Take-Two’s (TTWO) Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is dying on the shelves.
We noted earlier this week that analysts were split on how well the game would do when the NPD Group reported US video game sales for March. Estimates ranged from 450,000 units sold on the high end to as low as only 200,000.
Now we have data, and the number is far worse than the most conservative estimates: 88,704.
(Industry sources provided us with the data — not on the report — and we’ve asked NPD for confirmation.)
The game is the latest in a hugely successful franchise and received a stunning 94 points on Metacritic, practically the video game equivalent of winning multiple Oscars.
So how did Take-Two flub a sure thing? Chinatown Wars was built for the wrong console. The title — whose gameplay centres around drug dealing, cold-blooded murder, and sex — is only available on the Nintendo DS, who’s primary audience is children. Parents refused to let their kids play, and the adult DS audience just isn’t that big.
Take-Two reps tell us in a phone call that they remain confident in the long-term success of Chinatown Wars, and they note March was difficult for all video game publishers, with sales down 17% across the industry.
Chinatown Wars may yet find life down the road, but all in all a rare misstep from Take-Two. And the winner here might actually be Sony (SNE): The Chinatown Wars disaster will likely scare other publishers away from making new adult-themed games for the Nintendo DS. Some may redirect efforts towards Sony’s PSP, which targets a somewhat older crowd.