2011 was a standout year on XBLA, we saw a cavalcade of amazing games released throughout the year. Many of the more memorable games were entirely new franchises, with impressive debuts like Bastion, Iron Brigade and Orcs Must Die! to name a few. With such high quality and seemingly successful new IP’s (Intellectual Properties) we were curious about the spread of new versus established IP.

We broke down the games into three categories, Ports & Remakes, these being any game that was specifically ported to XBLA (or just consoles in general). So that includes stuff like Bejeweled 3 and Sonic CD. Then there’s New IP; this is pretty self explanatory, it’s anything that isn’t a sequel or based on a previously established franchise or brand. Thirdly is Established IP which includes any sequels or licensed games. Unsurprisingly this was the largest category, with 51 games fitting the criteria. New IP came second with 30 games and Ports/Remakes only applied to 12 of the releases.

It’s often said that publishers are reluctant to take risks on new IP’s and as such will stick to tried and true formulas as those prove more popular. Sadly there aren’t reliable sales numbers for XBLA releases so we can’t compare those to see if this is true. We can however look at the average Metacritic score of our three specific categories.

Ports & Remakes have the highest average with 77, perhaps not surprising as the main reason many of these games that are ported or remade is because they’re already well regarded or popular. New IP is next with an average metascore of 69, not a score to be sniffed at. Bringing up the rear is Established IP with 64, which while not terrible is a tad disappointing in light of the other two.

What we see here is that remakes and ports seem to be well regarded for the most part, again this isn’t too surprising because they are usually ported or remade for a reason. If these games were good to begin with and the transfer to XBLA is solid then it’s hard for anyone to dock them for not doing anything different.

69 is a pretty reasonable score for New IPs we feel. When compared to the 64 for what are most licensed games in Established IP it does seem to indicate the risk is about the same. Of course it’s understandable that publishers (and even developers sometimes) would rather go with the safe bets, looking at these numbers it’s hard to see it as that big of a risk. And if downloadable platforms aren’t the best place to experiment then we don’t know where is.

We would love to see publishers and developers change these numbers, while some licensed games, remakes and the like can be a lot of fun and on XBLA especially are of a high quality. It’d be nice to see more New IPs bringing interesting and unique ideas with them. If it’s a choice between a beautiful, lovingly crafted and unique experience like Bastion and a disappointing, derivative and dull game like Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, we know which we’d choose.

Continue to: Looking at XBLA Sales

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