Max Payne 3 (Rockstar Games)Rockstar Games is considered a nearly bulletproof game developer. They take their time crafting their games, and their releases are always major events. The company's last three blockbuster titles -- Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and last year's L.A. Noire -- enjoyed chart-topping success, a testament to the company's dedication to quality and terrific sense of timing.
But the release of Max Payne 3 is putting their impressive streak at risk.
While the long-awaited action game was a critical success -- boasting Metacritic scores in the high 80s -- the sales, to date, have paled next to other Rockstar releases.
The game was the second best-selling title among retailers in May, according to The NPD Group. And while that organization no longer releases specific sales data on a per-title basis, people who are privy to the information aren't painting a pretty picture.
"Without divulging too much NPD goodness, I can tell you that Max Payne 3 sales were less than 50 percent of L.A. Noire's," said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter via Twitter.
Cowen analyst Doug Creutz offers a bit more detail in a note to investors, saying the game sold just over 400,000 units and barely beat out Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier for the number two spot.
The top-selling game, of course, was Blizzard's Diablo III, a title that sucked the oxygen out of the room for other games. Call of Duty has a similar effect each year, which is why most publishers avoid launching major titles during the annual Call of Duty week in November.
Rockstar, though, went head to head with Blizzard, releasing Max Payne 3 at the same time as Diablo III, which seems to have impacted sales.
Some have questioned why Rockstar decided to engage in that battle — especially for a game that the developer spent eight years creating. But Take-Two's CEO stood by the move in an interview with Yahoo! Games last week at E3.
"My view is there's enough room in the market for stuff people want," said Strauss Zelnick. "One could argue that the foot traffic [for titles like Diablo III] helps in certain stores."
Don't shed too many tears for Rockstar, though. Its games tend to have 'long tails' and typically spend much more than one month on the charts.
And up next from the team is "Grand Theft Auto V," a game that other publishers will be scrambling to avoid going up against themselves.