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XBLA's annual 'Summer of Arcade' promotion may be losing its steam Exclusive
XBLA's annual 'Summer of Arcade' promotion may be losing its steam
September 5, 2012 | By Ryan Langley

September 5, 2012 | By Ryan Langley
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

Gamasutra contributor Ryan Langley examines August 2012's Xbox Live Arcade debuts and continuing successes, with charts and Leaderboard data showing the performance of titles like Dust: An Elysian Tail, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Deadlight.

Microsoft's big annual Summer of Arcade promotion for 2012 is over now, and it may have been its weakest yet, with most games seeing poor reviews and some not even hitting 10,000 players in their first week!

This month we see the second half of the promotion and give our thoughts, as well as discuss the next big XBLA title: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

We've pieced together Leaderboard statistics and Metacritic ratings from every title released in August 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.

Toward The Deadlight

August's first release continued the Summer of Arcade promotion with Deadlight -- a side-scrolling action-adventure title involving zombies. It scored an unfavorable Metacritic of 69.

It was, however, the second best selling title for the month, adding a hefty 53,637 players in the first week, but quickly dropping in downloads in subsequent weeks for a total of 86,740 players for the month.


A Merging of Problems

The next title appeared quite promising -- Hybrid is a unique third-person shooter which involves flying around, an ambitious worldwide metagame, and a drastically different control scheme. Developed by 5th Cell, the people behind the popular Scribblenauts on other platforms, Hybrid was a significant change in design for the team.

The game's first day on sale was a difficult one -- the servers were overloaded and causing numerous issues, to the point where 5th Cell ripped the game down from the marketplace for several hours.

The day-one issues, along with a lukewarm critical reception, has made the game sell rather poorly -- only 12,168 players were added in the first week, and 22,972 players for the whole month. By our count, behind Wreckateer, this has been the second worst-selling title we've seen in the Summer of Arcade.

A Bit Dusty

The final title of the Summer of Arcade was Dust: An Elysian Tail, a very ambitious side-scrolling action RPG with an exceptional art style. Dust was developed almost entirely by Dean Dodrill, and it was both the indie darling of the promotion and the best-reviewed title for the month.

Dust added 32,280 players in the first week, and 44,747 players for the month. This is less than what Fez was able to accomplish back in April, but still considered quite good given Dust's small team and $5 higher price point.

Also released this week was a surprise launch of Expendables 2, which came out of the blue with very little fanfare. The game has a Metacritic rating of 38, one of the worst we've seen for an Xbox Live Arcade title.


After the Summer of Arcade, usually the place for the heavy hitters, we see Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment hit it out of the park with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the long-awaited recreation of the popular PC shooter, now also available on consoles.

In its first week it added 145,709 players -- a great amount, and it comes as no surprise. It actually added more players than Minecraft did in the same week, which we haven't seen happen for a while.

The other release this week was for Jojo's Bizarre Adventure HD Ver, a digital version of the classic 1998 fighting title. Jojo's was sold for 1600 Microsoft Points ($20), which is rare.

Considering Jojo's relative obscurity compared to other fighting games, I assume Capcom took the higher price in the hopes that they'd sell to a dedicated crowd who will buy it regardless of price. An interesting proposition!

Unfortunately we were unable to follow the game's Leaderboards -- much like every other fighting game out there, they don't tally single player game scores, and instead count the more limited ranked online match Leaderboards.


Clack Clack Clack

Nothing much new on the downloadable content front - Pinball FX 2's DLC is continuing to fall ever slowly, while Trials HD continues to be stagnant, even with the sequel now available.


Blocked Out

Minecraft is still being a beast - 617,908 new players in the month of August, and the game is now way over 4 million players. Word is that Minecraft has now hit over 3.6 million purchased on Xbox Live Arcade, so it seems a lot of people are playing the game with couch co-op mode.

Last month's Summer of Arcade titles, Wreckateer and Tony Hawk HD, have fallen off dramatically in sales since release. Wreckateer hasn't even sold 15,000 copies at this point.

Quantum Conundrum has slowed quite a bit, even more so than Zuma's Revenge and Dungeon Fighter which came out the same week, despite it being the title critics went to first.

One game that we don't have on this list that's selling very well is The Walking Dead; since it has no Leaderboards, we can't track it like we do the other XBLA titles.

When September Comes

Next month is looking packed with titles -- we already know of nine titles scheduled for release, including Walking Dead Part 3, Jet Set Radio HD, Mark of the Ninja and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. If it's anything like previous Septembers we'll see some great highs and astounding lows across sales and Metacritic ratings. See you again next month!

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Jonathan Jennings
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I say this as an diehard xbox fan but i don't think any summer of arcade has been quite as good as the limbo, MNC, castelvania summer. even though I didn't grab the tomb raider or hydro thunder games it seemed like a very well rounded collection of games and i considered buying all of them at some point. since then the summer of arcades have had maybe one or two very exciting looking titles and another 3 placeholder games that i know for me didn't seem like they would hold my interest for long at all.

Mike Jenkins
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My favorite was the 2nd year: Splosion Man, Trials HD, Shadow Complex, MvC2, and Turtles in Time.

The promotion losing steam is undoubtedly due to the quality of games dropping.

Evan Combs
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I think you hit it on the nail. At first the games were extremely good high quality games, that had very little competition. Now most of the games seem to be there may be one great game that stands out, but the rest are kind of whatever.

Steven Rosenthal
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The quality of the games is definitely an issue, along with the higher price points for all new Xbox Live Arcade titles. I used to buy a lot of the 800 point titles, but now everything is coming out at 1200 and 1600 points. If the quality isn't going up, I'm not sure why they're expecting us to pay more.

Marcus Miller
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Give Comedy Night on the XBL Indie games a try for a $1. You will either thank me or hate me later...

Ujn Hunter
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I think the price increases hurt sales. I personally won't pay more than $10 for a DRM Digital Download "rental".

John Flush
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Of all the games I got with the summer sales, all of them eventually hit the PC, cheaper and with a service that will span console lives. The console arcades probably won't transfer to the next one. I also have a game pad on the PC now meaning the console has very little value to me now at all. Controller for the games I want it with, keyboard and mouse with the rest and a never ending cycle where my games won't die over time. Why bother anymore with consoles?

Christopher Thigpen
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When you give garbage, you get garbage sales in return. Couple that with the high price for these mediocre games, you get discontent and players hitting Steam. Laughing all the way with the savings in their pocket.

XBLA itself is a dinosaur of overpriced hit and miss games. I concur that the Limbo, MNC summer sale was the best.

If XBLA can pull their head out of the greed cloud. They will see sales go up. Resulting in a higher return. 1200 points for these games is just laughable...and not in the good way.

You are basically seeing the users turn their back on XBLA.