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Chinatown Wars below expectations for DS?

Last year, when Rockstar announced that they were bringing the popular Grand Theft Auto franchise to Nintendo's portable platform; many wondered how well an M rated title would do. Almost two months since it's release, the answers are starting to come in.

In it's debut in March, the game only sold only around 89000 copies, far below the expected 250,000 to 400,000 range. When questioned earlier about it, Take Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar, said they expected to see the title sell well in the long term and Nintendo is expecting about the same: "'Chinatown Wars' is performing in line with AAA titles that have come to our platform like 'Spore' or 'Lego Star Wars'. Those games went on to have very different life-to-date sales numbers," says Steve Singer, Nintendo of America's Vice President of Licensing and Third-Party Relations. Not only that, but he sees the title to be very important to the image of the DS: "I think strategically, this is a very important game because it helps send the message that great M-rated content can come to the platform and will find a home."

This comes as a bit of a surprise as this is the highest rated title for the Nintendo DS. But now lies the biggest question. Why are sales so low on this platform? Some say perhaps it is because the Grand Theft Auto series does not translate well over to the portable systems, but sales for the Playstation Portable iterations of the games have sold very well. Libery City Stories went on to sell 327,872 in its first month, while Vice City Stories sold 134,275 units in its first month.

MTV blogs asked gamers why they did not buy the title and some of the responses were a little surprising. Some play piracy, some play the fact that the game is not very deep, the overall style of the game was not as good as its console counterparts or some just did not come around to getting the game yet. I personally have two theories.

The first: the game is an M rated title on a family oriented platform. The majority of people who own a Playstion Portable are more likely to buy these types of games because it's geared towards the "hardcore" audience. It should come as no surprise that the Grand Theft Auto titles for that system sold well. When games like Brain Age, Pokemon and Nintendogs are dominating the DS, it's hard to see a title like Grand Theft Auto, with its rabid violence and mature storyline, sell may copies on a platform that is dominated by G rated games.

The second is the game itself. While I know there are plenty of us who remember the good ol' days of the 2D Grand Theft Auto games, the franchise didn't really come into its own until Grand Theft Auto for Sony's Playstation 2, where it went 3D. The game today is known for its 3D open world action where you can run over people and kill hookers, not the top-down 2D days were you had to drive to a pay phone to get a mission.

Only time will tell, but I do not see this title personally doing very well anytime soon and this is discouraging for the "hardcore" gamers out there on the DS who enjoy these types of games.

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