Tuesday, November 16, 2010

[Commentary] GTA: Chinatown Wars sales figures

Around a year ago now (I won't bother checking), Geoff Keighley mentioned on his Facebook page that GTA Chinatown Wars would be coming to the PSP. There was much rejoicing and statements alluding to the idea(s) that it should have always been there in the first place or that the DS was poison to IP of an adult nature.

I simply wrote: "Bad idea".

Chinatown Wars was -and still is- one of the best games on the DS, both in terms of looks and gameplay. Many loved the classic, less story-laden action. My statement that it was a bad idea to port it to PSP was due to the fact I didn't think PSP owners would be that interested in it. Partially due to the graphics, but also because a lot of PSP owners at that point had grown bored of it and many pirated the lesser-known games. The fact many would consider this a "port" meant it didn't really have a chance of selling the millions its predecessors did. This move also ran the risk of alienating hardcore Nintendo fanboys who were intending to buy it, but felt "insulted" by it losing its exclusivity (yes, that does happen).

Going back to the DS, the other reason I felt it didn't sell well initially (apart from the "will this work? I'm on the fence" attitude) was due to the story. I just didn't find the whole Chinese gangs storyline or characters that compelling. And I imagine many others didn't either. You could see this from the ads, none of which compelled me to buy the game.

Anyway, I'll wrap this up, because -as usual- I've talked for way longer than I was intending to. 

A year ago I said "bad idea", I now get the opportunity to say "I told you so":

So, what should have Rockstar done instead? Released a sequel on the DS within the same 12 months, with a different setting and alternate "gimmick" to the drug collecting. This would have captured the interest of those indifferent to the Chinese gangs storyline and re-ignited sales of the original. I'm somewhat convinced (in the little world in my head where I'm always right) that this would have resulted in total sales for both titles of over 2.5mil.

Till next time (around a year from now if previous updates are anything to go by); adios.

Note: I'm aware VGChartz figures aren't always the most up-to-date or accurate, but I usually find they're missing numbers rather than overestimating them, so in terms of averages rather than exactness, these numbers still justify my point.


Anonymous said...

Sales on Nintendo platforms for non-1st party games are terrible. Making a game a Nintendo exclusive is a mistake and despite disappointing fanboys, could likely be the difference between the developer staying in business or shutting down.

The sales are low for a GTA game, but not low by any means. They clearly made it worth their effort to do the PSP port. That's 590K units, and if they only made $10 profit each, that's $5.9M. It definitely didn't cost anywhere near that much to port it.

As Rockstar is a big company run by a board, they would've never greenlight a sequel based on the sales of the first game even with that logical argument. Second, Rockstar surely wouldn't want to just throw up some cheap sequel. They're about quality over quantity.

This is from someone who isn't a Rockstar fanboy, but someone who understands the importance of making a living even if it means disappointing fans.

DrDark said...

Don't worry, I'm not in a place to call anyone a fanboy in a derogatory manner. I call myself a Nintendo & Nokia fanboy, and a Sony & Apple hater.

Anyway, your comments are fair. I was out to offer an alternative scenario (releasing a sequel) and an answer to those Sony fanboys who instantly imagined porting to PSP would instantly result in 3 to 4 million sales.

I'm also certain however that Rockstar wouldn't have been releasing a cheap sequel if they had planned it right. The engine work itself was done, and there'd be none of the voice-work required for an HD game, so I'm confident they could have easily knocked another one out in less than a year. It'd be less work than that required for either of their 2 GTA 4 DLC offerings.

3rd parties don't do that well on Nintendo platforms. But I could also give plenty of examples where they haven't done well on other platforms. Similarly, plenty of casual games sell millions of copies on Nintendo platforms, so there is no absolute rule which can apply.

Also, as you mentioned studios shutting down due to exclusives. I shall have to name Lair(Factor 5) and Haze(Free Radical).

Anyway, I think arguing those points should be saved for another post, maybe ;).