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 Spelunky  console debut doesn't hit indie expectations set by  Fez ,  Braid
Spelunky console debut doesn't hit indie expectations set by Fez, Braid
August 13, 2012 | By Ryan Langley

August 13, 2012 | By Ryan Langley
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Indie, Business/Marketing

Gamasutra contributor Ryan Langley examines July 2012's Xbox Live Arcade debuts and continuing successes, with charts and Leaderboard data showing the performance of titles like Spelunky, Quantum Conundrum,and Tony Hawk: Pro Skater HD.

It's that time of year again -- the Summer of Arcade, an event held once a year to show off the best and brightest the Xbox Live Arcade can offer. This month we look at Tony Hawk HD and Wreckateer, as well as those titles that didn't make it into the promotion, like Spelunky and Quantum Conundrum.

We've pieced together Leaderboard statistics and Metacritic ratings from every title released in July, where available, 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.

You expecting to run into much gunfire in these caves?

Despite Spelunky being a well-known indie darling, it hasn't seen the same popularity of games like Limbo, Braid and Fez. The game added only 17,818 players in the first week for 33,107 players for the month. It is the best-reviewed title, however.

Even taking the price difference between it ($15) and Fez ($10) into account, it hasn't seen much money. It's shame that we haven't seen another big indie seller, but the developers should be pretty happy with the great reviews.

Bellator: MMA Onslaught, developed by Kung Fu Factory and published by MTV's 345 Games, did not have any leaderboards that we could follow. It was also the worst reviewed title for the month.

Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition appears to have sold quite poorly. If people wanted Frogger, they would have picked up one of the previous two releases. The Xbox Live Arcade version was almost purely to complete the rundown of releases, as it also released on WiiWare, PlayStation Network, and iPhone.


Dungeon conundrum

The second week of July also had three releases. Quantum Conundrum received good reviews on PC just a few weeks earlier, as well as a slight push over the competition in the first week, but the game ended up selling slightly less overall than the other two titles -- Zuma's Revenge and Dungeon Fighter.

All three titles sold close to the same amount, though Quantum Conundrum was released on numerous platforms at the same time. It was probably the most expensive of the three to develop.

Pretending I'm a Superman

The first release for this year's Summer of Arcade was Tony Hawk HD, a remake of some of the best levels from the original PlayStation games for a new generation. Reviews have been lukewarm, citing some issues with physics and the general "empty" feel of the game.

Regardless, it was the best selling new title of the month, adding nearly 100,000 players in the first week for a total of 132,598 players for the month.

A wreck, a tear

The final release of the month was Wreckateer, this year's Kinect title in the Summer of Arcade. While last year's Fruit Ninja Kinect was a resounding success, Wreckateer appears to be the worst selling Summer of Arcade title we've seen. Only 6,629 players were added in the first week, placing it in fifth on the Major Nelson Top 20.


Ongoing DLC

We continue to follow the DLC for three titles: Pinball FX 2, Toy Soliders, and Trials HD. The latest addition, Pinball FX's third Marvel Pack, slowed down quite quickly and hasn't been performing as well as it could have, but with the addition of mobile platforms for their titles I wouldn't be surprised if the sales are a little more spread over different SKUs now.


Gold Mine

Minecraft cracked 3 million players at the beginning of July, an astounding feat. It continues to be one of the most played titles on all of Xbox - only being bested by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Castle Crashers still adds a lot of players each week - in a month or two it will also hit the 3 million mark.

Dead In The Dust

August will continue the Summer of Arcade with some sales hopefuls - Deadlight, Dust and Hybrid. But there's also a ton of other big titles too - Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure HD and Rock Band Blitz.

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Michael Pianta
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When I started hearing about how great Spelunky was, I put it on my mental list to check out. But I never got around to it, and before long I'm reading glowing reviews of this XBLA release. "I really need to play this," I thought to myself, so I immediately downloaded... the free version. And I love it, and I've been playing it a lot the last month or so. I'm not sure what they added or think they added to make the XBLA version worth the extra cost, but I don't see myself getting it any time too soon, and I bet a lot of other people did the exact same thing as me.

Mark Venturelli
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"worth the extra cost"?

For god's sake, man. You've been enjoying it for fucking FREE. The XBLA is worth it, make no mistake, but you should buy it just to support the devs if you are really enjoying the free version so much.

Michael Pianta
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I don't know what the Pugs feature is, I'll look it up. Also, personally, I didn't like the way the graphics were changed - I prefer the charming pixels. Are the original graphics in the XBLA version? (My impression was no). Mark, I hear what you're saying, but I (and many other consumers) also have no choice but to think at least partially in economic terms. Especially right now, if you know what I mean. I didn't mean to imply though that Derek Yu doesn't deserve his money - he definitely does - it's just he has a harder sell, I think, the other games they are comparing him to (Braid, Limbo, Fez).

Ara Shirinian
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I was surprised how much volume of game there was in the Spelunky demo. As a naive player to the game it took me about 3 hours before I was actually able to get past the first world (end of demo), and my hunch is that due to the extreme randomness, you can enjoy the demo for quite an extensive amount of time longer before ever reaching the point where you are truly compelled to consider purchase. I get the impression that maybe lots of players would not even be able to get to the end of the first world. I think it would have been better to cut if off at the end of 1-1 or 1-2...

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Michael just gave very important data on why he choose not to purchase Spelunky (he has no idea what he would actually get by upgrading, he is satisfied with the free version). As he says, there are probably other people like him. Rather than telling him what he should do, I think it's better to ask why he made these decisions. It sounds rather like Derek Yu didn't actually explain to people clearly why they should upgrade, i.e. he didn't pitch his game well; and also possibly was too generous with his demo.

Maybe Derek is fine with this, and he specifically choose the break points and feature sets included in each SKU with this in mind. Or possibly he isn't, and this is a great opportunity for us all to learn about consumer behavior.

Mark Venturelli
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Damn it. I have to buy 5 more copies now, then!

Ujn Hunter
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I won't buy digital only games for more than $10. They're essentially rentals...

Allen Brooks
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Not really. You don't have to return them, you get a license to use the game forever.

Danny Bernal
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@Allen Brooks - defined by who? sounds like famous last words to me.

Luis Blondet
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Man, i love Spelunky. Maybe i'll make a mod fixing the pet peeves to make it perfect.

Steve Castro
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I absolutely love the graphics on Spelunky. It's a super fun game I've played a lot since release.

However, I did hesitate in buying it at first. The first thing I did was fire up the co-op mode with my wife, and it said it didn't save co-op progress. I was turned off immediately by that. Then I thought even single player mode didn't have any saving during the demo. It wasn't until I realized there was a tunnel man that could help you inch your way to the end of the game and that the other levels were very different that I decided to buy the game. I just feel like the game's marketing doesn't prepare one well enough to know what to expect and I had to read up on it to really decide to get it.

Matthew Jackson
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pretty awesome... i also got a few airsoft guns from the games that i play and its a lot of fun.