October 21, 2008

Music Video Games Set for an Encore

By Mike Snider

The beat goes on in the thriving music video game category.

New editions of the hot-selling Guitar Hero and Rock Band are in stores or on the way, as is a new music maker: Wii Music for the still wildly sought-after Nintendo game system.

Also in time for the holidays:

*Rock Revolution, a full-band game from the publishers of Dance Dance Revolution (game only out now, $50, for Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360; with drum kit, $130, out Nov. 11).

*PopStar Guitar, which attaches a guitar fret pad to the Wii remote (next month, $60, for PS2, $30).

*And Disney's Ultimate Band (later this year, $50, for Wii), which like Wii Music uses just the Wii remote and nunchuk attachment.

"There are a lot of new games coming out for this genre," says Anita Frazier of market tracking firm NPD Group. "Some will do well, some won't. The challenge for each newcomer to the genre is to differentiate and communicate how it's special or brings some new magic to the table."

Music-game sales have risen from $132 million in 2005, when Hero was first released, to more than $1.2 billion last year and $896 million so far this year. The category, Frazier says, "was very small before Guitar Hero and Rock Band came on the scene."

Those two games have captured the imagination of armchair musicians by including ever-more realistic instrument-shaped controllers. Rock Band 2 (game only, $60, for Xbox 360 and just released for PS3; out in December for Wii and PS2) can be played with the original Rock Band instruments, but for $190 comes with new drums, guitar and microphone (add-on cymbals sold separately).

Guitar Hero World Tour (game only, $50-$60, out Sunday for Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 and PS2; $190 for drums, guitar and microphone) also lets up to four play. Rock Revolution can be played with other games' controllers, but its own drum kit uses more drum pads (six) than other games.

Wii Music (in stores by Wednesday, $50) lets up to four play 60 instruments such as piano, violin, guitar and horns in various music types (pop, classical, jazz) using the remote and nunchuk. For guitars, players hold the left hand up as if the nunchuk is the neck of the instrument and strum with the right hand while holding the remote and holding in a button.

"Why shouldn't people who like music but find playing instruments difficult be able to perform music just by letting their feelings take control and simply waving the controller?" producer Shigeru Miyamoto says. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>