[In his regular, in-depth look at PlayStation Network sales data, Ryan Langley of GamerBytes examines the Top 10 selling North American PSN titles of April 2009, from Rag Doll Kung Fu through Flock and beyond, to find out what flew and what fell to earth.]
While the NPD Group may release retail sales data for North America, at GamerBytes we take a look at what they don’t cover – the Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.
This time round, GamerBytes has exclusively been given the Top 10 selling PlayStation Network titles in North America for April 2009, information not provided by Sony's Pulse show on PSN this month as normal.
April was privy to three new PSN game releases for digital PlayStation 3 download – Rag Doll Kung Fu, Comet Crash and Flock.
In addition, a number of strong debuts from earlier in 2009 and some perennial chart contenders have turned up to battle it out for the top PSN games -- which Sony releases a ranking but no specific purchase numbers for.
In this analysis, we'll look to see how well each title did, see which March games were able to hold on, and determine what trends this downloadable space might be adhering to.
Here's the North American Top 10 for PlayStation Network games on the PS3 for April 2009:
Rag Doll fighting fit, Flock Less So?
As you can see, Rag Doll Kung Fu hit the top of the Top 10 list, and many gamers were excited to see a game originally developed by the LittleBigPlanet developers come to the PlayStation Network. Enthusiasm for the title seems to have overcome customer issues such as the lack of an online mode.
We'll probably see it do even better in May, since there was a major U.S. giveaway of the game in association with advertiser Sprint, in which the title was downloadable for free for a limited time.
Proper Games and Capcom's Flock, on the other hand, did not make the Top 10 at all. This is just how the Xbox 360 version fared, which did not hit the Major Nelson Top 10 at all. Capcom did quite a lot to get PlayStation owners interested, with the release of two exclusive demos via the Qore video magazine, as well as releasing a demo alongside the game, but it does not seem to help its first-month sales that much.
However, Comet Crash fared better than Flock, landing in 6th place. This indie Tower Defense title has done roughly as well as Savage Moon did two months ago. While we're not expecting it to last long on the charts, it’s nice to see a game with very little buzz find its niche on PSN, and hopefully it will continue to sell solidly.
Wheels Continue To Turn
Wheel of Fortune has continued to sell well since its March 2009 release, only dropping to third on the charts. While the game is a relatively expensive title at $14.99 compared to most, keeping momentum like this is relatively impressive and unexpected, showing the value of more casual brands on PSN.
After two months of being at the top, ThatGameCompany's Flower has begun to climb down the charts, dipping to 4th place. In addition, the perennial Mortal Kombat II continues to sell far beyond expectations and has not moved from its place in the charts, still staying at 5th place - and showing the benefits of nostalgia.
Further down, Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty appears once again, despite the price going back up to $14.99 from its brief $9.99 sale. Notably, the first Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time trailer was released at the end of March, so continued sales could include gamers getting ready for the next chapter.
Worm and Burn
The very end of March saw the release of Burn Zombie Burn and Worms, but only Worms made it to the charts - taking second place. Team 17's Worms has been a gigantic hit on the Xbox Live Arcade and has continued to be in the XBLA Top 10 since its price drop, and despite Worms PSN coming out at the higher price of $11.99, it didn’t seem to stop it from selling.
Doublesix's Burn Zombie Burn not charting is quite disappointing, as it was an exclusive title that did well in reviews. Luckily, even if it does not do well in the long run it will at least make its money back – Burn Zombie Burn was the first title to be a part of the Sony’s Dev Fund program, allowing those developers to have their development costs paid by Sony (as an advance against royalties) if published exclusively for the PlayStation Network. The game may have also done better in Europe, as developer Doublesix were quoted as being “delighted”, overall, with the sales of Burn Zombie Burn.
Elsewhere, Keita Takahashi's Noby Noby Boy has held itself in the Top 5 for the past two months, but has dropped to 10th place this month. Thanks to the official website and this online application. we’re able to see that throughout April there were 8,901 new BOYs reporting to GIRL. Please note that this is a worldwide number, and not just the United States.
While not everyone who bought Noby Noby Boy has reported their BOY length to GIRL, it’s a fairly good estimate of how well the game has done. Last month the total was 19,115 and at 3rd place on the PSN North American charts, by point of comparison.
Downloadable Content for Downloadable Games
After two months of being absent, Sony's own PAIN has returned to the Top 10 list. Since mid March, the PAIN developers have released the Smack Pack and two new playable characters.
While this might not have pushed it over for the March numbers, it may have helped make it to the Top 10 with 4 weeks of sales from people picking up the game for the DLC. In terms of downloadable content, PixelJunk Eden and Magic Ball also released expansion packs this month, but neither caused any disturbance in the Top 10.
Looking forward, May's charts will include titles like Puzzle Quest Galactrix, Texas Cheat’em, Zen Pinball and Trash Panic - titles that are either puzzle-based or potentially quite niche - although you may underestimate the popularity of pinball games at your peril. Will any of them catch on with the PlayStation Network audience? We will do a new rundown next month.
[Thanks to Sony and Porter Novelli 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.]