinatown Wars Did Not Sell Especially Well

Perhaps that's an understatement.

Apparently you aren't interested in dual-screen criminalism.
The NPD Group's monthly sales figures dropped today, delivering the company's estimated game sales figures for the month of March. While there's a complete look at software and hardware sales in there, the number everyone is focusing in on right now is the one attached to Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Though it was a mid-month release and, obviously, only had about two weeks of sales in the month, The DS-only GTA raked in sales around the 89,000 mark.

I try to avoid too many stories about sales figures because I'm not an analyst, and most of you reading this site aren't, either. But when the world's largest modern video game franchise can't breakthrough and give people a good reason to get M-rated on one of the most pervasive platforms of all time--the Nintendo DS--it sends a pretty clear message across the industry. I have to imagine that any DS game publisher that didn't already know that the sales were coming in under expectations is probably looking at the spreadsheet of sales figures and planning development accordingly. In short, I wouldn't expect to see a ton of adult-targeted DS games in the future, and I wouldn't be surprised if this had a similarly chilling effect on Wii development.

The truly disappointing part, of course, is that Chinatown Wars is an amazing game that makes great use of the DS while still providing a decidedly GTA-like experience. It didn't feel half-assed in any way, it came along with terrific worth of mouth, high review scores, and a pretty decent marketing push, too. But if the audience isn't interested in that style of content, no amount of marketing will convince them to buy it en masse.

And I could be wrong, but this looks like a case of the audience sending a pretty clear message about what it wants on the DS. What do you think?
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
194 Comments Refresh
Posted by Jeff
Apparently you aren't interested in dual-screen criminalism.
The NPD Group's monthly sales figures dropped today, delivering the company's estimated game sales figures for the month of March. While there's a complete look at software and hardware sales in there, the number everyone is focusing in on right now is the one attached to Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Though it was a mid-month release and, obviously, only had about two weeks of sales in the month, The DS-only GTA raked in sales around the 89,000 mark.

I try to avoid too many stories about sales figures because I'm not an analyst, and most of you reading this site aren't, either. But when the world's largest modern video game franchise can't breakthrough and give people a good reason to get M-rated on one of the most pervasive platforms of all time--the Nintendo DS--it sends a pretty clear message across the industry. I have to imagine that any DS game publisher that didn't already know that the sales were coming in under expectations is probably looking at the spreadsheet of sales figures and planning development accordingly. In short, I wouldn't expect to see a ton of adult-targeted DS games in the future, and I wouldn't be surprised if this had a similarly chilling effect on Wii development.

The truly disappointing part, of course, is that Chinatown Wars is an amazing game that makes great use of the DS while still providing a decidedly GTA-like experience. It didn't feel half-assed in any way, it came along with terrific worth of mouth, high review scores, and a pretty decent marketing push, too. But if the audience isn't interested in that style of content, no amount of marketing will convince them to buy it en masse.

And I could be wrong, but this looks like a case of the audience sending a pretty clear message about what it wants on the DS. What do you think?
Staff
Posted by Arkthemaniac

I am just tired of GTA. That's why I'm not interested.

Posted by JJOR64

This makes me worry if a GTA will ever come to the Wii.

Posted by raven_squad

Well, thats not good. Hopefully it doesnt stop developers from making mature games on the platform... I'm sure it will though. :( 

Posted by AceTKen

Well, I bought it to play on my new DSI, but the control kinda sucks. Hard. Camera is WAY too zoomed in for the speed you need to travel.

Edited by Aska

Wow, I was expecting around 100,000 when I read your title, and even then I would be a shocked.  This is really surprising.

Posted by Kinarion

Really too bad.  Great gameplay, meaningful online content.

Posted by Bulby33

Buy this damn game you stupid DS owners. It's amazing.

Posted by Delta_Ass

Kids on the streets who own a Nintendo DS are selling crack for reals yo, they don't need to play it in a game.

Posted by JoshS

I, like arkthemaniac, am burned out on GTA style games. I think this one was just too soon for most people with so many open world driving games coming out recently. Not to mention, they targetted the audience most likely to have an R4 or similar device.

Edited by Vigorousjammer

I didn't even know the game was out until I read this article!

it looked pretty good too... they should have advertised more...

that's the real reason it didn't sell... lack of advertising.
Posted by Oy

I own a DS and I loved GTAIV.  But I didn't  buy this.  I can't take too much GTA.  I skipped San Andreas last gen because I had enough.

