Four major video game franchise titles with music tie-ins sparked a record year for US video and computer game software, representing more than 5% of the total 297.6 million units sold in 2008, according to the NPD Group that tracks sales at retail. That number was up 11% from the prior year’s record, representing $11.7 billion at retail, a 23% increase.
EA’s “Madden NFL 09” sold over 5.25 million units, followed by Rockstar Games’ “Grand Theft Auto IV” (GTA IV), 5.22 million; Activision/Red Octane’s “Guitar Hero World Tour” (GHTW), 3.4 million; and Harmonix/MTV/EA’s “Rock Band 2” (RB 2), 1.7 million.
“Madden NFL 09” launched August 12 with a 26-song soundtrack for its 20th anniversary edition, with collaborations by Busta Rhymes featuring Linkin Park and Young Dre, The Truth featuring Good Charlotte, and earlier Madden NFL hit makers Franz Ferdinand, Gym Class Heroes All American Rejects, Shinedown, Senses Fail, Disturbed, The Offspring and Airbourne. “‘Madden NFL’ will always be recognized as the game that made the music matter in videogames,” EA worldwide executive of music & marketing Steve Schnur told Billboard.
When Rockstar’s GTA IV debuted in April on PS3 and Xbox 360, it featured a record 214 tracks on 16 stations playable from radios of cars in the game, with genres ranging from hip-hop and Latin to electronica and hard rock. A 16-track CD, “The Music of Grand Theft Auto IV,” was included in the game special editions, and all tracks were available as downloads on Amazon.com. Former DJ and label manager Ivan Pavlovich, one of two game soundtrack supervisors, noted, “‘GTA,’ more than any game, helps people discover new music, become aware of old music and break bands and all that.”
“GHWT was the first top-selling franchise title to feature playable drums and a microphone when it shipped October 27 for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii,” observed Activision head of publishing Dusty Welch. Among major artist highlights, an avatar of Jimi Hendrix is showcased in the game, plus his “The Wind Cries Mary” and a live version of “Purple Haze.” Metallica’s much-anticipated studio album, “Death Magnetic,” was available as downloadable content for GHWT, day/date with arrival in retail outlets.
The RB 2 soundtrack featured over 80 songs on the game disc plus an additional 20 bonus tracks available for free download when it shipped in September, with an exclusive Xbox 360 launch window, followed by PS3, PS2 and Wii versions later. Among exclusive tracks are AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Schackler’s Revenge” from their “Chinese Democracy” album, and Bob Dylan’s first-ever videogame track, “Tangled Up in Blue.” Panic At The Disco and Dashboard Confessional were co-headliners on the 29-city “Rock Band Live Tour” that kicked off October 5 in San Diego, “The timing dovetailed perfectly with the release of the game, and the events brought tons of interactive fun for families.” Paul DeGooyer, MTV’s senior VP, electronic games & music, said.
Overall, software sales were nearly 55% of the all-time high industry total of $21.3 billion, a 19% gain, including hardware and accessories.