They may not save the music industry, but this year rhythm games opened up new possibilities for how people interact with music. As game designer Jesse Fuchs has pointed out, Harmonix (which originally developed Guitar Hero, and created Rock Band) put out far more inventive games earlier. But since the GH/RB model has proven to be a hit, it appeared that we were stuck with a simple six-button interface that didn’t allow players to fiddle with the music itself awfully much.
In 2008 it was hard to find feel-good stories about the music industry—you know, the type that populate your local trade rags and second-tier business sections, or at least did until the world economy went kerplooey—which was probably why the popularity of the “vinyl is back” piece, in which a somewhat statistically significant jump in the sales of vinyl got turned into the latest harebrained scheme to save the music industry, remained high throughout most of the year.
Retail sales fell by a record amount last month across the board, although for the most part, the video game industry did OK. But it’s the part of the video game industry that didn’t do OK that might cause some consternation among certain Idolator readers–none of the Guitar Hero or Rock Band titles landed in October’s top 10. “The performance of the broader music genre as well as key new music genre releases ‘Guitar Hero World Tour’ and ‘Rock Band 2’ were probably the most negative data points of last night’s release,” an analyst wrote upon reviewing video-game-related data from the NPD Group, and the stock prices for both Activision (which publishes Guitar Hero and EA (Rock Band suffered today. But is there more to that story? Another analyst thinks so:
In case you missed my impromptu live-blogging of the Beatles/MTV/Harmonix press conference: The Beatles catalog has been licensed by MTV and Harmonix for use in a video game that’s coming out late next year, and as of right now, the title will be a standalone game that will not bear the Rock Band brand. Harmonix noted its reticence toward doing Rock Band standalone products during the press conference and referred to this product as a “journey” through the Beatles catalog, from Please Please Me to Abbey Road. I guess they are taking it chronologically by recording date. (Or maybe they all just hate Let It Be.)
The Times Square outpost of the Virgin Megastore is slated to close early next year, thanks to the chain being sold to real estate developers for pretty much the sole purpose of getting the valuable real estate currently occupied by its two New York locations. (Of course, given the cratering economy, the exact value of said space is probably a lot less than it was when the deal was originally brokered back in June.) Perhaps in anticipation of the closure of said store and the almost-full retreat of any mainstream music retailers from the 212, Harmonix and Virgin have announced that they’ll be opening a Rock Band 2-themed ministore within Virgin’s soon-to-be-corpse, complete with displays that can be described with that old lazy PR buzzword “interactive.”
Every week in the “Shhhh-it!” AnonIMous Super-Secret Music-Biz Interview Series (S-I!AS-SM-BIS for, uh, short) we interview a grizzled music industry veteran via the stream-of-consciousness power of instant messaging. We talk about the person’s job, the state of the industry, and whatever else comes to mind. This week, we bring you music/rhythm game programmer GeorgeTardasin. Tardasin worked with a big-time music game developer on an iteration of a big-time music game (hint: you use plastic guitars to play it). Tardasin worked as a Gem Author, which is the name for the programmer who encodes the songs into the program, aligning the colored circles, or “gems,” that correspond with the buttons on the controller. In this interview, Tardasin discusses the challenges of transposing the songs, how long the process takes, and the joys of lighting and animations:
StumpyPete1975: you did the lights and the animations?
StumpyPete1975: that seems to me like it would be lots of fun
GeorgeTardasin: yeah… you get to choose what animation is going to show…so if you have like a really dramatic part of the song… there is an option to flare the lights out on the crowd.
GeorgeTardasin: ha ha
GeorgeTardasin: Its kinda cheesy but in a really awesome way.
GeorgeTardasin: and change the colors of the lights and make the characters do funny tricks while they are playing.
The whole thing after the jump!
It seems like just a few months ago when we complimented Harmonix audio director Eric Brosious for his company’s stance against artist exclusive deals. Back in those halcyon days of August, Brosious said of the possibility of bands signing exclusive deals with Rock Band, “We prefer not to sign exclusive deals with artists because while it seems like the competitive ‘business’ thing to do, in the long run, it’s really not good for anyone. We think we should be working to get more music out to more people.” Well, August was a long time ago, and when Angus Young calls, you pick up the phone.
Anyone who’s spent any amount of time around the Christian retail industry can tell you that the genesis of most ideas within that business come from the following formula: “Let’s make a Christian version of [fill in the blank]”. Which is why this generation of youth group children can now put down their Rock Band instruments and cleanse their ears of all that secular claptrap that game calls “music,” and instead start praising God while pressing buttons on plastic guitars hooked into the new game Guitar Praise.
Harmonix audio director Eric Brosious on why you won’t see the makers of Rock Band making “exclusive” content deals with any bands: “We prefer not to sign exclusive deals with artists because while it seems like the competitive ‘business’ thing to do, in the long run, it’s really not good for… More »
ARTIST: Guns N’ Roses
TITLE: “Shackler’s Revenge”
WEB DEBUT: Aug. 14, 2008