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In-Depth: Xbox Live Arcade Sales Analysis, September 2010

Ryan Langley examines chart and leaderboard data from the past month to see how new titles such as DeathSpank: Thongs Of Virtue, Hydrophobia and Plants Vs. Zombies have performed on Xbox Live Arcade.

Ryan Langley, Blogger

October 13, 2010

11 Min Read

[As the Summer of Arcade cools off on XBLA, the Game Feast begins. With DeathSpank: Thongs Of Virtue, Hydrophobia and Plants Vs. Zombies out in September, GamerBytes editor Ryan Langley offers worldwide charts and leaderboard data for each to get an idea of which titles are hits during September on the Xbox Live Arcade.] As publishers and developers alike pushed for their games to feature in Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade, some were inevitably left out. For the consumer, what this actually means is more quality content for the usually lackluster September. DeathSpank: Thongs Of Virtue, Serious Sam HD 2, Blade Kitten, Sonic Adventure, Plants Vs. Zombies... there were a number of quality titles out in September, but how have they fared? We look into the Leaderboard and Top 20 statistics for each title to see what went right, and what went wrong for one of the busiest months ever on the platform. Race To The Bottom – A Viable Tactic Blue Castle and Capcom's Dead Rising 2: Case Zero was the first release for the month – using the same engine as the retail title, it contains a small, separate campaign, intending to generate interest in the series and buy Dead Rising 2 at retail. To do this, Capcom released the Xbox 360-exclusive Case Zero for just 400MSP, or $5, offering a title with a $10 or $15 complexity on the Marketplace. The tactic appears to have worked. Based on the Leaderboards, over 328,000 players played the game in its first week of release, with almost 500,000 players for the entire month. Capcom themselves revealed on September 22 that they had sold over 500,000 copies. We’ve found that some players have not been able to add their statistics to the game’s Leaderboards either, so it’s likely that our stats are lower than the actual sales.


Still, this is quite a feat for the Xbox Live Arcade – a game hasn’t done this well in absolute sales terms since Battlefield 1943, and will continue to sell well for some time. With games on Xbox Live Arcade seeing $15 price points more often it's not surprising that a fully-featured $5 game did so well. But perhaps this proves that the iTunes model, which tends to have games at less than $10, can also work on the Xbox Live Arcade, instead of being hived off to Xbox Live Indie Games. Dancing Plants The next two titles were PopCap's Plants Vs. Zombies and Dance! It’s Your Stage. Plants Vs. Zombies unfortunately does not have any sort of Leaderboards – instead, it creates a street of your friends with visual trinkets to show how far they’ve got. We have a couple of Top 20s listed by Microsoft to look at – one of which is quite suspect, as we’ll get into later. But in its third week it looks like it was still selling 10,000 copies – not bad, though perhaps a bit less than the company's Peggle originally did back in the day (100,000 players in 4 weeks). It should continue to sell for a while too, plus PopCap has a retail version which contains Peggle and Zuma alongside it. Austrian developer Sproing's Dance! It’s Your Stage was barely announced before its release, requires a dance mat for the best experience, and has received poor reviews, so it’s no surprise that the game hasn’t sold very well. Only 647 people are on the leaderboard for the first song. Can’t Hold On Much Longer (But I’ll Never Let Go) Week three of September brought three new titles to the Xbox Live Arcade – Sega's Sonic Adventure, a port of the classic Dreamcast / Gamecube title, SNK's KOF Skystage, a top-down shooter that uses King Of Fighters’ characters, and Taito's Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, a new game based on the classic franchise. Sonic Adventure, despite poor reviews suggesting it has not aged very well, did the best of the three -- with over 15,000 players in its first week and over 34,000 for the rest of September at 800MSP. In comparison, Sonic & Knuckles was released last year for 400MSP in September also, and with 4 weeks of statistics it only reached 27,000 players, so it seems Sonic Adventure is a bit of an anomaly. The other two on the other hand didn’t do so well – King of Fighters: Skystage only added 1,686 players in its 3 weeks of being available. It should also be noted that the game has not been reviewed by a single big site – with not even a single review on Metacritic. Space Invaders IG didn’t fare well either with 1,588 players, but this might be lower than the actual number, as I believe the game requires you to upload your scores with a press of a button, rather than automatically. Still, it didn’t fare that well in the Marketplace, which is a disappointment for such a well known brand. Four Games In a Single Week Four new XBLA titles were released on Wednesday 22 – DeathSpank: Thongs Of Virtue, Blade Kitten, Alien Breed 2: Assault, and Serious Sam HD: The Second Assault. For three sequels to already popular games on XBLA, this seems like quite a bizarre way to deal with them. It was Hothead's DeathSpank: TOV that gained the most traction, adding 12,397 players in its first week and 18,122 over the two week period. The first DeathSpank started off with 34,467 players on the Leaderboards in its first week. By comparison Thongs Of Virtue is a bit of a disappointment, and further continues the trend of “sequels” in a digital context not doing as well as the original, but this wasn’t helped by being released alongside three other titles. However, the PSN version also added 22,546 users in the same time period, so added together across both titles, the games in the series are likely doing fine. Alien Breed 2 added only 862 players in its first week for a total of 1,574 for the two weeks of its release. We must first apologize to Team 17 in regards to stats about the first Alien Breed, which we covered earlier in the year. The Leaderboards only add you to any sort of stat tracking once you’ve completed the first chapter, which can take up to about an hour to complete, and Alien Breed 2 follows the same rules. It’s more likely that the game sold closer to 3-4,000 during its first week, and unlike the original was released day-and-date with the PC release. Still, it doesn’t appear that the game has sold tremendously well -- less than the original, at least. Croteam's Serious Sam HD 2 had been out on PCs five months prior to the XBLA release, but did contain several enhancements to the original encounter. Still, only 3,807 players showed up in its first two weeks of release. The original by comparison added 21,635 players in its first week, a far cry from what this sequel has been able to garner. The final release was Krome Studios' Blade Kitten. It was the only non-sequel of the four, and was technically not announced by the Microsoft Major Nelson blog prior to release. The game did not reach the Top 20 on its opening week, and has a very average Metacritic rating at this point, so it appears to have also not sold as well as it could have. Do note, however, that it was also released on PSN and Steam at the same time, so together they could be doing better. Water Phobia The final release was also the first for Microsoft’s Game Feast promotion - Dark Energy Digital's Hydrophobia. Much like Alien Breed, the Leaderboards only get added after each act – so the first Leaderboard is only added once the player completes nearly an hour to an 1.5 hours of the game. Even though the Leaderboards are somewhat misleading. 9,723 players were added in the first week. The actual sales are likely much higher, and probably add up to a decent start for the game, which saw review controversy on its release and some notable extremes of critical reception.


