[Gamasutra examines the successes and failures of the past 12 months of Xbox Live Arcade games -- from Bastion to Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes, checking Leaderboard statistics over the whole of 2011.]
Back in July, we released a list of XBLA Leaderboard statistics for the first half of 2011. Now another six months behind us, it's time to look at what became the biggest sellers on the marketplace throughout 2011.
Please note: Not all of 2011's released games are here. Many had to be skipped due to a lack of information available to us, such as From Dust and Outland, which have no Leaderboard support.
Now with the year complete, we have a full analysis of 175 releases on the platform -- both XBLA games themselves, as well as the downloadable content released alongside them.
Six months of sales
The list below consists of the last six months of new titles being available on the XBLA marketplace, including their Metacritic scores, and the total number of players on any Leaderboards we could follow (which tends to map in some meaningful way to popularity).
The leading title during this time was Fruit Ninja Kinect, now with 739,782 players, courtesy of the game being added to many retail bundles for the Kinect hardware. Following this was Toy Soldiers: Cold War, Bastion, and presumably From Dust, which has previously shown promise in the Top 20 lists throughout this time -- all of them were part of the Summer of Arcade promotion.
Other highlights include Ms. Splosion Man, which after a longer period of time has added over 70,000 players; Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, which has added 69,000 players; Crimson Alliance which has added 116,000 players thanks to being free for those who purchased all of the Summer of Arcade titles; and Dungeon Defenders, which has just tipped itself over 83,000 players.
Based on the Metacritic scores we've seen, we've had a good selection of quality games -- 22 games with a 75 or over score overall, roughly the same as the first half. There were also 26 between 50 and 74, and six with a score of 49 or lower.
Those with a higher score ultimately had a better chance of selling, though with games like Skydrift, that's not always the case.
A very good year
The list below is a collection of data from games released during the first six months of the year until now.
The top sellers from that part of the year include A World Of Keflings, Dead Rising: Case West (though both technically released at the end of December 2010), Beyond Good & Evil HD, Full House Poker, and Magic: The Gathering 2012.
There are some more unsung heroes of the lot -- EA's Fancy Pants Adventures ended up with nearly 90,000 players since its release, Bejeweled Blitz Live sold a lot of copies thanks to being discounted from its original $10 price to a mere $2.50, and Trenched, which continued to have a lot of players despite required to change its name to Iron Brigade.
However, we can also see some of the less than stellar sales of other titles, particularly those from Japanese developers jumping into the digital market. Nin-2 Jump, Trouble Witches Neo, and Bangai-O HD all have the stamp of niche Japanese titles that have had a difficult time making their way to Western shores, and it seems that while they finally made their way across, they only found a niche Western Audience.
One interesting game for the year was Lucha Fury. Developed by Punchers Impact and released on June 22nd, the game received terrible review scores and few sales, and just after a few months was entirely removed from the marketplace. Maybe it was for the better.
This list consists of Leaderboard data for games that were released prior to 2011.
Castle Crashers continues to sell tremendously some four years later, as does Trials HD and UNO. Last year's LIMBO added 300,000 new players, and each of the Pinball FX 2 tables have sold very well.
Sonic the Hedgehog titles added between 70,000 and 100,000 players each over the year, and the original Toy Soldiers has hit more than 600,000 new players as well.
Shadow Complex has finally hit over 600,000 players on the Leaderboards. If most of the sales for SC were at $15, given a standard cut of digital sales, Chair and Epic would have likely made $6-7 million out of it. In comparison, its Infinity Blade series on iOS has made $30 million on its two titles, $5 million of that generated during the first month of release for the sequel.
For a full, complete list of all games from the past year, click this link. It's far too long to read here.
Best-sellers for 2011
The final list we have have is from Microsoft itself -- the Top 20 best-selling titles for XBLA in 2011.
Pinball FX 2, with its large collection of downloadable tables, was the best-selling game of 2011, a great feat considering "pinball" is considered to be very out of fashion. The way the game was released prompted a lot of people to download the pack, and at least purchase one item.
For the same reason, we also saw Microsoft's Game Room store become the 15th best-selling application -- it's disappointing that Microsoft abandoned it so quickly.
We can also see games like Plants Vs. Zombies, Battlefield: 1943, and Portal: Still Alive, continuing to sell plenty of units years after being released.
The one outlier I can see here is Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale. While it's indeed based on a highly regarded IP and an Action RPG, similar to Torchlight, the game was one of the worst reviewed this year, currently sitting at a Metacritic average of 47.
Play games before the world ends
We will continue to publish an analysis of XBLA each month through 2012, and we will come back to the big list at the end of June.
With an amazing indie lineup including Fez, Spelunky, Skullgirls, Dust: An Elysian Tail, and Skulls Of The Shogun, alongside big publishers releasing titles like Gotham City Impostors, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, and Alan Wake's American Nightmare, we're looking at a big year for the platform.