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For Those About to Rock

October 23, 2009

So I finally got around to ordering a copy of Rock Band via the RockBand79.com deal, which comes with Rock Band, RB2, and RB1 era equipment (but boo hoo, right?). Then after reading this article on Gamasutra, I finally understood why they could do this. EA, MTV, and Harmonix are making so much bank on this franchise that they can pretty much give it away at this point.

The major comment at the bottom, however, got me thinking. David Wesley claims that music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band will eventually move less and less product and that once you own one there is less incentive to buy another. That may be true for an individual player. The problem with that argument is that Rock Band and Guitar Hero are party games. They are built to be played in a highly social environment, not just among friends, but also at parties or with family. On top of that, the games appeal to men, women, kids, and adults alike. Even though the games are rated Teen, they can seriously be played by anyone, and I dare any Gamestop salesman from selling a copy to a 10 year who’s got the money. All the swears are silenced out anyway.

Is there less incentive to buy the equipment once you have it? Absolutely. The guitar controllers, drums, and microphones are here to stay. Adding new features like 3 part singing harmonies ala The Beatles: Rock Band only encourages the purchase of an extra microphone or two. The same would go to purchasing any individual extra peripherals should any ever be added, like wind instruments or pianos, but certainly not the whole $150 set.

I believe it is many, many years too early to say the games themselves will die off, especially when they have begun opening up to community development ala Rock Band Network, development for which will only get easier as time goes on and mod-community-made tools become available. Eventually we may even see Rock Band/Guitar Hero become a standalone system, but I highly doubt it as that would be a major investment by EA/Activision, not to mention the consumers. The consoles already have hard drives, and it’s the consoles’ hard drives that are sustaining these games. As of this post, there are currently 722 available songs for download in the main Rock Band Store alone. That number is only going to grow as the years continue. Add to that the songs that will be available in the Rock Band Network, especially if lesser known but still major-label bands take it upon themselves to put their music up there, and there is no end to Rock Band in sight as long as it keeps making money, and as long as people like music, it WILL keep making money.

Are they a fad? Sure. But they are a fad in the same way blue jeans are. Everyone has them, even when there are other kinds of pants, er, games out there. When the original Guitar Hero came out, it was loved by all who had it, but it was yet to spread virally. The disease really started spreading at Guitar Hero 2, and it was around this time that if you played it at someone’s house you were like, “Hmm, I think I want this for myself.” The trend exploded with Rock Band when you could play drums and sing too, thus attracting everybody to the fad. Considering how these games continue to innovate with each iteration, I don’t see sales slipping any time soon. If the games features didn’t innovate at all, sales would slow down. Having your game be entirely devoted to The Beatles is one thing, but welcoming in up to 7 players is another (assuming the people playing an instrument aren’t badass like me and won’t play guitar and sing at the same time). I’d honestly be surprised if we didn’t see compatibility for up to 3-part harmonies in Rock Band 3, as it also applies to bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Alice in Chains, and countless other bands with multiple singers, and it would be great to see some old songs updated to include multiple harmony tracks if you import them into Rock Band 3 (totally worth the $5 right there).

Without innovations in each iteration, there’s no reason to go beyond buying new DLC, and in that case I can understand Mr. Wesley’s argument, but it will be a cold day in hell before the teams at Harmonix and Neversoft decide to phone in a title in their respective music game franchises. Beyond simply dominating the industry, they’ve brought the multiplayer back to one television. It’s not just the games, it’s the welcoming social environment the games create, and until gamers and/or musicians become totally sick of each other, Rock Band and Guitar Hero will continue to thrive.

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One Comment
  1. skynes permalink

    Lol. The Possibly related posts bit says “Junk and False Claims”, I don’t think WordPress agrees with your assessment of music games.

    What I like about these franchises is the social fun. What I dislike about them is the social fun.

    I have GH3 on my Wii. It never gets played if I don’t have visitors. Why should I play it alone? I beat the game once and now am better than a casual player because of it. Playing with anyone else just isn’t as fun unless they’ve sunk as much time into it as I did getting all the songs.

    Even then I don’t really like a lot of the songs. There’s only 5 or 6 on the game I enjoy listening to and playing. In fact if I hear “Hit me with your best shot, fiiiree aaaawwwaaay” one more time I’m gonna hit the TV with my best shot and send it into orbit! XD

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