The music game genre, left for dead after sales of “Guitar Hero” collapsed three years ago, is starting to show signs of life again.
Four titles shown at this year’s E3 videogame convention in Los Angeles are carving a path toward the next trend that could lead to a revival in music games: music creation.
“The light-bulb moment for us came when we saw a survey showing that 84% of people wish they could make music, but couldn’t,” says Matt Serletic, chief executive of Music Mastermind, developer of an upcoming mobile title called “Zya.” “There’s a wide chasm between the desire to make music and the ability to produce a satisfactory result.” Serletic was a record producer for artists like Rob Thomas and chairman of Virgin Records from 2002 to 2006.
“Zya,” along with “Fantasia” from Harmonix Music Systems, “Rocksmith 2014” from Ubisoft Entertainment and “Bandfuse: Rock Legends” from Realta Entertainment Group strive to give players a taste, if not the full-on experience, of creating and playing their own music.
The shared bet for all of these titles is that bridging the gap between wanting to make music and actually doing so will open up new interactive possibilities and rejuvenate a genre whose sales evaporated from $1.9 billion in 2008 in the United States to a mere $41 million in 2012, according to NPD Group.
“The last era of music games was about rock performance simulation, but that’s just one example of how music can be interactive,” says Alex Rigopulos, CEO of Harmonix, which created such titles as “Rock Band” and “Dance Central.”
“Fantasia” lets players create their own compositions using arm and hand gestures. Licensed tracks include Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Avicii’s “Levels.”