Posted by TrakMastaTom

This is a bummer.  GTA is a pretty great DS game.

I want to think this is because of the state of the economy and other reasons...but it probably isn't.

:(

Posted by dsplayer1010

That's actually pretty surprising considering all the praise it's getting and the fact that it's GTA.

Posted by Artemis_D

That's just sad.  As DS systems that are out there, and this game doesn't sale?  If I had one, I would've bought this game, day one.  I don't know if this is due to the economy or if there is just something wrong with DS owners...

Posted by Teptom

I never really liked the GTA series. I played half of Vice City and stopped and barely started IV. It's just not my top of game. Although, I never played the original top-down ones, so maybe I'll enjoy Chinatown Wars more.  

Edited by BiggerBomb

I'm not surprised. It's a very DS-oriented game, one that and bears no immediately recognizable resemblance to the "household" Grand Theft Auto (GTA III-IV) series that has become so successful in recent years.

Posted by radiOlactive

I only know two persons that own that game, both of them pirated it

Posted by AllanIceman

This makes me so sad.

Posted by FlappyHands

Man, that's a bit of a bummer... I don't have a DS so that's the main reason I'm not playing this, but if I did have one I would totally get it. Everyone seems to think it's a quality product, so why is nobody buying? I think you hit the nail on the head, Jeff, in regard to adult-targeted content. That kind of depresses me, because it's going to limit the spectrum of content on Nintendo platforms. Every fool will be pumping out family-friendly games, and the developers who do want to do something more adult-oriented will have a harder time finding a publisher, or even going ahead with development of something like that in the first place.

I guess Nintendo's approach to the masses and younger aundiences is relentless to the degree where people looking for more mature-themed content will be looking to other platforms for their fix, and that's a bummer both for the consumer and for developers who want to take advantage of the hardware to make something neat for a more mature audience. I'm sure mature games will still come out on those platforms, but maybe not as many.

Posted by JoshS

Exactly, radiOlactive. Everyone I know personally pirated it instead of buying it.

Posted by BlackCyan

That's a real shame, I need good games for my DSi, I don't just want a ton of kids games. 

Posted by Scooper

It's sad but true that the majority of DS owners want Brain Age so if that's what's pushing the most sales then publishers will want more games that sell to that majority instead of awesome games that sell to the hardcore minority which is true for both the DS and Wii.

Posted by manathirst

If the game doesn't do well on the DS, Rockstar can still do a downloadable version of it for the PS3 and 360.

Posted by LordAndrew

Very disappointing. I hope this doesn't prevent more mature games from appearing on the DS; but why bother if it's not going to sell?

Posted by Apathylad

From my understanding, some DS games sell more over a long term, rather than what they would initially. I'm not sure if that's what will happen with GTA: CW

Posted by Nasar7

I think it should be taken as a wake-up call, GTA is not a sure-seller, just like any other game franchise, especially in these hard times. I personally don't own a DS as mine got robbed several years back, but I dont think its really about the content or quality of the game so much as the timing. I, for one, do not need the bombardment of GTA we've had since San Andreas came out i.e. all the compilations, side stories, and portable games.

Posted by AndrewB

89,000 isn't bad, either. It just isn't what you'd expect a top tiered franchise game to sell. I think Chinatown wars is simply an oddity; being an M rated game on a "family friendly" console, while also having a cartoony art style that may turn off the "mature" audience a bit. Besides that, it seems a lot of people have moved on from the 2d, top-down view GTA games.

Posted by theMcNasty

That game was brilliant, I don't know what everybody's fucking problem is.

Posted by bwooduhs

This sucks because that was one of the best games the DS has seen.

Posted by kagekage

i personally thought that if rockstar made a GTA  on the PSP they would have had better sales.
no matter how cool the DS is to make a GTA on, most of the people that own a DS are kids.
this was a pretty dumb risk to take.

Posted by Godwind

I didn't like the GTA series all that much.  It just comes down to personal choice.

Posted by thedeusmachine

Am I the only University student who owns and plays his DS still?  I haven't been able to afford new games often but I threw caution to the wind and bought this almost as soon as it came out.  How could you ignore the reviews for this game.  The drug dealing aspect is worth it alone!  What's the matter with you people, are you all waiting for Carnival Games DS?

Posted by Bucketdeth

Kind of sad, I love the GTA franchise and I was planning on getting a DS just for this game, hopefully it can get it's sales up a little some way.

Posted by Shuborno

Yikes.

