GTA Chinatown Wars Sales Are a Major Disappointment

Sales of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars have been a major disappointment, according to Silicon Alley Insider.

Citing data released yesterday by NPD group, SAI reports that only 88,704 units of the critically-acclaimed DS game were purchased in March. Published estimates by video game industry analysts had suggested that GTA: Chinatown Wars would sell in the 200,000 – 450,000 range:

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…


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.

Reacting to the poor numbers put up by GTA:CW, Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz reduced earnings estimates for Publisher Take-Two Interactive:

What Happened? 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…


The disappointing first month sales reinforce our view that achieving meaningful success on Nintendo platforms remains a very difficult proposition for third party publishers.

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  1. Untouchable says:

     The DS is not for adults that is news to me and here I have been playing mine day in and day out.  Does this mean a cop is going to show up and arrest me because only pedis own a DS?


    It depends, do you own Animal Crossing? Because if you are an adult that plays it then you must be a pedo because there is no good reason that someone should own it.


    Of course, that must make me a total pedophile…..

  2. Matt says:

    I was going to buy it, then I bought Chrono Trigger instead.


    and I feel I made the right choice.

  3. madman says:

    I dont think Jack had much to do with the sales of the series. I live in Australia where GTA is also very popular and if you ask any non gaming Australian who Jack Thompon is they’ll think you’re talking about an actor (look him up on wikipedia, if you’re curious).


  4. Roh02 says:

    maybe it didnt sell much because Jack Thompson didnt give it any free advertising (to my knowledge anyway) 

  5. State says:

    I really don’t know why people have a problem with GTA4 (oh wait, yes I do, most of the kids were disappointed that it was immature and actually strove for some intelligence and so went for the juvenile Saints Row 2 which pales in comparison to GTA4). GTA4 stripped down the genre and took it in a much needed direction whereas Saints Row 2 (which I also own) gave the same old gameplay with only a couple activities to do (most of the activities were the same, they just had different graphics) and one of the worst scripts going.

    Surely people know a difference between what a game on a seventh generation console (360) and a fifth generation (DS, ie console the power of an N64). As others have said you have to be pretty stupid if you were expecting a port of GTA4 on the DS.

    But looking at the amount of downloads that the game has got off of the pirate websites I think you can clearly see where all the sales went.

  6. gamadaya says:

    Alright. Whatever, I mean I don’t see why that wouldn’t be allowed, but the point is still valid. Just go to any DS rom site.

    I do think it’s very strange that nobody is reporting on this though. Seems like kind of a big deal. Kotaku didn’t mention anything about piracy in their recent article, and Destructoid only hinted at it.


    Believe in something! Even if it’s wrong, believe in it! -Glenn Beck

  7. Chaltab says:

    It’s dissapointing to see a game that is by all reports very good sale below expectations, but the economy *is* in the tank right now. I certainly don’t have $30+ to go out and blow on a DS game right now.

  8. Tammej says:

    The game didn’t sell well because it’s kinda "back to the roots" of GTA.

    Although I constantly hear some people bickering that since GTA III came out, the entire franchise supposedly went down the drain, and that great the old 2D classics were so much better – personally, I don’t know a single person who prefers the old 2D style GTA games over the 3D ones.


    It’s a step back, really. For better or worse. And people don’t want a step back, normally. You will certainly have 2D style GTA gamers leaping with joy at the news of this game coming out. And they might all buy it, too. But let’s face it – the vast majority of the people, when they talk about Grand Theft Auto … they talk about III, Vice City, San Andreas, Liberty City Stories, Vice City Stories, and IV.

  9. JC says:

    I think that’s one theory that can hold some water. The majority of fans were created by the GTA3, which loves that 3d style and random mayhem and the hilarious radio stations!

    Or another reason is that GTA4, many fans didn’t like how it turned out (despite sales) and are more cautious with newer GTA games.

    Whatever reason you may think, R* have succeed over the years with time, not immediate sales. R* said this is a slow month, even if GTA4 released a year ago.

