Analysis: PlayStation Network - March 2009's Hits, Misses

Sister console download site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley looks at how PSN's March debuts for PlayStation 3 fared, from Red Baron Arcade through Burn Zombie Burn and beyond.
[Following up on his XBLA analysis sister console download site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley looks at how PSN's March debuts fared, from Red Baron through Burn Zombie Burn and beyond.] With the March NPD U.S. game sales numbers coming out at the end of the week, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the last month of sales for downloadable spaces as best as we can with the available data. For the PlayStation Network, we delve into the Top 10 PSN games of the month, brought to us courtesy of the Pulse video show released online, and through the PlayStation Store -- which releases a new list every month. We also have a deeper look at Keita Takahashi's quirky Noby Noby Boy and the web stats based on the amount of people reporting to the GIRL in the sky, and then finish it off with a bit of armchair analysis and hard opinion. In March, the North American PlayStation Store received 7 new titles - Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, Astro Tripper, Buzz Junior: Jungle Party, Red Baron Arcade, Wheel Of Fortune, Worms and Burn Zombie Burn. But as you can see below, only two made it into the month's Top 10. So what happened to the rest of them? Here's the full list:
Watching The Watchmen The first release was Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, the $19.99 title available through the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC. Despite the movie hype, the game on PSN did not chart for the month. The title's lower sales could be due to the higher price and lackluster reviews, but considering the hype around the movie, I would have expected it to at least make the charts. Like the Xbox Live Arcade version, Watchmen has a second chapter planned -- which will likely not sell as well as the first. Assuming the development was all based on code porting, the PSN version probably didn't cost a whole lot of manpower to create, and any additional sales would be a bonus - but it's a shame that it appeared to do the worst on PSN. I expect that we might see both chapters appear at retail stores, some time after the second episode has been released. On Red Barons, Astro Tripper and Buzz Junior Red Baron Arcade, Astro Tripper and Buzz Junior: Jungle Party all came out during the next week, but only Red Baron was able to chart for the month. Red Baron Arcade has a strange history, initially set for Xbox Live Arcade, and later announced as an exclusive for the PlayStation Network. With the Sierra fallout following Activision's merger with Vivendi it disappeared, only to suddenly pop up on the 13th of March. It's somewhat surprising to see it chart at all, considering the dismal reviews -- but that might be based more on name recognition, or the interest in a simple and cheap multiplayer title. Buzz Junior not being on the list is somewhat expected - the buzzer peripherals are required to play, so it's a somewhat limited audience, much like the PSEye camera-utilizing games. The sore spot here is Astro Tripper, a neat shooter, which has nabbed some great reviews and only costs $4.99, but didn't make it to the list. With the announcement of another title coming to the PSN, we hope PomPom are satisfied with their sales for this release. Spinning The Wheel And Burning Carcasses The real mind bender here is Wheel Of Fortune. Poorly reviewed and costing $15, it made it to the second highest selling game for the month. Considering its sister game Jeopardy cut a third off its price after 3 months of release, I would have expected Wheel Of Fortune to go down the same road, but despite all odds, it's beaten every other new release this month. While Burn Zombie Burn and Worms are not on the list, neither were expected to chart, as both games were released very late into the month. Flowers Blooming, Booty Calling Back February's late release of Zuma, which did not reach the charts last month, again does not make the list. Flower has continued its reign at the top, and NHL 3-On-3 Arcade continues to stay in the Top 10, much like the Xbox Live Arcade version has. Age Of Booty and Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty returned to the Top 10, most likely due to Age Of Booty's Trophy patch and new trial version -- as well as R&C getting a week long 33% price cut. BOY And GIRL Trying To Reach Mars Noby Noby Boy, the strange game from the mind of Katamari Damacy's creator Keita Takahashi, has continued to rank in the Top 10 on PlayStation Network. Unlike the other titles, we do have some sales data (or at least, user data we can extrapolate from) thanks to the updated BOY count on The web statistics have been collected together by user Alts on the NeoGAF forums, and crafted into an excellent application which grabs the BOY (user) count every night. Using this data, we can see that during March Noby Noby Boy had 19,115 new BOYs reporting data to GIRL. As this is pretty much the entire purpose of the game, we could say that this is roughly the amount of sales Noby Noby Boy achieved in the month - though it may be marginally inflated due to game sharing and multiple BOY accounts per machine. This would be for all of the world, but the North American segment would be a large fraction of that. Takahashi was quoted as saying that Noby Noby Boy was not selling as well as he had hoped - and yet despite that, it still beat most other releases. It's a little worrying for all the other titles - if Noby Noby Boy isn't selling, everyone else appears to be doing even worse. Total BOYs logged so far via the stat tracker are around 63,000, but you have to specifically submit your BOY to get on this list, so the actual total for sales is difficult to extrapolate. On another note, it was recently revealed via that Sony will match the development cost for PlayStation Network games in the exchange for exclusivity, starting with Burn Zombie Burn. It allows the companies to own the IP and control their product, but the resulting game will only be available for PSN. If the sales are not nearly as good as some would hope, it will be very beneficial to those developers who want to take full advantage of the PlayStation 3 hardware. PlayStation Network may not be in completely rude health, but as long as it continues to get interesting new titles that expand the audience like Flower, then there shouldn't be any worry for gamers and top developers. [We thank Sony and the PULSE Program for releasing these statistics, and I'd like to also acknowledge my colleagues at Gamasutra and on NeoGAF for spurring discussion and bringing more analysis to the table.]

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