I think part of the issue might be that they were selling The Lost and the Damned and Chinatown Wars on different platforms, but to the same audience in roughly the same time frame.

I did pick up Chinatown Wars, but I hesitated because I'd just finished GTA IV and was a little burnt out on GTA.  I'm glad I picked it up, since the game is both a great game in its own right and an excellent design for a portable game catered to quick sessions.

It's too bad that this might mean we won't get more games designed for adults on the DS.  Chinatown Wars has me playing my DS in longer sessions than I played Ninja Gaiden DS (also a great game that apparently didn't sell).

Edited by Knives

This is a non-story.


1) It was released on the 17th, so that's two weeks of data.
2) Also, the DSi was released at the beginning of April. It won't be surprising when the numbers for GTA in April far exceed the numbers in March (for both this reason and also for the reason above).
3) It was released at a $40 price point at an especially bad time for the industry. 
4) Lastly, this is probably the most important. DS games have legs. Mario Kart sold 100,00 the first week and 200,000 in the first month,and is now at 15 million. I'm not saying GTA will sell anywhere near that much, but it WILL go platnium probably by the end of the year.



Edited by Fbomb

Well, I am an analyst for a living, and I'll go ahead and say that the numbers aren't good, being a mid-month release or not. That said, I don't have a database to access to drill down and try to find out why the numbers aren't great, and don't plan on paying thousands of dollars to access NPD's data. It's easy to blame industry slow-down, but this is a resilient franchise, so my gut would go with blaming the platform. Even so, I can't substantiate that claim in the least, though I have a feeling I'm not far from the truth. Nintendo has rebranded themself with the wii and DS as being pick up and play platforms, so an underwhelming performance from a full-featured game offering aligns pretty well with that brand image, as it no longer suits the Nintendo platform. If anyone has an NPD data cube from this past month (and historicals for the past couple years), I could give you a better answer, but I don't see that happening any time soon. Besides, gamers that read these sites prefer to speculate themselves.

Posted by snake6phw

Why is everyone forgetting how EASY it is to pirate DS games?

Posted by jimibighits

well GTA4 got great reviews and sold well but that game wasn't  worth the money so people proly figure a DS GTA will be even worse

Posted by goatmilk

Considering DS flash carts are under $10 nowdays this doesn't really surprise me. :(

Posted by Aaron_G

I feel like I need to go get this game. 

Edited by Linkyshinks

I really would not read too much into these figures at all, the game will sell ample over it's life, people just need to be made aware that such content both exists and is awesome. Once they are made aware, watch sales pick up significantly.

The notion that content of it's type simply does not sell, simply does not wash with me.

Posted by Biggie

Yeah I think that most people that would be interested in playing an M rated game on a DS will have a fash card... I can't tell you how many I see on the subway with a fashcard in their DS. Only system that has worse piracy is the PSP.

Posted by Sargus

I absoltely LOVE Chinatown Wars, and have seen ads about it around the internet... I can't believe it didn't sell better. Isn't it the highest rated game on the DS now? A well-deserved honor if you ask me.

Posted by MeatSim

Never much cared for the 2d top down GTA games.

Posted by Lilarcor

Didn't buy it, but I don't like Grand Theft Auto in general so I'm not part of the target audience anyway.

Posted by wildmatt

There was a rumor out there about a GTA iPhone game, possibly even based on the DS's game's engine. Since the sales aren't great, and Payback doing so good on the iPhone, I could see it happening.

Posted by insanejedi

I'm surprised that people are surprised. The main demographic for DS holders are family people ages 6-12 and 25 and over, if not they are people between 12-25 that don't play games very often. Are there some hardcore DS players? Of course there are, but when you center it down to people who enjoy violent madness, durgs, and crime your speaking to a very niche audience. There is a reason why the top selling games feature Mario or something relatable like Dogs, because they are non-intimidating games that service customers who don't play games very often. It's simple sales math.

Edited by Ben_H

Too bad.  Especially since it's (In my opinion) 10 times more fun than GTA4.  Figuring out how much money you will make selling cocaine really helps with your math skills.

Posted by insanejedi

To add that and compare, what are the best selling games on PSP? Monster Hunter, Daxter, GTA, Metal Gear, and Final Fantasy. Games that very much service the middle age man that is very into games. What are the best selling games on the DS though? Nintendogs, Mario, Pokemon, Brainage, Animal Crossing. Non-intimidating casual games that people who have not played games in a long time can play.