Music Games Take Center Stage At E3 Gaming Trade Show
With the major success of music genre games like “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” sweeping the world, a whole slew of imitators have begun popping up to compete in the console wars.
At this week’s E3 video game trade show Activision Blizzard Inc showed off its upcoming “Guitar Hero: World Tour” and MTV games, a unit of Viacom provided a sneak peek at “Rock Band 2″. Both will be released later this year.
But it was the new entries that garnered the bulk of the attention.
Nintendo debuted “Wii Music,” a game that lets you simulate playing over 60 different instruments, while Konami Corp and Microsoft Corp also showed off new music games of their own on the horizon.
“Music has really become the killer application,” said Don Mattrick, a Microsoft senior vice president, who runs the company’s Xbox business.
Research from investment bank UBS Securities said music genre games accounted for 16 percent of U.S. video game software sales in 2007 and comprised a staggering 44 percent of last year’s software sales growth.
The once popular rhythm game genre has spawned the new interest in music-based games. In rhythm games like Konami’s “Dance Dance Revolution,” players score points by stepping on a touch sensitive pad in time with generic music.
The newer crop of music games have replaced the touch sensitive pad with a toy musical instrument and the generic songs were replaced with recognizable rock hits, giving players the simulated experience of playing real instruments.
“It is really a hot genre that’s bringing in families and people that never played games before,” said Electronic Arts Games Label president Frank Gibeau, EA is the distributor for “Rock Band.”
“Wii Music,” designed by the company’s game creator Shigeru Miyamoto, lets players use the Wii’s motion-sensing controllers to play the saxophone, violin or other instruments.
However, initial reaction to the game seemed lukewarm. Some dismissed it as too basic because it does not keep score and does not allow an out of tune note.
Konami’s “Rock Revolution” is being praised as more faithful to the genre.
The game features 40 songs and will offer even more after its release. It comes with a guitar and a bass, but Konami is especially proud of the game’s drum set, which includes a foot pedal and six drum pads to beat.
Konami, which enjoyed success with singing game “Karaoke Revolution,” pioneered the space with a “Guitar Hero”-like arcade game nine years ago in Japan called “GuitarFreaks.”
Microsoft unveiled a new singing game called “Lips”, which will be exclusive to its Xbox 360 platform.
“Lips” comes with two wireless, motion-sensitive microphones and players can sing along to songs from their own music collection in their iPod or other digital music players as long as the tracks are not rights protected.
Users can use the microphones like tambourines or a cowbell and waving it in the air can prompt the crowd to follow suit.
The popularity of music genre games has provided a silver lining for both artists and record labels at a time when the music industry is battling online piracy and declining sales.
AC/DC signed a deal to make its songs available on “Rock Band 2″ while Guns N’ Roses will debut a single from its long-awaited new album on the game.
“Guitar Hero III” will debut Metallica’s new album on the day the of its release in September. It will also be licensed for “Guitar Hero: World Tour” game when the title becomes available later this year.