With New Music Games Hitting Shelves, Can the Rhythm Genre Survive?

Posted November 2, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

2010’s list of rhythm-based games are once again flooding the market. With the downfall of sales from this year and 2009, people wonder will the once-popular gaming genre survive?

Video games are no longer just for kids. With the advent of Grand Theft Auto and super interactive gaming like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, things have changed a lot in the gaming console business as new titles target the grown-up crowd.

Popular amongst adults are the music-oriented games like Harmonix/MTV’s Rock Band and Activision’s Guitar Hero. When those platforms hit shelves in the mid-2000’s, the demographics of gaming changed drastically. But can you believe it that things have changed once again since 2005.

Sales lately seem to be a downer in the music game franchise; possibly due to over-saturation and a spiraling-down of consumerism with the tricky economy. But gamer experts believe the biggest blow to the enterprise was, at large, over-saturation.

Gaming Union.net spotlighted the issue today by stating:

“No business model in the world will ever explain the release of five guitar-related titles in a single year, particularly with limited competition to go up against. In fact, there’s really no other franchise out there that’s ever made such a ridiculous move. The whole point of spacing out releases is to make people wait for the next one, instead of wearing down the entire consumer base in little under the span of a year.”

411Mania.com chimed in on the action, in their recent review of Activision’s latest GH installment:

“While they [Guitar Hero] initially exploded in popularity due to the ease of access and party-friendly gameplay, it appears as though the genre is slowly waning. This is largely thanks to a complete over saturation of the market, with the Guitar Hero franchise being especially guilty.”

With a heavy load of new transports, expansion games, downloadable content and similar titles like DJ Hero and interactive dancing games (Dancing With the Stars, Dance Dance Revolution) over the years, it caused perplexing responses from traditional gamers. Sales of music games this year are still down a whopping 50 percent over last year, and last year’s sales were 40% lower than those in 2008. So is the music game genre dying out, or will there be a break-out this time around. Well, the developers of such games are not stopping their momentum with their latest showcases. They are hoping this holiday season that Santa’s making a list and checking it twice.

Whether its by cash register chink-chinks or by cricket noises, here’s a list of the titles expected to make some noise this fall and winter in the music game world.

Rock Band 3

Release Date: 26 October 2010
Publisher: MTV Games
Gaming Console: Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3


Probably the biggest champion of them all, Rock Band 3 is expected to wow traditional fans of the franchise while bringing in new interest; all thanks to the two new playing instruments: a keytar and a revamped guitar simulator. Add in the three-part harmony vocal feature. The 25-key, MIDI-functional keyboard is the biggest. It opens up a new world for synth lovers and adds new dimension and color to the game play. The music promises to deliver great expectations with. And for those that wondered if RB could muster enough courage to beef up the difficulty levels, critics are already claiming it as the best.  “Just playing Rock Band 3 taught us a little bit of actual music,” Chris Kohler of Wired proclaimed. Another great perk: the game pushes a little away from heavy metal and hard rock ventures and delivers some friendlier pop rock like Devo’s “Whip It,” Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Lynard Syknrd’s “Free Bird.” Immersing one’s self into the soundtrack, loaded with an eclectic  selections from Joan Jett, John Lennon, James Brown, Huey Lewis & the News, Stone Temple Pilots and the B-52’s, is just another reason to want to buy the game.

Dance Central

Release Date: 4 November 2010
Publisher: MTV Games
Gaming Console: Xbox 360


With the Kinect motion peripheral leading the way, Dance Central utilizes the underground components of the juicy Xbox and offers something different and fun for the world of game revolution. Designed by those behind the ‘Rock Band’ franchise, Dance Central allows you to dance. And what you do is reflected on the screen by a realistic in-game avatar. There are over 600 different dance moves and over 90 dance routines to funnel through. The song set is small (down side), but should be perfect for the family in-house party. Expect to hear familiar grooves and beats like the Commodores’ “Brick House,” Jay Sean’s 2009 hit “Down,” Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It,” Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” Snoop Dogg “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and BBD’s “Poison.”

