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Nintendo's Dunaway:  Chinatown Wars  Sales 'Frustrating', New Marketing Approaches Needed

Nintendo's Dunaway: Chinatown Wars Sales 'Frustrating', New Marketing Approaches Needed

December 10, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

December 10, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

The DS debut of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars drew particular attention earlier this year. The issue? Its modest sales performance alongside almost unprecedentedly high review scores suggested a lack of opportunity for M-rated games on the platform -- despite the DS's record-breaking userbase.

At the time, Nintendo said the game's performance was "in line" with other AAA titles on its platforms, and said that some games that don't see massive debuts go on to accumulate significant unit sales steadily over their lifetimes.

New comments from Nintendo of America executive VP of sales and marketing Cammie Dunaway, however, now suggest the company feels Rockstar and publisher Take-Two could have benefited from more marketing support for the title.

"It's frustrating, quite frankly," she says of Chinatown Wars' relatively lackluster unit sales, speaking in a video interview with MTV first transcribed by consumer weblog Kotaku.

Nor is Chinatown Wars' performance necessarily a referendum on the potential for mature content on the platform, she says. "Certainly there have been mature titles - Resident Evil, the first Call of Duty - that have sold over a million units, and with something like GTA, there's great content there," she says.

"We do think it'll have a long tail, and we've seen that with a lot of titles across all genres on the DS platform that consumers continue to discover them," Dunaway continues. "But part of what's needed is you have to continue to put marketing support behind these titles."

She says Nintendo has learned crucial lessons in marketing itself over the past few years: "The old dynamic of throw it on TV for a few weeks and forget it isn't going to work, because new consumers are coming in all the time," Dunaway warns.

Analysts forecast a conservative 200,000-unit debut month for Chinatown Wars -- which surprised industry watchers by moving only 89,000 units in its first few days. In its second month, it sold 74,000 units, suggesting some merit to the "slow and steady" sales model for a platform dominated by more casual users who may not necessarily rush to buy on launch dates.

At the time, Cowen group analyst Doug Creutz said the game's struggle couldn't be pinned squarely on the publisher, and that it was "indicative of the difficulties inherent in the Nintendo market for third party products and not due to any misexecution on Take-Two's part."

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