Will Music Games Rock the Holidays?
The latest installment of the Rock Band franchise hits shelves today in the form of "Rock Band 3." It's just the latest of a string of new music-based videogames coming out in time for the holiday sales season. But are gamers still interested in the music-game category?
Sales of music-based games are down 50% over last year, and last year was 40% lower than the year before. So which of this year's titles are going to buck this trend, and which will add to it?
"Rock Band 3" (Oct. 26)
Publisher: MTV Games
MTV Games and developer Harmonix keep the innovations coming in the music game genre. For the third installment of "Rock Band," they take a big leap with the addition of a 25-key keyboard controller. It opens up both increased revenue through the sale of a new peripheral and an expanded catalog of songs that includes keyboard-heavy tracks from the Doors ("Break On Through [To the Other Side]") and Dire Straits ("Walk of Life").
"Dance Central" (Nov. 4)
Publisher: MTV Games
The dance game is considered a "must have" for anyone buying Microsoft's motion-based Kinect controller for the Xbox 360 console. Microsoft is projecting worldwide Kinect sales of about 3 million units through the end of the year. Analysts expect almost anyone buying the Kinect to also pick up a copy of "Dance Central," one of the most anticipated game titles using the controller.
"DJ Hero 2" (Oct. 19)
The first "DJ Hero" generated decent sales but still fell short of expectations, given that it helped expand the music game category into a new music genre. The sequel features tracks by Lady Gaga, Deadmau5, Kanye West and Rihanna and has earned high scores for improving on the original title. But it's still saddled with a high price tag due to the turntable controllers needed to play the game.
"Def Jam Rapstar" (Oct. 5)
A new entrant to the field, this hip-hop karaoke game has the benefit of the Def Jam brand and an innovative social networking element that lets users record their performances and post them to a dedicated website for peer review. An in-game store will be stocked with new downloadable tracks every week. It's received positive, if not glowing reviews. One common criticism: lyrics that have been heavily edited to achieve a teen rating.
DON'T HOLD YER BREATH
"Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock" (Sept. 28)
The franchise that virtually invented the music game genre came close to killing it during the last two years by oversaturating the market with too many editions and too little variety. While "Warriors of Rock" returns to the series' roots, critics have slammed its new "Quest" (storyline) mode for being confusing and too limiting.
"PowerGig: Rise of the SixString" (Oct. 19)
Publisher: Seven45 Studios
Among the titles adding instructional elements to their game play this year, "PowerGig" goes further than others by featuring an actual six-string guitar. But upstart developer/publisher Seven45 will face challenges stocking the game against titles from larger rivals. It will also have to fight the perception that "PowerGig" is an instructional title rather than just a game, despite featuring music by Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews Band and Kid Rock.