The Hidden Sales Success Of Xbox Live Arcade

The Hidden Sales Success Of Xbox Live Arcade

Downloadable games aren’t included in the official Aussie Charts as tracked by sales data experts GfK. But what if they were? You might be surprised.

At a recent Xbox media event, we asked Microsoft how well the recent Winter of Arcade releases had performed in Australia. We had just heard that Shadow Complex, the most celebrated of the recent XBLA batch, had reached 200,000 downloads worldwide in its first two weeks. But we really wanted to know how these things are selling locally.

We weren’t surprised to hear Microsoft say that all five Winter of Arcade games had sold well. But we were very surprised to hear that all five would have placed in the top 10 across all formats during their respective launch weeks. Not just in the Xbox 360 chart, but across all formats.

That’s pretty impressive.

Even more impressive is that other recent XBLA games – Worms 2 and Battlefield 1943 – would have made it all the way to number one on the all formats chart during their launch weeks. Again, that’s all formats. Yes, that means they sold more that week than even Wii Fit.

Now, to clarify, we’re talking unit sales here: we’re simply taking the number of units Microsoft know they sold of each of those titles during launch week and then compared it to the units sold at retail that week according to GfK.

Further, the GfK all formats chart only includes “full price” games, ie. those with an RRP greater than $50. Clearly, when XBLA games cost $15 – $20 we’re not exactly comparing like for like. But still, it’s interesting data and provides an insight into the relative performance of retail vs digital that our current chart tracking methods don’t acknowledge.

I’m curious to know about your purchasing patterns. Do you find yourself turning more and more to services like XBLA, PSN or WiiWare? How has your ratio of disc-to-digital purchases changed this year?


  • I do love my digital games for something different (ie. Braid, Flower, Peggle, etc.) to fil in the gaps between Halos and GTAs and whatnot.

    When I spend $100 on a game, I want a physical copy and a case and an instruction manual (a REAL one! not a PDF!), but I am more than happy to fork out the $20 to support a smaller team’s excellent game on XBL or PSN.

    Only problem with PSN is that there is yet to be that many games like that… or they are just not getting as much exposure.

    Now my problem is that my measly 20gb 360 hard drive is full and I am having trouble finding a new 120gb with a transfer kit that will actually work in Australia >_>

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. There hasnt been any MAJOR Releases for a while and people (myself included) have been purchasing the PSN/XBLA games as filler. Good filler but filler non the less.
      Imagine if BF:1943 was released this month close to Halo ODST or closer to MW2. It wouldnt have been such a success.

      PS. Fat Princess, Splosion Man and Trials HD are awsome

      • How does Fat Princess run in Australia? I have been tempted to get it, but I am sick of laggy multiplayer experiences on L4D and the such on LIVE.

        To be honest, I have tried very few PS3 games online.. If it runs well in oz, I might give it a go..

  • “If the PSN gets any decent games other then Fat Princess i might start buying them”

    Totally agree, the range of games on PSN is pretty average considering the quality of their backcatalogue. Also, all digital distribution organisations need to start thinking about ISP unmetered content if they want Australian gamers to move from discs to digital (iiNet and box Live being the obvious example of course). For a lot of us, downloading games that are gigabytes in size is simply not an option.

  • I downloaded 3 of the Winter Arcade titles (Turtles – for my 6 yo son, Trials and Shadow Complex) and about 5 previous ones. I have had more fun with them then a lot of full retail games lately. They are *almost* impulse buys now and can offer a unique experience so I will keep supporting them. Probably more so than full disc releases – I have a 120Gb drive and still have heaps of room left.

  • I buy 5-6 XBLA games a year. I only ever buy 1 full priced retail game a year.

    Retail games I wait to hit $50, unless it’s COD4 or Gears 2 or MW2, those HAVE to be bought day 1 :o)

  • Nearly all the games I’ve been playing recently have been downloaded. I play more BF1943 than any ‘disc’ game I own.

    I’ve simply had more fun with downloadable games, ‘Splosion man, Rocket Riot, Shadow Complex, and trials HD have given me hours of fun, and combined, the cost is comparable to buying a single new disc game.

    If you had told me a year ago that I would be shunning physical media for DLC I would have hit you over the head with a collector’s edition, but now I’m a convert.

  • Since purchasing my XBox 360 a few weeks ago, I’ve rarely ever put a disc in its (very noisy) drive. The majority of games I play on it have been purchased from the market place.
    I’ve also purchased a bucket load of stuff from PSN and Steam (and a few from EA).
    So yeah. Digital digital distribution FTW!

  • My preference is definitely to the retail disc if I can, but I bought Splosion Man and Shadow Complex both of which were awesome, and the recent pack of small games on Steam for $30 US. Apart from Steam you never get good deals on older games with the download services unlike retail where I splurge on sales when games are at the $20-30 mark each, hell I’ve bought some games at $5 each. I prefer the feeling of browsing my catalog of games to pick what to play too, than cycling through the list on the HDD. Also there’s the option to trade in or sell your old games on disc, not that I ever seem to but the option is there.

  • I like xbox live arcade because it lets me try all these arcade games before I have to pay for them.
    I bought Battlefield 1943 and recently shadow complex and trials HD.

  • I think digitally distributed games (at least in the case of XBLA) have such appeal because they often hark back to a time when a game was based around a simple core idea. They are on average simpler, more accessible, and often a lot more instantly engaging than many full priced titles.

    Pick up a game like Trials HD or Geometry Wars, and you know within 5 seconds whether you’re going to love it or not.

    I think another major reason for the success of XBLA is simply being able to try before you buy.

  • Hang on, so lets say, Halo 3 drops to $39 RRP and heaps of people go out and buy it the week it drops its price, and lets say in a sales perspective it would chart at #5, GfK wouldn’t chart it on the weekly chart because it’s below $50?

    Or are you just using that as an example. Cause thats bullshiz now allowing cheap games to chart. A lot of games out there get a lot of their sales a year or so later when its really cheap.

  • XBLA is kicking PSN’s a** so far in 2009:

    The Maw
    R-Type Dimensions
    Death Tank
    Exit 2
    Hasbro Family Game Night
    Uno Rush
    The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai
    Lode Runner
    Banjo Tooie
    Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram
    Space Invaders Extreme
    Wallace & Gromit Episode 1
    Yosumin! Live
    Sonic the Hedgehog 3
    Rocket Riot
    Sam & Max Save the World
    Magic: The Gathering
    Garou: Mark of the Wolves
    King of Fighters 98
    Worms 2: Armageddon
    Madballs in Babo: Invasion
    The Secret of Monkey Island
    ‘Splosion Man
    TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled
    Trials HD
    Shadow Complex
    Defense Grid

    Noby Noby Boy
    Trash Panic
    Bomberman Ultra
    Burn Zombie Burn
    Rag Doll Kung Fu
    Fat Princess

    PSN (already on XBLA):
    Bejeweled 2
    Heavy Weapon

    Outrun Online Arcade
    Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
    Wolfenstein 3D
    Gunstar Heroes
    Crystal Defenders
    Battlefield 1943
    Marvel vs. Capcom 2
    Invincible Tiger

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