Sunday, August 16, 2009

While My Guitar Gently Beeps: Beatles Go Gaming

The New York Times Magazine has a huge article on the coming Beatles Rock Band game, and the potential business changes it may influence:

Music games are also a serious business. Together, Rock Band and Guitar Hero have earned more than $3 billion. The money comes not just from initial sales but also from a continuing stream of new songs that can be downloaded for about $2 a piece. The Rock Band catalog contains more than 800 songs by bands as disparate as the Grateful Dead and Megadeth. Early on, artists noticed that people were discovering music in games and then buying it elsewhere. On iTunes, downloads of the 1978 Cheap Trick song “Surrender” tripled after it appeared in Guitar Hero 2, and sales of a 1994 Weezer song from Guitar Hero 3 increased tenfold. Increasingly, games are also seen as a significant distribution platform in their own right. In its first week, Motley Crue’s 2008 single “Saints of Los Angeles” sold nearly five times as many copies on Rock Band as it did on iTunes, and at twice the price. Next month, Pearl Jam plans to release its new album simultaneously on CD and in Rock Band.In perhaps the surest sign that the music industry has started to take games seriously, feuds have erupted over which parties are stealing the others’ profits.

At the moment, the game companies decide which music to sell, and there is a bottleneck of record labels pushing to get their artists into the games. But last month Harmonix announced that it will license software tools and provide training for anyone to create and distribute interactive versions of their own songs on a new Rock Band Network, which will drastically expand the amount and variety of interactive music available. Already the Sub Pop label, which released the first Nirvana album, has said it plans to put parts of its catalog and future releases into game format. The Rock Band Network is so potentially consequential that Harmonix went to great lengths to keep its development secret, including giving it the unofficial in-house code name Rock Band: Nickelback, on the theory that the name of the quintessentially generic modern rock group would be enough to deflect all curiosity. After a polite gesture in the direction of modesty, Rigopulos predicted, “We’re really going to explode this thing to be the new music industry.” People who have never played a video game will buy The Beatles: Rock Band, he said, and once they do, they’ll want interactive songs from their other favorite artists. “As huge as Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been over the past few years, I still think we’re on the shy side of the chasm,” Rigopulos maintains, “because the Beatles have a reach and power that transcends any other band.”

Read the full article HERE.

No comments: