Hello Games’ Joe Danger is a PSN exclusive because the developers think that the Xbox Live Arcade is where indie games go to die.
Last month’s Joe Danger, a bite-sized indie title about a washed-up stuntman trying to win back his former fame, was fairly well-received by critics and gamers alike. Naturally, its exclusivity to Sony’s PlayStation Network resulted in some grumbling from the Xbox 360 side of the fence – it was a cool-looking downloadable title, so why did it have to be an exclusive, huh?
According to GI.biz, it’s because developer Hello Games sees Microsoft’s competing Xbox Live Arcade as a morgue for small studios like their own. Speaking at Develop Conference in Brighton, England, Hello Games’ Sean Murray argued that while the top XBLA games sell very well, it’s hard for the rest of the pack to break through.
“[PSN] was the only way we could self-publish,” said Murray. “XBLA is kind of a slaughterhouse for smaller developers. There are games that do amazingly well. But there’s two titles released every week and a lot of those are falling in that 25,000 or less category.”
According to Murray’s figures (which he cautioned were based on his own research and not official numbers from Microsoft), even though 17% of XBLA games sell over 200,000 copies, there are far more games that quietly sink under the waves. In fact, he claimed that 47% of all games on the Arcade fail to sell more than 25,000 copies. In contrast, Joe Danger sold 50,000 units in a week – the four-man Hello Games team broke even on the first day of sales alone.
I’m not going to disagree with him right off the cuff, but I’m curious as to why he thinks XBLA would be so different from PSN in this regard. Game sales have always been disproportionate no matter what platform you’re on – the ones at the top sell millions, but they’re few and far between – and I find it hard to believe that PSN is just somehow an oddity.
It might be that PSN doesn’t have quite as many of the big-budget, high-profile downloadable titles backed by larger publishers (see also: Puzzle Quest 2), but that’s the only thing I can think of. Still, Joe Danger got a lot of good press – who’s to say it wouldn’t have sold just as well on XBLA as on PSN?
Maybe Murray’s absolutely right; I don’t know. It’s just a strange thought to me.