[Gamasutra contributor Ryan Langley examines April 2012's Xbox Live Arcade debuts and continuing successes, with charts and Leaderboard data showing the performance of titles like Trials Evolution, The Walking Dead and Fez]
While March was the end to a promotion, we've started up once again in April with "Arcade Next," a four-game push to show that new titles are now able to have more Achievement points.
Among them are Trials Evolution, but that's not to say those outside of the promotion will not do as well -- we also see Fez, the long awaited platformer, as well as Telltale's return to the Xbox Live Arcade with their episodic adventure The Walking Dead.
We've pieced together leaderboard statistics and Metacritic ratings from all new titles throughout April, which allows us to determine how new games have sold and how well they were reviewed. We also look at several older titles that continue to do well, as well as specific downloadable content for games that support it.
For the first week of April we got three brand new releases -- Diabolical Pitch and Pinball Arcade were released that Wednesday together, while Anomaly: Warzone Earth was released Friday.
Despite its rival Pinball FX 2 continuing to do well on Xbox Live Arcade, Pinball Arcade saw little of the same numbers coming in, even with good reviews. 5,384 players downloaded it in the first week for a total of 10,914 for the month.
It was the winner of the week though - Diabolical Pitch, a Kinect-exclusive monster hitting game with a bizarre Baseball motif, did not fare well, with barely 1,000 players on the Leaderboards for the whole month.
The Friday release of Anomaly: Warzone Earth also saw disapointing sales despite a very good score on Metacritic and previous success last year on the PC, Mac, iOS and Android fronts. There was little push marketing wise for this release.
Dapper Hat and Skulled Girls
Week two for April featured another four titles - Wednesday featured new fighting game Skullgirls, puzzler The Splatters and platformer World Gone Sour, while the Friday hosted the long awaited Fez - the indie darling of 2012.
Both Splatters and World Gone Sour were mostly ignored by the Xbox Live player base with roughly 5,000 players each showing up on the Leaderboards for the month.
Skullgirls did not have any Leaderboards we could follow, as they were only based on online matches played. We contacted publisher Autumn Games to see if they could help, and they were happy to - they've let us know that in the first 10 days of sales they had achieved over 50,000 sales, evenly split across the XBLA and PSN version. This only accounts for up until April 23rd, so they've likely done quite well since.
Fez meanwhile added 39,036 players in its first week and 76,312 players for the month. It's no Braid in terms of numbers, but it's still doing very well for itself and it should push on for a long time. It got great reviews and the buzz surrounding its puzzle structure could not be beat.
Trials Style Baby!
Trials: Evolution is has the best Metacritic score for April and appears to be the best selling - just over 300,000 players were added in the first week of release, with 436,201 across two weeks.
In comparison, Trials HD hit 246,000 players in the first three weeks of release, based on our analysis at the time, so Trials Evo is off to a good start. Trials HD now is very close to hitting the 2 million player mark, so it'll be interesting to see if Trials Evo can hold its momentum as the original did.
Usually XBLA sequels have not sold nearly as well as the originals, but Trials Evo seems to have beaten those odds. The amount of new content, multiplayer and excellent level sharing system seems to have wowed more players to purchase the game, even if they didn't complete the first one.
Forging Blood From the Dead
The final week of the month brought three more releases. Bloodforge was the second "Arcade Next" title, but was not received with similar praise - The game currently has a Metacritic of 44, which is very low. The game attracted 15,844 players to its Leaderboard, which is reasonable but low for a game that got a lot of promotion.
The game was released alongside Deep Black: Episode 1, which was also released with little fanfare. It also received very poor reviews with a Metacritic of 40. The Leaderboards could not be followed.
The final game was the first episode of The Walking Dead - the first Telltale game to come to the Xbox 360 since Wallace & Gromit. It's also quite cheap at 400MSP, and also the first to be an entire season of game in one single XBLA package.
The game has no Leaderboards, but we do know that the game has done extremely well. For its second week of release, which will be dealt with in the May analysis, it beat Trials Evolution which added 74,815 players, so it's more than likely that the game sold more than that in its first week. The exceptional sales are likely thanks to the game getting great reviews, great pricing, and the show being very popular right now.
Cold War Uprising
Pinball FX 2 and Trials HD downloadable content has been fairly consistent this month, but we do have some new content in the form of Toy Soldiers: Cold War DLC. Unfortunately the DLC does not seem to have sold particularly well despite the core game doing well in the Summer of Arcade last year. Both these packs appeared 11 months after the original's release; it may have been too long of a period for the DLC to be of interest to the original players.
Alive And Defending
Some of the extra games we followed this month include The Maw, Snoopy: Flying Ace and Lode Runner, which were available for free in Japan as part of a promotion. The promotion seems to have fallen on deaf ears, however, as none of the games saw much of a bump.
Full House Poker has finally passed half a million units, Limbo is slowly but surely on its way to a million, and Gotham City Imposters has jumped swiftly over 200,000 players, as I Am Alive should also do next month.
Make Mine MineCraft
In a bizarre change of pace for the Xbox Live Arcade, The month of May might be the most profitable 30 days in its history. As of this writing Minecraft has already sold over a million copies in its first week, tripling Trials Evolution's record debut. We also have heavy hitters like Fable Heroes, Sonic 4: Episode II, and more, so it's going to be a crazy month for digital games and Xbox Live Arcade.