[Sister console digital download site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley examines Decembers 2009's Xbox Live Arcade debuts and continuing successes, with charts and leaderboard data, to find out what digital XBLA titles are doing well at this year's end.]

With December over, the new year of 2010 begins, and with it some new XBLA releases. Previously, January on the Xbox Live Arcade has been a strange month, usually littered with puzzle games -- and a few surprises along the way like The Maw.

This January was a little different. We had the same puzzle games and oddities thrown in, but it was also a month that saw the debut of Serious Sam HD and Vandal Hearts – both big names in comparison. We’ll see how they’ve done in this analysis, as well as look at the new Top 20 list released by the Major Nelson blog.

Here are the Leaderboard statistics for the new Xbox Live Arcade releases in January 2010:

Serious Hazard

The first two releases for January were Vicious Cycle's Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond and Croteam's Serious Sam HD. For the former game, we unfortunately do not have any details regarding Leaderboards, as the game appears to have broken stats.

What we do know is that it was not on the Top 10 list for the week after its release, and it was not on the Top 20 for the final week of the month. So in all likelihood, it didn’t do spectacularly.

Serious Sam, on the other hand, has done rather well. It had over 20,000 players on the Leaderboards in its first weekm with over 35,000 at the end of the month -- and it should continue on well into the next few months as well.

Death Hearts

Konami’s Vandal Hearts: Flames Of Judgment and Square Enix’s Death By Cube were the next two releases on Xbox Live Arcade. Vandal Hearts, which was released at $15, ended up doing fairly well for a January release. Its first week had 15,000 players on the Leaderboards -- with nearly 21,000 at the end of the month. The game was also released on the PlayStation Network on the same week, so there are additional sales on that system not taken into account here.

Death By Cube is the latest game in Square Enix’s Xbox Live Arcade releases, but like the past few, it didn’t have a great debut. In fact, only 2,747 players were on the Leaderboards in the first week -- not a good start. The dual-stick shooter genre has gotten very full on the Xbox Live Arcade – new titles without Geometry Wars in the title have all had a difficult time as of late.

Kriss Crossing

The final new release for January was KrissX, published by Konami and developed by Blitz. For its one week on sale, it added 2,615 players to the Quest Leaderboards. Again, not a lot.

The game had zero chatter before it was released – not even the official Major Nelson blog could tell its readers what the game is. While a crossword puzzle game would probably never be a top seller, it still could have had a bit of a push. Reviews of the game didn’t even show up until a week and a half after it was released.

Weekly Leaderboards

Each month, we take a handful of titles, usually recent or popular games, and check their Leaderboards for each week.

NinjaBee's A Kingdom For Keflings was put on sale for a cheaper price in the first week of the month, and for that week, 19,000 new players were added to the Leaderboards -- with some good extended sales and/or delayed activations on the weeks afterward.

Twisted Pixel's The Maw was on special in the last week of December, and this list shows the aftermath of that. The game continued to do a little better week after week -- but as referenced above, this could also be players who bought the game and hadn’t played it just yet.

Downloadable Content

We’ve been following the downloadable content for 3 titles – the Peggle Nights DLC, The Maw’s DLC and the Trials HD “Big Pack”.

RedLynx's Trials HD DLC has done immensely well, with over 60,000 new players in January. Currently over 20% of players who own Trials HD have also played the expansion pack – that’s a very good tie-in ratio.

Peggle Nights from PopCap has also continued to do well, with an additional 10,000 players added -- with 15% of all Peggle players buying it. Additionally, The Maw’s DLC sold fairly well alongside the Deal Of The Week back in December.

The Beginning Of The Top 20

For the last week of January, Larry 'Major Nelson' Hyrb announced that he’ll be releasing a weekly Top 20 list, instead of a Top 10. This allows us to have a look at games that have sat underneath the Top 10 that we usually don’t see. Here, we’ve added the Leaderboard statistics we gathered for that week to get a better understanding on the sales of Xbox Live Arcade titles.

Here we can see a few titles that we haven’t really spoken about for a while. Madden NFL Arcade hasn’t been in the Top 10 for some time, but it appears that it’s been hiding in the overall Top 20 since its release. Pinball FX and Marble Blast Ultra have also been hanging around further down the charts too. (This will also allow us to see less successful games like KrissX if they appear on the list as well.)


The Big List

As for the rest of the titles we follow, not a whole lot has changed. There are still a lot of games that are selling below 500 copies a month. There are also some that are doing well considering their age – Secret Of Monkey Island added 5,000 players to its Leaderboards, as did Geometry Wars 2. Even games like Red Alert 3: Commander’s Challenge, which didn’t start off on a high note, has been doing far better than other games released in the same timeframe, with 1,500 players in the month.

The Future

February will be an interesting month – the release of Zoe Mode and OneBigGames' Chime, the inexpensive puzzle game with charity in mind, Introversion's Darwinia+, the long awaited tactical strategy title, The Odd Gentlemen's PB Winterbottom, a time-bending platformer, and Sarbakan's Lazy Raiders, a kooky take on the Cameltry-style rotating puzzle game. And March is going to get even crazier, with the Xbox Live Block Party promotion. Can't wait.