Woh woh woh woh, easy there killer!
You just woke up PNG’s sleeping giant by stepping into my territory. Never have I seen something on this site that I have taken more umbrage with than your article Dave. Nothing personal, but I can’t let this article go without ripping it into tiny pieces.
Music game sales are hitting a saturation point? Really? On what basis do you conclude this? Oh right, good ole’ Michael Pachter’s sales figures. Before you cry for Activision and/or EA, consider this. These numbers only include retail sales. So this is to say nothing of the off the charts success of the downloadable content available for both Rock Band and Guitar Hero. And, before you scoff, consider that it has been confirmed that this has added BILLIONS of dollars to the coffers of EA and MTV. Also consider that this money is not shared with any retailer and goes straight into their pockets.
However, if we just want to talk retail than yes, I’m sure there is some creedence to Pachter’s numbers. Consider though that last year was the perfect storm for music games, one that can never hope to be repeated ever again. This is through no fault of the publishers, its just basic economics. Are you going to make more money when consumers are spending close to $200 for your product, or $60? These numbers aren’t indicating total quantity sold, just revenue. Therefore, you cannot point to these figures as a decrease in popularity or even demand, just a decrease in average cost.
Also consider that we’re talking about hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars generated last year with these titles combined. So, if sales are down we are still talking about these companies making hundreds of millions of dollars. Keep in mind also that these games are being made with pre-existing technology. So, while sales might be down, costs are certainly down as well, keeping a steady flow of profit coming their way. You’ll notice that profit was nowhere to be found in Pachter’s report.
However, is there some nugget of truth that too much choice is driving down demand? Well… no.
Consider this. Each iteration of this year’s “Hero” games are each aimed at new, more diverse demographics. The DS Guitar Heroes are aimed at kids, DJ Hero is there for the hip hop crowd, Band Hero for pop fans, Van Halen for Van Halen fans, and finally Guitar Hero 5 for the traditional Guitar Hero shredders. How is expanding your consumer base going to cost you sales? One thing I never heard these past few months was “What? Guitar Hero Metallica? I don’t like Metallica. I’m never buying a Guitar Hero game ever again!”
In the case of Rock Band, your argument is even more puzzling. How can releasing Rock Band Unplugged on a system that has never had Rock Band before be a bad thing? Again, you’re expanding your consumer base. As far as the Beatles are concerned, you might argue as to whether the game will be fun (and I for the record have no doubt that it will be) but one thing you cannot ever argue is the tremendous selling power they have. It is beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt that this game will be a commercial success. As to the other skus you listed as “saturating the market,” the Rock Band Track Packs, well that’s just silly. These are downloadable songs put onto a disc for those that may not have had access to them the first time around. Again, expanding your base instead of limiting it. That would be like saying that Fallout has gotten stale because of all the expansions that Bethesda has created for it. In fact, as we all know, it is actually the direct opposite.
So now that we’ve wrapped up the point that these two entities are in no way troubled financially, let’s become more solutions oriented to your greater concern that these games are losing their fun factor. Your theory of limiting content is not a solution at all. If you don’t want to play portably or play hip hop or pop… don’t. How is that in any way going to detract from you liking Guitar Hero 5?
The solution is this. Add new features. If the formula has gotten stale, change it, don’t limit it. You hear that Harmonix and Neversoft? Release as many damn games as you want, as long as you’re adding something to them that will make us want to play them. New songs aren’t enough. I’m talking about good ole’ fashion innovation like Harmonix did with the original Guitar Hero and then again with Rock Band. Whether that be new instruments, real instruments or hooking up to an MP3 player and having the game map your favorite song into a playable one, make these things happen.
This house needs a new foundation, not a new coat of paint.