“Landslide, rocks are falling, falling down ’round our very heads. We tried but you were yawning, look again, rock is dead.” – “Long Live Rock” by The Who
Hi there and welcome back to another week. Hopefully the hangover is a little better than last week, with the Super Bowl and all.
I know I didn’t go in to the “big game” last week, and that’s because I didn’t care a whole lot about it. As for the halftime performance, I discussed that on my Twitter page (feel free to follow me): “The Super Bowl Halftime performance is the reason Roe v. Wade was passed in to legislation.”
One more quick bit before we get to business: Anyone looking for a R.E.M. cover by The Decemberists? You’re welcome.
Now then, this week’s news is kinda big in the right circles, as well it should be, since one of the biggest video game franchises of the last decade died a quick and violent death earlier this week.
So, why discuss this in a music column? Because that game franchise was Guitar Hero.
It was a move that many (now) say they saw coming from a mile away naked, except for a pair of clown shoes and a neon sign. And sure, they had good reason. Activision was bleeding money after releasing as many versions as they could in rapid succession, not understanding how to capitalize on this beast. There were—and are—many other problems in that company as well, but I’ll let Josh Lasser and the guys in our Gaming section discuss all that.
My issue here is with the reason Activision gave for canceling the series. Activision announced that it was “disband[ing] Activision Publishing’s Guitar Hero business unit” due to the declining interest in the music genre. If game unit sales are to be brought in to consideration, that decline has been happening for a couple of years. As far as declaring the music game genre all but dead, however, that’s where a foul has to be called.
Game unit sales have definitely declined, sure. Many of the blockbuster sales came from the casual game fan in the first place. They don’t need to own the newest set of peripherals every year; to them, owning any one of them is enough to have on hand at parties. They didn’t feel like going broke having to spend anywhere between $200-$1,000 annually having to have all the newest “axes.” And that’s what Activision did, releasing several in a year’s time.
Rock Band has slowed down on doing that. After Activision burned out the market, MTV Games sold Harmonix because they felt the response. However, Rock Band has rolled with the punches by adapting its hardware to more match the instruments. The keyboard can be set to have to play the actual notes, thereby learning not only how to play the game, but the instrument as well.
However, while looking at the hard numbers of hardware and game sales, the DLC (downloadable content) is overlooked. That’s where the genre is not only surviving, but doing quite well. Many of the playable songs on XBox and PS3 are selling more than their mp3 counterparts on iTunes. People still get together and play the games—and they always need more music to do it with for the next party they host, if nothing else. Many salivate over having the newest batch of David Bowie tunes to hit Rock Band not so their next party will be a hit, but just because they can play David Bowie!
Oh, and a word on the Bowie article linked in the previous paragraph. I’m sure “many fans” would appreciate a greatest hits-sized download of his music, but that right there is a good sign the music game genre isn’t going anywhere. If that were the case, a lot of DLC would be unloaded right now as if the world were coming to an end. However, there’s no reason for it, because it’s still being bought at a steady pace.
For Activision to declare the genre dead just because it didn’t work out for them is rather unfair. Guitar Hero’s first developer, Harmonix, in its statement about the cancelation of Guitar Hero. called the news “discouraging.” The statement noted that Rock Band recently passed the 2,500-song mark in offerings and have no sign of slowing down.
This is where both the video game and music industries could take note. In case no one’s paying attention, both are doing rather well in the form of digital images and simulated play. In their greed, Activision unloaded everything they could in a short amount of time and now want to claim the entire genre is dead because they’re no longer profiting off of their strategy of wanting to burn out rather than fade away.
Rock Band has the right idea not only in hardware innovations, but in focusing on what many others aren’t—the music itself. There’s plenty more out there to be had and Rock Band is willing to offer it.
And we’ll be offering more in seven (or maybe 14) days as well. Thanks again for coming back. Take care.Powered by Sidelines