DJ Hero 2

Release Date: 19 October 2010
Publisher: Activision
Gaming Console: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii


Last year’s numbers were moderately decent for Activision’s newest gaming import, but it failed to meet expectations. Some are thinking DJ Hero 2, aided by a colorful soundtrack, will add new curiosities to the deejay-styled game. The refreshing component to the game is its comfortable set of current Top 40 dance/pop hits like Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” and mixes of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” But there’s just no resisting the power of old school DJ favorites like Chic’s “Good Times,” Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” and dabbling with Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On.” The ability to engage in a versatile mashups of songs from Nelly, Lady Gaga, 2Pac, David Guetta, Lil Wayne and Janet Jackson should give DJ Hero 2 some extra effectuation come this holiday season.

Def Jam Rapstar

Release Date: 5 October 2010
Publisher: Konami


The new kid on the block, 4mm Games – with the help of game giant Konami – jumps into their first foray of gaming to produce an adventure styled like karaoke titles (American Idol). Def Jam Records opens up their vast catalog of music to the experience; certainly proven to be a rappers’ delight. 2 Pac’s “I Get Around, OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” and Kanye West’s “Golddigger” are on board. But if you’re wondering how Konami created a game that avoids the obscenities, they did it by using the radio versions. Ahh, so that’s why the game is stuck with a “T for Teens” rating. But let the record show players will not be penalized for cursing. The game knows the dirty versions.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Release Date: 28 September
Publisher: Activision
Gaming Console: Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360


Guitar Hero, this time around, focuses back on their roots; offering more storylines and a bigger emphasis on guitar solos and heavier execution. That’s what made GH so big anyway. While Rock Band broadens their horizons to include more instruments, newer strategies and enclosed features, Warriors of Rock evolves around prog rock epics, ’80’s classics and alt-rock hits and centralizes itself around its Quest mode.  The story plays out like a scary movie using dark graphics and power-packed character transformations. It’s nothing on the levels of the grander Rock Band 3, especially if you’re expecting more, more more. But GH traditionalists will be happy to see a return to the familiar.

PowerGig: Rise of the SixString

Release Date: 19 October 2010
Publisher: Seven45 Studios


Before jumping to any irrational conclusions that new game developers are only trying to over-saturate the game industry with more titles with Seven45 Studio’s “Power Gig,” let’s give this game a chance. Its biggest reward is its realistic guitar game controller, which has won the praises of Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews and Kid Rock. That is because, rather than pushing red, green and blue buttons on a controller, you’re actually strumming strings. Playing guitar chords using intervals is the game’s biggest discovery. The Airstrike controller, similar to air guitaring, will not wow those that prefer the realism of GH and RB drumming but it will provide a much more quieter experience around the house. The soundtrack focuses on lots of alt rock and heavy metal entries like MuteMath’s “Chaos,” Jane’s Addiction “Been Caught Stealing” and Incubus  “Wish You Were Here”, even though three Eric Clapton songs, Kid Rock’s “Rock n Roll Jesus” and John Mayer’s “Crossroads” show up in the set.

Michael Jackson: The Experience

Release Date: 23 November 2010
Publisher: Ubisoft
Console: Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Wanna dance like the King of Pop? Well, here’s your chance. Gamers will run through an adventure of cinema as they dance through a decent proportion of Michael Jackson’s pop hits. The graphics puts you in the animated universe of Jackson’s music videos. Characters from “Speed Demon” emerge, along with the familiar bar scene in “Smooth Criminal.” Expect to dance to “Bad,” “Beat It,” “Workin’ Day and Night” and the choreographed favorite “Thriller.” Several modes of playing are expected, but the Michael Jackson School of Music – a mode where novices get a chance to beef up their dancing skills before the show – is the only option revealed by game developers at the moment. Optional karaoke features will be included on the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii versions.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine

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