  10. JC says:

    I think you shouldn’t be posting links to ROM sites, you’re possibly opening up our site to DCMA infringements…

  11. G-Meister says:

    Well, obviously Rockstar was way off on their estimates, because none of those pirates would have ever bought copies of the game ever, meaning that Rockstar lost zero sales. Clearly, those 100,000 people in Europe and 80,000 people in the USA only downloaded the game to try it, and only played enough to decide they didn’t like it and stop playing. </sarcasm>

  12. State says:

    Luminees is actually a much longer game for a single session than GTA: CW. GTA: CW was made for the DS and has been made for short burst gaming (this has been pointed out time and time again in the reviews). This version of GTA is much more suitable for the handheld than Luminees, and is simply further evidence of the excellent game design of GTA: CW (it cannot be compared to its home console iterations).

  13. State says:

    It’s strange that the people here criticising the game are either people who have never liked the series or people who have heard from their best-friend’s cousin’s teacher’s brother that the game isn’t any good contrary to all the reviews that the game has got (making it the highest rated game on the DS). People need to stop making fiction about how poorly received the game has been because it simply hasn’t. Gamer paranoia needs to stop as well (in that the people here that like the game apparently are being paid by Rockstar to say so, this simply isn’t the case). Also this is more 2.5D than 2D (much more "3D" than so than GTA1 and 2).

    Anyway if it was of a poor quality (which it isn’t) why would that affect sales? Many games with poor review scores have incredibly high sales figures (just look at many games on the Wii and DS). Poor reviews can hamper games sales (although as pointed this isn’t always the case), but this game has pretty much been given the title of best game on the DS, so it’s not as though the game has had poor reviews.

  14. Ashkihyena says:

    I agree, I don’t watch Yahztee for the reviews but for the lulz.  As a reviewer, I don’t take him seriously.


  15. Chadius says:

    People need to wait more than 1 month before calling things a "major disappointment." Or maybe people set expectations too high.

    Pokemon Red/Blue sold like crap for the first few months. The DS was neck-and-neck with the PSP for about a year. Boom Blox apparently "bombed" so well EA announced a sequel soon after.

    Something about putting GTA in 3D makes it sell like crazy. GTA 1 & 2 sold OK (like CW is) but it wasn’t until 3 that the series took off. Maybe having radio commercials spoken instead of typed helps. Maybe it really needs more voice acting. Maybe people hate overhead driving views.

  16. gamadaya says:

    I know exactly why this is happening. It’s not that the market isn’t there, or that R* predictions were even wrong. In fact, they may have underestimated how many people wanted this game. But if you go to ***, you’ll see the problem. On that site alone, CW has been downloaded over 100,000 times. That’s an insane amount, for any game, especially one that has been out for only like a month. It’s even more than the total sales of the game. No other game that I can find has those kinds of numbers. Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Bros., which have been out for a lot longer and are a lot more popular, each have about 20,000 less downloads than CW. But what do you expect? CW is an M rated game that has a primarily adult audience. The adult audience for the DS that would buy this kind of game is primarily made up of hardcore gamers that know about and probably own one or more flashcarts. In fact, some of the best selling games on the DS have some of the lowest numbers of downloads. None of the Nintendogs games even pass 10k, and Diamond and Pearl aren’t much higher (although in Pokemon’s case, that may be due to the complications that can arise when interfacing with a slot 2 device). In fact, the trend seems to be that regardless of mainstream popularity, the more "hardcore" a game is, the higher the chance is for it to be pirated.

    Edit: Oh also, that 100k downloads is only for the European version of the game. The US version adds another 80k to that. So the number of pirated copies (on just ***) is almost equal to the number of copies R* predicted the game would sell.


    Believe in something! Even if it’s wrong, believe in it! -Glenn Beck

  17. hellfire7885 says:

    The problem to me appears to be that people are buying this game with the expectation that it plays and is the same as the console GTA games.

  18. DanHoyt says:

    Yahtzee doesn’t really review games. If you believe his reviews then no good games have come out in the past several years. I love Zero Punctuation, but they are for entertainment value. Sorry, if you want a real review check out or and check them out.

  19. lumi says:

    DS is awesome, GTA is a solid series, this game is, by all accounts, awesome.

