The Numbers Behind Live Arcade

Thanks to the database at it's possible to search each individual game available for Xbox 360 and see how many people have posted scores to the leaderboards (i.e. have played the game while logged into Xbox Live). Now, for retail releases, the number doesn't quite represent the total number of people who have played or own the game as not everyone has a broadband connection or the Xbox Live service. But for the Live Arcade games, this is a very good indicator of how well these games are selling. Here's the data for a few of the Live Arcade games I have downloaded.

- Frogger ($5 US) - 115,998 users = $580,000 in sales.
- Bejeweled 2 ($10 US) - 115,466 users = $1,150,000 in sales.
- Geometry Wars Evolved ($10 US) - 204,640 users = $2,046,000 in sales.
- Uno ($10 US) - 180,703 users = $1,807,000 in sales.
- Galaga ($5 US) - 43,560 users = $218,000 in sales.
- Street Fighter II ($10 US) - 17,914 users = $180,000 in sales.

I haven't purchased Street Fighter II yet (and probably will not) but I include it because it only became available less than 48 hours ago. This is a game that has been around in various forms for over a decade. It's been available in arcades, in emulation, and on multiple game consoles. Nearly everyone who has ever played a videogame at one point or another has had a copy of this game in their collection. And yet, despite it all, it still nets close to $200k in sales in under two days on Xbox Live Arcade. That's pretty amazing if you ask me.

Also, I should note that that Geometry Wars Evolved has been out since January (or sooner) and Uno only released in May and has almost as many users. I still play Uno on Xbox Live almost daily, as it's the perfect chill-out game and I must say, was a genius decision to include on Live Arcade.

As for retail games, the following games are the most popular in terms of total players having posted scores to the leaderboards or claimed Achievements. Note that as with the data listed above, these figures represent all worldwide users.

- Call of Duty 2 - 327,015 users.
- Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter - 307,243 users.
- Perfect Dark Zero - 276,521 users.
- Oblivion - 250,724 users.
- Project Gotham Racing 3 = 241,578 users.
- Dead or Alive 4 - 188,942 users.
- Fight Night Round 3 - 163,225 users.

One of the neat facts in the above list is that Oblivion was also a major PC release and, most likely had far greater sales on the PC than on the Xbox 360. Yet, nonetheless, it's still one of the most-played games on the Xbox 360. Also, it's obvious that console bundles have impacted this list as, based on the rather lukewarm reviews for Perfect Dark Zero, there could be no other reason for it to have higher numbers than the superior PGR3. Unfortunately, few other X360 retail games had more than 60,000 users.

Addendum: I was thinking about what exactly could be learned from this and I kept coming back to how few games actually had more than 60,000 users so far. Take King Kong for example which, despite a movie tie-in and being one of the more common bundled-games during the launch period, only has 70,578 worldwide users. For argument's sake, let's say that people paid an average of $50 US for the game. That's roughly $3.5 million dollars in sales revenue. For a big budget, major release game that no doubt cost much more than that to make, that's disappointing. Now compare that to the nearly $2 million dollars in sales that Uno has generated. Whereas virtually every Uno owner has Xbox Live, even if only 40% of X360 owners with King Kong show up in the data here (due to not having Live accounts), there's a good chance that King Kong and other games with similar online user totals are performing far below that of "simpler" Live Arcade games like Uno and Geometry Wars Evolved. And if this isn't sign of things to come for Live Arcade then consider today's announcement that Konami is in the process of bringing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (considered one of the best games of all-time) to the Live Arcade service this winter.

What I see happening is that the blockbuster games are going to continue to thrive -- there will always be room for games like the upcoming Gears of War and Test Drive: Unlimited -- but the pricing structure and convenience of getting simpler games from Live Arcade is going to hurt the sales of the mid-tier games. Just speaking from my own recent changes in buying habits, I'm a lot less likely to buy a retail game of average caliber when I know I can have a lot of fun with an Arcade game for $5-$10. Games like King Kong will still be played, but it's not going to be at the $60 price tag. People will rely much more on renting services like Gamefly and clearance sales for these mid-tier games and save their full-price purchases for special releases. On one hand due to the increased price of the new generation games, but also because Live Arcade is just too fun and too cheap to ignore. And it will be a cycle that will only continue to feed itself. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot fewer games are released at retail over the next few years than would otherwise take place. And maybe some of these mid-tier games will be scaled back and released on Arcade instead.