Death Of Spanking We also followed several other titles, like the original DeathSpank and Earthworm Jim HD, to see how well they’ve sold over a longer period of time.The first DeathSpank added another 9,355 players during September for a total of 87,474. Coupled with the 85,302 players on the PSN version, we can see that at least the original DeathSpank has been quite a title for EA Partners and Hothead, likely beating the developer's previous Penny Arcade Adventures over time. You can also see that on the week of September 13th Leaderboard statistics seemed to drop off a bit. September 14 was the release week for Halo: Reach, so much like Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 last year, there was a bit of a drop. Of the Summer of Arcade titles for this year, Limbo has continued to sell across the past month with an additional 68,000 players on its Leaderboards. Castlevania and Hydro Thunder appear to have slowed down considerably, while Monday Night Combat had held on for a little longer, with a big drop thanks to Halo: Reach. The new Lara Croft digital title started off a little low, but the game has continued to trot along, and appears to be nearing 100,000 players. Please note that Castlevania’s Leaderboards are strictly based off the single player statistics, so their numbers are lower, and Lara Croft’s are based on all of single player and half of the multiplayer boards. xblatop20sep2010.jpg The Top 20 Of the five weeks that we follow in September, only three of them were given a Top 20 list by the Major Nelson blog. However, we believe that the week of September 13th has several wrong statistics – including the position of Sonic Adventure, Monday Night Combat and Limbo. The lists’ Top Live titles were called into question once Halo: Reach didn’t top Modern Warfare 2 in its first week. This list was updated to reflect the correct Top 20 for hours played, but was not updated for the Xbox Live Arcade Top 20. You can see that the official list is incorrect thanks to the positions of some games in the week after – like Sonic Adventure. Klei Entertainment’s Shank continued to place decently throughout the month, though by the end of the month had nearly fallen off of the Top 20. Scott Pilgrim seemingly kept itself above its rival Castle Crashers for the majority of the month, but will likely fall off in October.


Invasion of Pyramids We have several new pieces of downloadable content this month – Castlevania HD’s “Beauty, Desire, Situation Dire” level and Toy Soldiers’ “Invasion!” DLC, both for 400MS. There was also Sonic Adventure’s DX Mode and DeathSpank: TOV’s extra levels, but they cannot be followed by Leaderboards. Castlevania’s DLC added 5,239 players in its first week of release, at least based on the single-player Leaderboads. The main game itself has 85,673 players total, so just 5,239 seems a little low, but as it’s just one additional level, the price itself is pretty steep for the content given. Toy Soldiers’ own downloadable content added 7,073 players in its first week – a little less than the first piece of DLC, which gained 8,703 in a similar time frame back in June, but should continue to move along in a similar incrementally positive direction. xbladotwsep2010.jpg Deal Of The Week Six titles were deemed Deals Of The Week in September. The one missing from the list is Zeno Clash, which was on sale in the first week, but does not have Leaderboards we can follow. Ultimately the addition didn’t help a lot of the games – Gyromancer and Tower Bloxx Deluxe didn’t jump in sales much at all, and neither did Galaga Legions. While Alien Breed shows only 2,636 players, those are the amount that finished the entire first chapter, which can take around an hour to complete. Based on its position in the Top 20, the first Alien Breed chapter hit more along the lines of 9-10,000 new players. Toy Soldiers was the one big hit, with over 20,000 new players in the week it was on sale, which likely helped the downloadable content released in the same week. Jump Your Comics October will continue the release of games under the “Game Feast” promotion – Comic Jumper, Pinball FX2 and Super Meat Boy all have high chances of doing exceptionally well on the platform, but we also have Costume Quest, A Bloody Good Time, Sonic The Hedgehog 4 and Dead Space Ignition, which could all very well be huge for the platform. With that sort of lineup we could easily see this month beat this year’s Summer of Arcade, if promoted correctly.

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