    Sadly, there’s not much overlap in the GTA crowd (a big demographic to be sure) and the DS crowd (another big demographic, but a different one).

  20. Kojiro says:

    I don’t think these types of games really belong on portables.  People want games that you just pick up and play for a little while and then turn it off.  Games like Lumines, Peggle, etc.  It’s the same reason Lumines and Peggle don’t sell well on consoles, because people want more involving games on consoles.

  21. KaylaKaze says:

    What’s all this crap about bad design? The game is great. The cop chases are what Burnout SHOULD have been on the DS (maybe with a little more look ahead on the camera). The story line gets back to some of the goofiness of earlier GTA, not that super depressing drama that was GTA4. That’s why Saints Row 2 was better than GTA4. GTA4 took itself WAY too seriously (thoush SR2 was a little TOO immature at times).


    I blame South Park. Who’d want to buy a game if Eric Cartman REALLY wants it?

  22. sirdarkat says:

     The DS is not for adults that is news to me and here I have been playing mine day in and day out.  Does this mean a cop is going to show up and arrest me because only pedis own a DS?


    As for China Wars I would say poor choice of development instead of choice of market.  I have no interest in the GTA series never have may never will and the reviews from people I know who aren’t getting kickbacks (or do they just call it buying ad space now) have said the game sucks and its a waste unless you just really enjoyed the GTA 2 game which I didn’t. 

  23. Chuma says:

    Frankly I’m utterly disappointed with the PSP.  I had expected to find enough reason to have bought one by now, but find myself not caring, much as I have with the PS3.  Last generation I was hating on the Xbox, but this one the 360 has been the staple of decent gaming, with the Wii not having released much more than a couple of titles worth a look in the last year.

    I don’t think it has much to do with "hardcore" (Whilst I know there isn’t a better term, it still irks me) just that the anticipation that was awaiting GTA IV hasn’t been so with Chinatown wars.  I blame bad advertising mostly, but also we are in a bit of a lull as far as games go and I think this general apathy doesn’t help the market.  I know the ‘holiday release’ culture is a self-fulfilling one, but I think it has to have some bearing on it too.

  24. BrandonL337 says:

    Excuse Me, I own a DS and I have some of the most hardcore games in existence: Contra 4, Megaman ZX and advent, Bangai-O Spirits, Lunar Knights, Big Bang mini, and Advance Wars can all kick the shit out of anything on the PSP(and anyone that plays them for that matter).

    There have always been motherf*ckers, there will always be motherf*ckers, but what we can’t do is let them control our motherf*cking lives. -John Oliver, December 1st, 2008

  25. sqlrob says:

    Nope. Hardcore have everything.

    Our list, in no particular order: Odyssey 2, GB, GBA, GBA SP, DS , DS Lite (2), PSP (2), PS2, GCN, XBox, 360, Wii, Arcade Cabinet

  26. mogbert says:

    I’m dropping my 2 cents worth on this.


    See, I don’t think DS users are like other users. They aren’t hardcore. H4rdC0r3 players will likely have a PSP. However, DS sales of games are often stronger for longer. They may be disappointed by first month sales, but watch the sales for the next several months. With main console games, the sales drop sharply after the first month. I think the DS sales won’t drop as sharply and it will continue to sell for a while. Only time will tell, but I won’t count it dead yet. I’m an adult DS gamer, however, I haven’t played any of the GTA games mostly because I generally prefer to be the hero rather then the anti-hero, or at least have that choice. For a sandbox game, I’ve never been that happy with them shoehorning you into the role of the bad guy whether you wanted to or not.

  27. BrandonL337 says:

    It’s the knid of game I want, I love those Neo-retro games.

    There have always been motherf*ckers, there will always be motherf*ckers, but what we can’t do is let them control our motherf*cking lives. -John Oliver, December 1st, 2008

  28. Vortex says:

    I believe that GTA: LCS sold that much was also because of a software glitch that allowed them to downgrade their firmware and be able to pirate PSP games (ala The Twilight Hack for the Wii) and also because it retained the 3D gameplay of its console brethrens. 

    I never got into the top down view of Chinatown Wars anyway.  It’s frustrating to get a wanted star for hijacking a car because a cop just saw me from off the screen, it’s more of a rental for me.

