[In this analysis for Gamasutra, GamerBytes editor Ryan Langley looks at the Xbox Live Arcade games that sold the best in their first week during 2010, analyzing some notable lessons for developers planning to target console digital download for their next titles.]
While we didn’t get a chart-related of Xbox Live Arcade titles for all of January 2011 to help our recent analysis, we did get one particular list from Microsoft's Larry Hryb at MajorNelson.com – the top 18 “first week” sales for Xbox Live Arcade games released in 2010.
Using the list, alongside our own Leaderboard analysis for the games at the time of their release, we can see what developers can expect from top games on the Xbox Live Arcade during their first few days of release.
Do note, however, that the Top 18 list is based on "full versions purchased during the first week of release" for the Xbox 360's digital game download service, while our numbers below are based on Leaderboards for the first five days -- Wednesday to Sunday.
Dead Rising Case 0 is the clear winner here, followed by Limbo, Perfect Dark and Toy Soldiers.
Out of the 18 games, eight of them were not part of any sort of first-party 'Summer Of Arcade'-style promotion with Microsoft – Dead Rising Case 0 and West, Deadliest Warrior, X-Men Arcade, Plants Vs. Zombies, Scott Pilgrim, RISK Factions and Sonic 4 – and all of these were based on already established IP of some sort:
I’d say the most interesting game here is Deadliest Warrior, a game that got almost no promotion from the gaming press itself. Instead, the TV show-based title had another power – the show itself.
According to reports, the show -- on the U.S. Spike TV cable channel -- still regularly gets 1.7 million viewers an episode and a median viewer age of 25, the perfect fodder for a video game on a digitally distributed network. The preposterous, 'core' Xbox 360 user-centric concept helps a lot, too.
These statistics also show that X-Men Arcade did a whole lot better than we thought it did, based off of our Leaderboard statistics, which is good news for publisher Konami.
What these numbers show overall is that actually making a new IP on a digital network like this is still incredibly difficult. You can see just why developers and publishers alike fight tooth and nail to get into the Summer of Arcades, Block Parties and Game Feast promotions.
Of course, one can argue that the best games get herded into these promotions anyhow, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the only new IP we see on this chart is Limbo, Toy Soldiers, Monday Night Combat, Blacklight: Tango Down and Super Meat Boy (which is 'new IP' if you discount the Flash original, perhaps). Most of these (except for Blacklight) were first-party associated titles that were part of a Microsoft promotion.
So, my word to developers and publishers. Don’t make huge original IP games with big budgets for Xbox Live Arcade - that’s not the way to do this. Keep the scope small and focused and the team lean for XBLA - unless perhaps you think you can target a subset of the 'core' Call Of Duty-playing Xbox 360 consumer, as Deadliest Warrior and Blacklight arguably did. After all, focused shorter-play titles are what a $10 XBLA game is for.