Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Do Video Games Make The Music Now?

You can also read the article at Blogcritics.org

Apparently, gaming company Activision’s collaboration with rock legends Aerosmith has paid off handsomely for both parties. As reported on the Gamasutra website, the sales to date of the game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, has netted the band more revenue than any one of its album releases.

In my opinion, the success of the Guitar Hero franchise is dependent on two things: artist name association and the technology employed to make the game highly entertaining to gamers. I am a big Aerosmith fan, but not into gaming myself — thus, I was never attracted that much to consider buying the game.

Of course, there are many exceptions to my theory. I’m pretty sure that a lot of gamers who weren’t familiar with Aerosmith bought the game: some were probably intrigued, some had nothing better to do with their money, and most were probably challenged by the game. Good for them. They get to enjoy themselves, while learning the music of one of the best rock bands of all time.

How does this bode for the music industry in general? For one thing, I’m pretty sure that most big name bands will start to fall in line for their share of the revenue pie. Van Halen and Metallica are examples of the next bands to be featured on the franchise. Big money is in store for both the bands and Activision. But to boast of Guitar Hero's "music selling power" is a bit of a stretch; by reversing the logic, you can say that Aerosmith enabled Activision's "video game selling power."

While it can be argued that the artists involved may not need the money and just want to pass on their musical legacy to a new generation of potential fans, CD/music sales are also a big factor. Reportedly, Aerosmith’s CD/music sales had a “several folds boost.” Now is that just a coincidence, or a result of a lot of focus group discussions?

For the struggling garage band out there, I don’t think it will make any difference — perhaps marginally, in terms of inspiration. But inspiration is a totally different animal from business. Many bands out there with talent have never made it, and many more will never. It’s just a fact in the recording industry. You still have to make it the old fashioned way — through gigging, recording, and touring — before you can be featured on a game like Guitar Hero. And with games exactly like Guitar Hero in the market taking away the attention span of potential new fans of these struggling artists, what will become of them? It just gets harder and harder.

So, while Activision may be on to something here for quite a long and profitable run, dare I say that without the big name artists, the Guitar Hero franchise is worthless? Imagine Guitar Hero: Anonymous, and see if the product sells.

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