  29. Paroxysm says:

    Give it a shot as it most certainly is designed for short bursts.  Most missions are 5-10 mins in length and you can save your progress at any time not in mission. Do people really only use their DS for super casual games?  I’ve played plenty of them but I also love things like castlevania, chrono trigger, contact, ninja gaiden, Metroid hunters, etc or even just programming a korg synth sequence for my band.

  30. Zerodash says:

    According to wikipedia, the PSP version of Liberty City Stories sold 1.83M copies.  i think a factor in those sales are that GTA is a console game through and through, and the PSP is essentially a just a console with a small LCD screen bolted on.

    Chinatown wars harkens back too much toward the 2D games that nobody really wants.  In addition, $30+ for a portable game, especially one that isn’t like it’s console sibling, is too steep. 

    I am what might be called a "hardcore gamer" (I hate that term), and have 50+ DS games but not GTA.  The simple matter is that I want portable-oriented games on that platform like Rhytmn Heaven, Eleite Beat Agents, Wario Ware, Puzzle League, Nintendogs (seriously), etc.  Games like Chinatown Wars are not nearly as friendly to "short burst" game sessions.

  31. State says:

    Madworld received moderately good reviews. Manhunt 2 (made by Rockstar) received mixed reviews. Although with correct promotion none of that is going to matter as sales don’t always go hand in hand with review scores (particularly on the Wii).

    History Nintendo has been seen as a kiddy company and has never been able to shift that perception (and with the development of the Wii it is justified). It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Miyamoto has publically said that he never wanted a GTA on a Nintendo console (even though GTA: CW is the third on a Nintendo console) because it was too adult.

    The Wii and DS are marketed towards different audiences (in particular the non-gamer audiences) and that is why mature content tends to stay away from the consoles (I think there’s only about five M-rated games on the DS).

  32. G-Meister says:

    "But to say it’s a misstep is wrong, and it seems Rockstar are the only ones ever pushing the boundaries of games (this time it’s showing that adult content can work on a DS)"

    Just like how Sega showed that mature games can sell on the Wii? I don’t want to sound too mean, but I think Nintendo has done a pretty good job of scaring away most of the gamers on their platforms that might be interested in mature content.

  33. State says:

    Seems like the reason why the game sold poorly is due to the misconceptions of the game. A poor review score (if 94% Metacritic score is poor for a game then all games released must be of an excellent quality). Hardcore game not suited to short sessions? That is exactly how the game differs to the other GTA games, it was made for pick-up and play sessions (and probably works better for these short sessions than the RPGs and platformers on the console). The price, the game was sold cheaper than many other games on the DS (it cost me less to buy this game than Brain Training).

    The game didn’t sell well because there isn’t much of a market for the game. The majority of adults who own a DS own it for Brain Training and little else (they probably don’t buy "real" games), obviously the game isn’t for children. But to say it’s a misstep is wrong, and it seems Rockstar are the only ones ever pushing the boundaries of games (this time it’s showing that adult content can work on a DS), and it was worthwhile (they created the highest review rated DS game ever), although a sequel won’t get made due to the poor sales.

  34. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Despite the game being badly designed most DS users are simply not GTA fans plus you have the whole slow portable game sales issue that seems to cling to some games…. its just a bad mix…


    Then again almost 100K game units sold is not bad…..


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  35. TBoneTony says:

    I think you will need to watch how the game sells in the first year before you judge it.

    As a gamer, I buy the games I really want in the first week or month, but for other games I wait until a few months down the track until I have saved up enough money to buy them.

    I feel that the Videogame Industry makes it’s judgements on the game sells too quickly.

    A month is a short time, but you need to look at the first year to have a better idea in how the game was sold.

    Also just because the game did not sell as well as the console versions does not mean it is a failure, look the reality is that many 3rd parties would be really happy to sell 88,000 units even on the Nintendo DS.


    All this article is just doing is trying to dig up dirt on Take-Two all because the sales for the DS game was not as much as they had expected. But if they made a proffit on it, then it would still be a success even though it was not a big one like the other games.

