December 13, 2008

Plenty Of Music Video Games Coming Down The Pike

The "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" videogame franchises emerged this year as serious moneymakers for the music industry.

But with more than $1 billion in sales and 50 million tracks downloaded between them "” on a base of only about 350 songs  "” analysts wonder if they are bringing in enough per track.

Warner Music Group chairman/CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. said during a quarterly earnings call in August he wants more money from music games like Activision's "Guitar Hero" or he'll stop licensing music. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick fired back in an interview, suggesting that labels should pay his company for promoting their music.

While "Guitar Hero" and MTV Games and EA's "Rock Band" are the big moneymakers, there's still plenty of competition to be had. Among the other titles competing for music industry support and gamers' dollars are Nintendo's "Wii Music," Disney's "Ultimate Band," Acclaim's "Rockfree" and XS Games' "PopStar Guitar."

However, labels and artists may end up the biggest winners in this competition, since they will have opportunities to feature their music more prominently than they would be able to in the big two games. The Plain White T's scored an exclusive spot on "Ultimate Band," for example, while 3 Doors Down is a featured act on "PopStar Guitar."

Amazon struck up a partnership with the hit game "Grand Theft Auto IV" to allow players to tag any song on the soundtrack with a virtual mobile phone used by the game's protagonist. Those who did received an e-mail with more information about the song and artist and accessed a custom playlist on Amazon where they could then purchase the track.

According to "Grand Theft Auto IV" publisher Rockstar Games, almost 700,000 players tagged more than 2 million songs, although Amazon won't divulge how many resulted in sales. This marks the first time a console game has integrated digital music purchases, and it has given other developers plenty of ideas.

Sierra Entertainment's "Brutal Legend," received plenty of enthusiasm from online gamer forums, but the reaction among music executives was not so great, as the game isn't about music simulation but the story of a roadie sent back in time when heavy metal gods ruled the world.

The game features Nordic mythology and metal imagery as well as voice acting from the likes of actor/musician Jack Black, Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister and heavy metal singer-songwriter Ronnie James Dio. T

"Brutal Legends" has the names and the potential soundtrack to win big among hardcore gamers and metal fans alike. The game remains in limbo, though, as Sierra Entertainment parent company Vivendi Games and Activision complete their merger.

And while The Beatles's catalog may not be available on iTunes or any other digital music service, the Fab Four made headlines when MTV announced that it would be making a videogame featuring the group's music, history, images and characters.

However, no one is sure exactly what the game will look like or do until its release in 2009. But it's expected to be an interactive product similar to "Rock Band."

Many are hoping the development will lay the groundwork for ways that iconic artists like the Beatles can work with games to introduce their music to new fans and let older ones experience it in a new way.


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