Second Opinion: Music Game Sales are Hitting a Saturation Point

you can't be serious

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.

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6 responses to “Second Opinion: Music Game Sales are Hitting a Saturation Point

  1. I think you’ve hit the right point there – it’s not that there are too many Guitar Hero games – it’s just that they’re all the same. DJ Hero is fresh, and I’m intrigued by it. If even only because it’s a new genre of music to join the music game scene. That is what these companies need to be doing – branching out beyond the rehashing of the same kind of game year after year, with only marginal improvements. Will Rock Band 3 come out eventually? Yes. But it better damn well have something to make it worth upgrading.

    • The second half of what you said is what I was trying to get at with my post.

      I think that there are some great enhancements with GH5 that are base in multiplayer. Obviously, there was no way for Harmonix to tell the future, but I thought that GH5 should have been countered with ROCK BAND 3, not John, Paul, George and Ringo.

      …but with the announcment of the Rock Band Network, who knows what else they have up their sleeve?

      • Let me say that I agree in large part with your post Steve. While it sounds like I am much more enthusiastic for RB Beatles than you, it is true that Rock Band is not matching Guitar Hero with a traditional release this year.

        Let’s be fair though. Rock Band Beatles Edition was announced long before GH5 so, in fact, it is Activision who is countering with GH5, not the other way around. As far as sales go, it wouldn’t surpise me at all if the Beatles only Rock Band does close to the sales of the all encompassing GH5.

        Couple the fact that the Beatles game will release time and date with every Beatles record re-released on digitally remastered cd’s and I think that it will be the Rock Band brand that will gain the most steam.

        Plus, I don’t think it would be a bad thing to release Rock Band 3 in a completely different fiscal quarter than the traditional Guitar Hero release that Harmonix themselves made a juggernaut. What I have found is that often times these are not competing franchises, but instead two seperate games that families with thinning wallets have to make a tough choice on when the time comes (though usually they would prefer to have both.) Perhaps staggering the release of the two competitors apart from one another would be the best thing they could do to ensure that their game is purchased when the time comes.

  2. …and Beatles is so pretty. So, friggin, pretty.

  3. I agree with you, but like most of my articles I tend to throw my opinion in along with the facts that I have. So what differs in our articles is that you are indeed a better judge of these sorts of matters which is why I love reading yours.

    In the case of my take on the variations of the GH and RB franchises; I didn’t want to delve into the details of the DS and PSP versions. I was aiming at a larger point instead of breaking down each one of them like you did. I think the idea to expand on other systems is a good thing. Example Rock Band Unplugged is amazing (If you like amplitude or Frequency).

    DJ Hero is a cool idea and its good for the market who wants to do more Hip-Hop music. My beef with this stuff is the price! This is something you hate but I can’t begin to tell you how annoying it is that for me, to try this game, I have to shell out 120+ dollars. What if I hate it? Can I return it? how do I know this game is worth the money? That drives me crazy to no end. I want to try DJ Hero I’m actually interested in it, but I can’t afford it.

    Maybe Band Hero will be fun? I will again have to gamble with that one. I remember buying Rock the 80’s only to find out 3 songs were master tracks and there was hardly anything on there worth playing after a few of your favorites. What I mean by this is, when you buy one of these games, it’s a good bet that you will start to love a lot of the songs even if you do or don’t know them, but its also possible you won’t. It’s happened before and it could happen again.

    I hate gambling on games with my cash. I want a way to see if the games that are to break the mold are going to be worth it. the changes are nice, and its what the franchises need, but they also need to expose the games to the public if they want them to be interested. I love that I can demo games like GH: Smash Hits, or I’m sure Rock Band Beatles and Guitar Hero 5 will have a demo. I need to know before I invest cause I’m not made of money, and I have expectations I expect to be met. I’m picky but that’s how I roll.

    Good article Jeff. You have an eloquence to your style and I love it, even though you are an Activison fanboy 🙂 j/k lol

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