March 30, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless
[Compiling many of the statistics from XNA Community Games' first data dump, sister console digital download site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley takes an in-depth look at what the divulged sales numbers mean for the future of the service.]
Since the start of the XNA Community Games on the Xbox Marketplace it's been well known that the developers had no way to look at any data about their titles. As of Saturday however, download history is now available to game submitters, complete with specific details on how many trial games have been download, the amount of sales they make on a daily basis, and which regions they were bought.
Many developers have openly discussed their sales through the XNA Creators forums, or on their own websites. Several others have been in contact with us and are allowing us to display their own totals. I thank every developer who was willing to speak with us and be a part of these statistics.
Below is a chart of sales for 24 different games - the amount of trial versions downloaded, and the amount of games bought. Some of the data is incomplete, but we've done our best to be as accurate as possible.
The earnings are based on the 70 / 30 scale suggested by Microsoft for how much developers will earn through XNA Community Games, but this might change in the future, with Microsoft taking an extra 10-30% depending on the amount of promotion they give a game. (However, right now, the XNA admins says: "For the time being, we've decided to maintain the 70/30 split across the board whether your game was featured or not"):
These games are sorted by the date that the games were released on, to help us understand the long tail that a game may have. Those titles with an asterisk next to their names only gave rough estimates on their sales.
From the statistics, we can tell that the XNA Community Games have not gotten off to the best of starts. After nearly six months of being available most games have done very little, and the amount of trials downloaded per game is still very small compared to the online Xbox user base.
Back in 2007 Microsoft cited that the conversion rate between those who downloaded the demo for an Xbox Live Arcade title and bought the game was 17%. While this conversion rate has most likely dropped by as much as 50% since, the expanded userbase of the Xbox 360 has made up for it. For the XNA Community Games we're seeing a wide variety of sales between two different pricing SKUs.
The 7 Community Games we've tallied that sold for 400MSP we can see a low amount of people who decided to upgrade to the final game. Games like Blow, Exhaust and Snake360 all had a large amount of content. But much like the iPhone app store, it appears that few people feel the urge to spend $5 on a quality product, even when Xbox Live Arcade has been keeping mostly to higher price points.
While most of the 200MSP titles have had similar conversion rates, there have been some breakout hits that have done much better. Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp, Groov, ZP2K9 and Solar have all sold better, with Johnny Platform being the top seller within our data.
Each one of those games are a quality product for the 200MSP they cost, but one thing that these games also got was exposure through other mediums. Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp and Groov were discussed on the popular Rebel FM and Listen UP podcasts, which spread the word of mouth for the game.
Speaking to Groov developer Julian Kantor, we found that after the podcast plugs the game rose from 93 sales the previous week to 157 the next. During March Groov achieved an conversion rate of 37.8%, with the help of being discussed on both podcasts again, and was mentioned in the Community Games column in latest issue of OXM UK.
Solar is one of the most recent additions to the XNA Community Games, and the sales show it's doing well for itself. It's one of those games that brings a different experience to the platform, something along the lines of flOw or Braid have beforehand.
One thing Solar has done is advertise, and in a way that no other has - through Flash. The developer has created a altered version of the game and released it through flash portal Newgrounds. Currently there have been over 11,000 views of the version, which specifically states you can now get the game on XNA Community Games.
ZP2K9, created by Ska Studios, did well despite being an online multiplayer shooter, which is difficult to cater for, as XNA titles do not support leaderboards or any way to know which of your friends currently own the game. It will be interesting to see how well their game goes this week with the addition of Dishwasher: Dead Samurai to the Xbox Live Arcade.
Another high profile Community Game title was Weapon Of Choice by ex-Insomniac Studios developer Nathan Fouts. While we do not have any specific data for the game, Nathan has come out and said that the game has had less than 10,000 sales.
This is far better than the 3,500 we've seen here, and in comparison to the other 400MSP titles that's still a good amount of sales. However Nathan intended to become a big part of the indie game movement, and for someone who wishes to make a living off XNA Community Games it doesn't appear to be as well as hoped. Weapon Of Choice, like the other 400MSP titles, had quite a low conversion rate from demo to full game.
For the few applications that have made it to the XNA Community service, EZMuze, Remote Masseuse and Clock 24-7 did quite well for themselves. Remote Masseuse, which itself got a lot of attention for its "partner" based rumble feature, got a lot of plugs on gaming blogs like Kotaku and Joystiq, which the large amount of trial downloads can be attributed to.
There are numerous high interest titles that have decided to not openly discuss their sales, including Colosseum, Biology Battle, RC-AirSim, CarneyVale Showtime, Easy Golf, FirePlace and Miner Dig Deep which were most likely in the upper threshold of sales. We currently know that the Biology Battle developers will be issuing a press release by the end of the week.
To many developers, these statistics have been quite disappointing, but there certainly is a quality bar that many of these small developers must attempt to hit and exceed, particularly in the user interface of their games.
Some hear that developers on the iPhone are making thousands of dollars a day, but the reality is that they are the minority, and the other 19,000 apps have probably not made back the development costs. For those in it to make good, quality products - don't give up on your dreams just yet, we're only 6 months in.
Over the coming days, GamerBytes will discuss other sale statistics for XNA Community Games, including average sales per day, where in the world the sales are coming from, as well when games have gotten their peak sales. We will also be analyzing what the developers of XNA Community Games need to do in order to increase their sales, and what Microsoft have to do to bring XNA Community Games to the forefront. Stay tuned!
[UPDATE: Sister site GamerBytes has added some more stats as revealed by developers, including impressive numbers (9,153 sales and $31,000 in revenue) for perenially popular XNA casual game Word Soup and less impressive sales for some other titles, plus daily and first-day numbers for a variety of games.]