    You need to have a better perspective sometimes to understand that even selling 88,000 units is still a great achivement.


  36. vellocet says:

    The game is excellent.  It’s the only game on DS that I’ve spent more than 3 hours with in the last couple of years.

  37. State says:

    GTA: CW convinced me to buy a DS and whilst I’ve bought other games I was after, this game was the reason for purchasing the console and it is easily the most enjoyable game I’ve played on the DS too.

  38. mdo7 says:


    That’s true.  I also read it in Game Informers that it gave a 9.4 for Chinatown Wars.  Why this game doesn’t sell so well is beyond me.  There should be people buying DS just to play this game.  Unless the DS is not hardcore enough for them. 





  39. Roh02 says:

    hmm would my list make me a hardcore gamer I wonder?
    Sega Master System 2 , Megadrive model 1 and 2 , Sega Saturn , N64 , GBA , GC , GC player , PS1 , PS2 , PS3 , XBOX 360 ,
    and about 245 games

    I quite like many of the GTA games but frankly never owned a ds and this game isnt enough to make me want to buy one

  40. Vake Xeacons says:

    Just cause critics loved it doesn’t mean audiences do. I never liked the 2D GTA games. But T2 will see this as an excuse to avoid the “kiddie console.” To them, I say good riddence, but more 3rd Parties will use it as well. 1 big flop, and the system’s a bust. sigh…<:(

  41. Ryno says:

    I don’t own a DS, but if I did, it would be to enjoy the sort of fun, light-hearted games for which it’s known. I like hardcore games as much as anyone else, but I also enjoy the sort of relaxing ones that Nintendo is famous for. I simply love Lego Star Wars on my Cube, for instance. So if I owned a DS, that would be the sort of game I’d be looking for, especially given the DS’s limitations; when I want to play an "adult" game, I’ll do it on my comp with its big monitor and controls I can use without having to move the screen around when I react to the action.

    So while I applaud Rockstar’s attempt to bring more grown-up games to the DS, which I think it needs, they shouldn’t be disappointed when they miss their target audience, who prefer serious games on serious systems.


    Saying that Jack Thompson is impotent is an insult to impotent men everywhere. They’ve got a whole assortment of drugs that can cure their condition; Jack, however…

  42. Nocturne says:

    The DS has a large adult audience but perhaps as a lot of those adults were buying it for titles like Brain Training, it maybe the wrong adult audience for this game.

    As a 26 year old, DS owner and fan of the GTA series I’ve just got no interest at all in this game and honestly I couldn’t think of any reason for that other than I’m simply not interested in that type of game for my DS, I would much rather have the next Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton game, and yet I know if it had been on the PSP and geared towards that system I would have bought a copy by now.

  43. Geryon says:

    Now maybe I’m wrong but I thought the DS did have a large adult audience.  I thought it was just that it had a larger child audience than other systems.  Also I personally had not heard anything particuarly good or bad about Chinatown Wars, if I had not been told otherwise I would have assumed it simply didn’t perform excellently due to a general belief of medeocrity, though apparently that is wrong.

  44. Paroxysm says:

    Actually the game is reviewing extremly well (currently gamerankings has it at 93%) and personally I’d consider it the best GTA game in years. Top down is where the series began and it’s still a lot of fun but it included all the modern improvements that have come to GTA (eg. GPS) and dumped the usless filler (eg. dating) aswell as making great improvements with saving and adding some very satisfying touchscreen functionality (eg. hotwiring cars). Certainly something has stopped it selling to the masses but it certainly isn’t the game’s quality that is the problem.


  45. CyberSkull says:

    From what I’ve heard about the game, it was not well reviewed. There are supposed to be some substantial issues with POV and game AI. Could the real reason for poor sales just simply be poor game design?

  46. Conster says:

    I played it, and found it somewhat lacking: the story’s too short, the NPCs can’t drive, targeting is annoying, and the only eyecandy in the game gets killed in one of the first few missions. Add to that that drug trade is the only effective way to make money, combined with dealers regularly telling me not to use the drugs myself, because they put something lethal into it, and my enjoyment of the game was seriously hampered.

    I blame the game.

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