I've spent some time over the last couple of days trying to make some sort of estimate of Xbox LIVE Community Games sales volumes, with the help of a few friendly developers. As some of you are aware, there are no official figures available for anyone involved in the initiative.
The two primary data sources are VGChartz.com 's XBLA sales estimates and Retronator's Popularity Meter. Any results I've derived are therefore as flawed as these data sources. The most glaring assumption* here is that the Popularity Meter ranks games by downloads, but I suspect it might be play time.
One XBLCG developer (who shall go unnamed) has a fair idea that their game, henceforth referred to as Mervin The Country Mouse, has sold 6,000 copies in the first two months of being available. We can look up the popularity of Mervin on the popularity meter, find the nearest XBLA title, and then refer to the sales estimates provided by VGChartz. As it happens, most Community Games have experienced constant popularity for the last 31 days.
Using the above method, Mervin appears to have sold 716 copies in its second month on sale. If we know Mervin has sold a total of 6,000 copies, then it must have sold 5,284 copies in its first month, giving a drop-off rate of around 13%.
We're now going to look at the XBLCG poster-title, Weapon Of Choice. In the popularity ratings we can see it's performing comparably to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which sold 1,473 copies in a 5.8 day period.
- 1,473 divided by 5.8 gives a daily sales rate of 254ish copies
- 254 multiplied by 31 days gives a second-month sales rate of 7,873.
- Applying the inverse drop-off rate to second month sales gives first month sales of 60,622.
Therefore, we can estimate that Weapon Of Choice has sold 68,495 copies.
Obviously there's a lot of assumptions being made there. As pointed out to me by Weapon Of Choice's creator Nathan Fouts, TMNT will most likely have a very high conversion rate, as it's an arcade conversion of a popular game. We could rework the figures using another more typical title.
So, what's the average conversion rate for XBLA titles, which is our most comparable market? Luckily Microsoft have announced figures for trial downloads, which clock in at an impressive 110,000,000. VGChartz estimates total sales of 28,182,946, giving us a conversion rate of about 25%.
Microsoft also once announced that they would delist XBLA titles with a conversion rate of lower than 6%. We can assume that this is a very poor rate, and most titles would achieve greater than this (dependent on quality, obviously!).
With these two conversion rates, we can at least figure out an expected and worse case scenario. Find a title comparable to your own, apply the above methodology to find your expected scenario. Multiply that by four (getting total downloads based on the average conversion rate of 25%) and then apply the 6% worst case conversion rate to get your it's-all-gone-wrong figures.
*It's also of note that the popularity lists for XBLA and XBLCG titles re the same when looking at demos and full games. We can assume that it's counting both in one bucket.