So this might end up being my last Xbox Live Sales Analysis. While it's been great that Gamasutra has helped me the past 3 and a half years with Gamerbytes (and I really appreciate this!), coming originally from my XBLAH blog, I'm no longer going to be paid to do them. I'd like to thank Simon and Co for helping me do this for as long as I have been!
And man, these things take a while! Every Monday I get home from work at Halfbrick Studios and Gym and open up some 20+ games, and then I write the article at the end. I've enjoyed doing it a lot, but without anyone willing to pay for it I can probably spend my time doing other stuff.
I've tried contacting numerous blogs -- Polygon, Kotaku and IGN to name a few, but either I didn't get a response at all after numerous tries or they weren't interested. But hey! If you're a site who wants me to continue, make it worth while for me, I'm open!
Anyway, on with the article.
Well it’s now 2013 – it’s a fresh year for Xbox Live Arcade games, but before we do anything we still have one last month to analyze – December.
December in the past has been an interesting month – sometimes we’ve seen some great titles being released like Sonic CD and Joe Danger: Special Edition, while other times it’s been a dumping ground for whatever didn’t fit in the schedule anywhere else. It’s a time where game blogs and publishers start to shut down and hibernates, sometimes leaving games high and dry with little support. How will December fare?
Each month we look back at the latest Xbox Live Arcade releases, downloadable content, and other popular titles using Leaderboard data, Metacritic and Top 20 lists to see how the shop front is faring.
Virtua The Fighting Viper
The first week of December was a big week for Sega digital downloads. In the past we’ve seen Sega try numerous types of digital downloads – we’ve had their original, singular releases through Backbone, we’ve had their newer re-releases like After Burner Climax, recently we’ve had their digital re-release combo collections like Streets of Rage, and we’ve had HD remakes in the style of Jet Set Radio and Sonic Adventure 2.
For this one we’ve seen a new tactic – quality digital re-releases of the AM2 division’s Arcade games with fairly bare bones packaging for a fiver. Here we got three fighting games – Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, and Sonic The Fighters. Unfortunately we couldn’t follow any of the game’s Leaderboards as they were all based on the online multiplayer modes. But we were able to see the the Major Nelson ratings for each game’s second week of release – Sonic The Fighters was 10th in its second week of release, while Virtua Fighter 2 was 20th.
Also released this week was a new Kinect game which appeared out of thin air – Red Bull Crashed Ice Kinect. Unfortunately this Kinect ice race game received little promotion from Microsoft or Redbull and added very few players.
Middle Earth Has Fallen To The Dire
The second week of December gave us the first classic styled MOBA / LOMA title for the Xbox Live Arcade – Guardians of Middle Earth, just in time for The Hobbit to hit theatres.
While a MOBA on XBLA seems like it should be a winner, as well as using putting the Lord Of The Rings franchise to good use, it seems to have fallen rather flat with players. From our count only 6,527 players were added to the game in the first week for a total of 18,334 players for the month, though this might be less than the actual sales due to their implementation.
But A Scratch
Also released this week was Black Knight Sword, a game developed by Grasshopper Interactive and Digital Reality featuring a cardboard / puppet aesthetic. Unfortunately the game has a limited leader board system, and with the lack of Major Nelson Top 20 we were unable to follow the game.
In a surprise move Microsoft released Double Fine’s Kinect Party onto Xbox Live Arcade for free until the end of December. Considering a large amount of the Kinect-only Xbox Live Arcade games have sold rather poorly it’s interesting to see Microsoft using the game as a tool to get more Kinect users onto Xbox Live. The game has no Leaderboards to speak of, so we couldn’t follow how many copies got picked up for free.
American Mensa Academy was another that came and went – published by Square Enix with little acknowledgement of its existence. Very few people picked the game up, and it received underwhelming scores from reviewers.
The final releases for the year were three more Kinect Sports Gems titles – their Tennis, Golf and Baseball titles. But with limited Leaderboards, as well as no trial version to speak of, we were unable to follow any of the games.
Skateboards, Motorbikes and Pinballs
December was a surprisingly big month for downloadable content – three big games got DLC this month, with varying amounts of success.
The first new release was Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD’s Revert pack, featuring three levels from Tony Hawk 3 as well as the ability to “revert” around the level. The DLC was delayed from its original release and ended up coming out with not much fanfare. Of the 236,000 players with Tony Hawk HD only 6,857 players picked up the extra pack.
The next item was Pinball FX 2’s “Zen Classic” package, featuring 4 tables that were previously exclusive to Zen Studios’ PlayStation Network game Zen Pinball. The pack didn’t end up selling too well though – only 6,857 players were added to the game for the month, making it the least selling pack they’ve released so far. With 34 other tabled to play on already it looks like the game may have hit critical mass.
The last new item for DLC was Trials Evolution’s second DLC pack – Big Sands. The pack added 28,126 players in the first week and 43,295 players for the month. The first pack for comparison, which released in October, added 37,235 players in its first week and 72,115 players in the same timeframe. We also saw all of Trials HD and Evolution get price cuts over the week of Christmas, seeing big boosts to the game’s player base.
Christmas Deals and Minecraft Boom
Over the weeks around Christmas the Xbox Marketplace had numerous deals on from 33% to 80% off selected titles for a day at a time. We were able to follow a few of them.
A game that got a lot of extra players was Fez – which got 24,065 new players on that week alone, almost as good as its second week of release. For the year’s end it has reached 168,566 players.
Fruit Ninja Kinect got another Christmas Day sale at half price, adding 37,315 players, and now just a few thousand shy of 1.5 million players total.
Thanks to the Christmas Sale Joe Danger 2, which wasn’t a big seller at release, was able to double its player count during December. Sonic Adventure 2 was half price for a day and was able to crack over 100,000 players for the year.
Back again is Mojang and 4J Studio’s Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, which we have the official numbers for. Still at 1600 Microsoft Points, or $20USD, the game managed to get a giant boost in sales with new people opening up their Xbox’s over Christmas – 325,591 players were added on that week alone, allowing the game to squeak over 5 million players for the year. It’s a staggering amount of players, and was also helped by a hefty amount of dashboard advertising on Microsoft’s part.
The Mayans Were Very Wrong
January looks at start off the year with a bang with Retro City Rampage finally hitting the marketplace after a few month delay from the PlayStation Network version. We’ll also see the long awaited release of The Cave from Double Fine Productions and Sega, as well as Skulls of the Shogun across XBLA, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.