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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Are Music Game Sales Coming Back To Earth?

Last week's video game sales report had many in both the gaming and music industries thinking what was once thought to be unthinkable - music games have finally run their course. Not a single music game could be found on the top twenty in the game charts, a far cry from when Guitar Hero and Rock Band ruled.

In October 2007, when the Guitar Hero craze was at its height, Guitar Hero III moved 1.4 million copies in six days, then sold another 1.9 million the next month. Compare that to September 2009, which saw the launch of both Guitar Hero V and Beatles Rock Band, where the combined sales of these two games sold just a tad less than 1.1 million copies over nearly a full month.

But there’s another completely new game missing from the October charts that's a big surprise to many people — Activision’s DJ Hero. During its five days of availability, the game sold a mere 120,000 copies across all four platforms. Considering how widely anticipated and marketed this game was, its feeble sales comes as a surprise. So why did a game that supposedly had so much going for it meet with such weak sales? Many theories abound but it seems like industry insiders agree on a few things:
  • It isn't a great party game. It's a game for single players. The DJ culture is not collaborative in the first place, so the game isn't conducive for multiple players.
  • It's expensive. As Ken Kuchera states in his post on ars technica - "The Renegade Edition of the game was $200. The standard edition, $120. That's a tough sell in a market where price point is so important. For $80 more you can get yourself a Wii or an Xbox 360 Arcade model. Right now at GameStop you can spend $20 less and pick up a game, a guitar, a microphone, and drums with the $99 Rock Band 2 Special Edition. The music is more accessible, you can pay with friends, and you get more hardware for less money. The turntable included with the $120 DJ Hero release is a high quality accessory; you won't feel ripped off if you buy the game. The trouble is that at that price, with only one accessory, not many people are going to be willing to find that out."
  • You probably don't know the songs because they're all mashups. DJ Hero has name artists, but they were free to chop up the tunes they worked with at will. Innovative maybe, but not exactly what the average game player wants. What fun is playing a music game if you don't know the songs?
  • Does the average person know how a turntable works? Everyone knows how a guitar or piano is played even if they can't play it. Not so with a turnable.
  • None of the famous DJ's are even featured on the box. Why spend money on big names if you're not going to take advantage of their brands?
Game revenue has become an important income stream for many artists, so a slowdown in sales of music games is the last thing anyone needs. Are we witnessing a true waning of interest in the genre, or is the market just waiting for a new evolution in music gaming? Only time will tell.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think the key to the success of the "XYZ Band" games is indeed the group play nature of the titles.

DJ'ing, while much more complex and difficult than most people give it credit for, is essentially a solitary activity.

You pretty much hit on every reason why it seems a no brainer that DJ Hero shouldn't have expected to hold a candle to the successes of its contemporaries.

I've had some great fun playing GH and Rock Band, but a lot of times I'd trade in most of the more "challenging" and less known or less catchy material for good old arena rock songs that everyone knows and can get into while playing.

It's all well and good to spend 200 hours practicing some obscure solo, but to me the real fun lies in 4 people singing "Rock You Like A Hurricane" or some other slightly cheezy song at the top of their lungs! :)


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