Is it a poor profit proposition to release an M-rated DS title? EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich thinks so, estimating that GTA: Chinatown Wars sold only 200,000 units in March, less than many expected.
"It appears the industry may have been over-zealous with initial expectations on how GTA: Chinatown Wars would perform based upon the news it had received one of the highest quality scores for a Nintendo DS title," says Divnich.
Quality scores alone don't seem to be a major driver of sales on the DS, says Divnich -- he says many other DS titles, irrespective of their ESRB ratings, have scored 90 and above on Metacritic and have never broken 300,000 units in 3 months in North America.
"The results from Chinatown are an important benchmark for the industry, as it will be the best-performing mature rated title on the Nintendo DS to date coupled with one of the strongest mature-rated game brands," says Divnich.
Although Chinatown Wars will likely post a profit for publisher Take-Two, says the analyst, there's an "elevated risk" for other publishers looking to go mature on Nintendo's portable.
"With the majority of publishers currently taking a risk-adverse stance, we expect this to slow the growth rate of future mature rated titles on the DS," he says.
By contrast, though, titles targeted at the M demographic can still thrive on the PSP. "Previous GTA titles on the PSP have sold in excess 1 million units lifetime," Divnich says. "The performance on the DS highlights clearly the demographic differences between the two platforms in the handheld market."
[UPDATE: According to alternate estimates by Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, GTA: Chinatown Wars might sell as many as 450,000 units for the five-week month of March. Such a large disparity in projects is rare, but the argument is sure to be clarified by official NPD figures, debuting this Thursday.]