Friday, April 17, 2009

Nintendo consoles no vehicle for mature games?

The high-profile DS title ´Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars´ has sold a mere 88.704 units in the US in March, prompting fears that Nintendo platforms simply are not the right vehicle for mature games. In the face of rave reviews for the game, analyst Eric Krangel found some very strong words regarding the poor sales figures.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is dying on the shelves. (...) So how did Take-Two flub a sure thing? Chinatown Wars was built for the wrong console. The title -- whose gameplay centers 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 videogame 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.

In the story's comments, a GameFAQs moderator seems to accuse Krangel of bias and points out that "the highest profile game on the PSP this month sold only a mere 55,000 units. So it bombed even harder than Chinatown Wars."

To be sure, Eric Krangel is just as critical of other consoles. The same author recently called the PlayStation3 a "sinking ship" which is "flopping so badly".

So, purely objectively, are mature titles like ´Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars´ wasted on Nintendo platforms? Or will they deliver impressive sales figures in the long run?

I have argued that 2009 will become the crossroads for the Wii regarding mature games. By the end of this year, 20 survival horror games should be available for the platform, as well as the undisputably most violent videogame ever, ´MadWorld´. This game, alongside ´House of the Dead: Overkill´, is probably also the most stylish videogame to be released in a long time. There will be five titles in the ´Resident Evil´ series, two of which are exclusives. Sales figures for games like these will either pave the way for more such games or will turn developers of mature titles away from Nintendo for years to come.

While the quality of ´MadWorld´ and ´House of the Dead: Overkill´ is not questionable, the sales figures certainly are. These games sold 66.000 and 45.000 units in the USA in their first month, respectively, according to Gamasutra. Now, those are clearly very poor sales figures, albeit Sega claiming otherwise.

As a reminder, though, mature titles on Wii have sold well in the past. Apparently, ´Resident Evil 4 Wii edition´ and ´Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles´ have sold 1,5 and 1,25 million units, respectively. After all, Capcom recently announced a sequel to the latter.

´Red Steel´, ´Metroid Prime 3: Corruption´ and both parts of ´Call of Duty´ sold above a million and ´The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return´ just under. These are pretty decent sales. The newer titles do have a long way to go until they get anywhere near these figures, if they ever do.

EDIT ´GTA Chinatown Wars´ sold almost as much in its second month, proving to some analysts that mature titles on Nintendo platforms are simply long-sellers.

Source: Business Insider
Thanks to: Joystiq, Mark

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