In essence, the success of Live Arcade (which has to be considered a success considering the system is still less than a year old) is going to be a boost for the creation of games on the independent and low-end side of the business, but it may also be the death knell to the mid-level clutter that is released throughout the year. We might see a day when the only games being released at retail are blockbuster titles. Or, perhaps, the success of Arcade will force those publishing mid-tier games to lower the prices of these games. In which case everyone wins.


Anonymous said...

Nice work!

How confident in your numbers are you?

Doug Walsh said...

Well, the numbers are all based on what I know are the prices for the gamea and what has in their database. Theoretically, their database is an accurate count of everyone who has scored an Achievement or posted a score to the leaderboard for each of these games. With regards to Live Arcade games, this should be extremely representative of the sales of those games.

As for the retail games, I have no idea what the portion of game owners to Live members there are for each game. That said, with a $400 pricetag and the X360 still being less than a year old, I think that we're still dealing with tech-savvie early adopters and former Xbox fans who most likely have broadband and Live accounts.

stay said...

Pretty interesting. But isn't only showing achievements? I didn't see a place for checking actual game leaderboard entries.

Unfortunately, you get listed on even if all you did was try a Live Arcade game without buying it. My gamertag shows up for games I never bought. You have 180,703 for UNO, but the game itself shows 163,070 entries in the single-player leaderboard. A better contrast is Frogger, which only has about 70k leaderboard entries compared to the 116k number you've got.

I think mygamercard is a good measure of the popularity of a Live Arcade game, but an innacurate measure of sales, even compared to counting leaderboard entries in the game...

Cosmo Iguana said...

I am having an issue with my gamer card, possibly due to one of these card add on sites. I remember using one of these programs to extend on the display of my games played from 5 to 10. And now for some reason all I see are the Live Arcade games. I just bought Lego Star Wars II, that should show up as well as my other games. It is also showing games I did not buy, like Frogger is on there now.

Doug Walsh said...

That's a good point Stay makes about the Achievements being activated by trial versions. I wasn't aware of that and, yes, it pretty much does invalidate any conclusions I may have been willing to draw. That said, I think the popularity is still something to be in awe of and even, based on your Frogger example, if you have a 6:10 ratio of people who buy the full version versus play the Trial Version, that's still very impressive.

As for Cosmo Iguana's problems with the Gamer Card, I can't say that I've had that problem, Demo versions of games will show up, but I can't speak for what other problems you may be having. Sorry.

Brian said...

If you want to get a decent estimate of sales from, then you could probably scan the list to find the breakpoint between people who have 0 gamer score and > 0 (you can modify the url to set which page of people you are looking at & do binary search). You can't have any gamer score from a game if you didn't buy it (that's a Technical Certification Requirement from microsoft, a hard rule), and most games have one very easy achievement that would be quite hard to miss. So there should probably be about 1 sale for every profile that has gotten at least one achievement.

I would expect the technique has similar results to finding the rank of the low score at the bottom of the leaderboard trick, but has the advantage of not making you log in to the game and all that.

Internet Games said...

I think is a little bit difficult to make an accurate estimate - not for lack of trying.

eamonn said...

I found arcade website for my kids High score games that we all love. Simple and fast loading.

NaldoKing said...

Modern Warfare 2 sold 310,000,000 in the first 24 hour. Sorry Street Fighter.

Lazaro said...

My hobby is playing games. I have many games collection but I haven't had Uno. My question is How could I get this kind of game?

Boris said...

That's great arranging them in a page. So we can obtain and know the list of the game that we haven't had yet. Besides, the user rating in this review seems tell us such barometer of succeed launching of the game, I mean the gamers opinion.