Guitar Hero/Rock Band Video Games: MI Industry Boon, or Mindless, Distracting Fad?
There’s no shortage of opinions, and no hard data, but several ask: “How can this be bad?”
The numbers are mind numbing.
|Guitar Center is “Selling Dreams”
Guitar Center has had no qualms embracing the gaming phenomena. They’ve long stocked Guitar Hero, and it’s usually the first thing you see when you walk into one of their locations. Also gamers in the latest version “go inside” one of their stores – at least a virtual version. Clearly they believe in the power of it to create music makers.
Executive vice president/chief marketing officer Norman Hajjar sat down with us recently to discuss the reasons, and the hopes, of such a partnership.
MMR: When did GC decide to stock the game in their store, and why?
MMR: And now there’s virtual GC storefront in the latest version …
MMR: Who contacted whom about this?
MMR: Has GC done any cross promotions between buying the game and getting involved with real instruments?
And we are developing specific tactics designed to get a real guitar in the hands of gamers. We want them to trade their game controllers to become rock and rollers this holiday season.
MMR: What kind of in-store promotions have you done involving the game?
A couple quick examples: We have an incredible contest going now that gives a winning band a slot opening for Motley Crue for their 2009 tour plus a record and management deal. We are also celebrating the 20th year of our Drum-Off, which is the world’s largest drum competition.
MMR: Do you have any proof that we’re converting gamers into music makers?
Guitar Center sells dreams, the dream of stepping out of the shadows of obscurity and into the light before thousands of screaming fans. The dream of making music that people sing along with on the radio on their way to work. The dream of expressing yourself musically in a way that emotionally reaches other people. That dream is the fuel that drives the purchase of the gear in our stores.
MMR: What is so special in your mind, about these games?
We held an event at our Northridge, Calif. store last week with legendary rock guitarist, Slash. Slash has, like Guitar Center, been featured heavily in past games. He fully believes it is breeding a new generation of players.
Here’s a final quote on the subject: “It’s a natural progression to want to do it for real.”
In January, Harmonix, owned by Viacom, reported Rock Band broke platinum, selling one million units. By May they had shipped a total of three million copies of the game.
Also in January, Activision, maker of Guitar Hero, reported to have generated one billion dollars in sales in North America within 26 months. At the end of last year, that game had sold 7.5 million units. That number has moved over the 10 million mark. And counting – fast.
Both these franchises are set to launch new versions of their games: Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band II are being released this month and, as the games are still smoldering hot, it’s safe to say that millions of these units are going to fly out of stores as well.
Of course these numbers are just units sold. Many more people are playing the games – the kids, their friends, brothers, sisters, and even parents are drawn to it.
So why do we care?
Some of us don’t.
“We want nothing to do with them,” says MI retailer Stephanie Wilds, of Acoustic Corner, Black Mountain N.C. “They run counter to everything we’re trying to do.” [More retailer comments.]
Some are very bullish on it, particularly MI manufacturers who have partnered with these games and either placed their product within the virtual world or are involved on a deeper level.
“It goes back to the renewed interest in guitar-based rock,” says Clay Lyons, Fender’s business affairs manager. “The players have to be inspired to walk into a MI store and what has been inspiring to them lately? Not a lot! But these games are getting the music out. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”
It’s permeating all aspects of the business, as many look for ways to make the most of the prospect. For example, in an industry that’s always placed a premium on artist endorsements or creating artist special edition models, how about Chris Chike? Haven’t heard of him? No, he has no albums out and plays with no band, but he’s the Guitar Player III world record holder and Peavey is coming out with a guitar controller that will have his name on it.
He’s reached rock star status without ever really rocking.
MI Manufactures Got Game
MI manufacturers have jumped in with both feet. The lineup of companies that gamers will be able to grab in-game sponsorship and gear from includes the following: Ampeg, Audio-Technica, EMG Pickups, Ernie Ball, Evans Drumheads, Guitar Center, Krank Amplification, Mackie, Marshall, Orange County Drum & Percussion, Pork Pie Percussion, Regal Tip, Sabian, Vox, and Zildjian, among others.
Many are fans of the games on a personal level.
“Oh yes, I’ve played both!” says Clay Lyons, Fender’s business affairs manager. “They are great fun. Both have a pretty quick learning curve, so anyone can plug in and play immediately. A lot of other games you have to play for hours to build up characters and speed … of course it’s worse if you actually know the song in the game on guitar!” he laughs. “When we set it up around here, it was perplexing to the true guitarists at first.”
In Rock Band, Lyons says that the drumming aspect is the closest to actual music making, and that the bass guitar “is pretty close” to reality. But the guitar playing aspect suffers a bit. “I’ve seen plenty of people who are good guitarists and terrible at the game because it’s a right brain/left brain kind of thing.” Fender is exclusive to Rock Band.
Zildjian is involved in both Guitar Hero and Rock Band. “We were in on the ground floor of these games when they originally launched and our presence continues with the new releases,” says Brad Baker, vice president/chief marketing officer. He says they are looking forward to getting additional brand exposure for those that might move “from playing the game to real music making.”
“Ludwig’s involvement in the game was very organic,” says Grant Henry, general manager of Ludwig. “Certainly the Ludwig name appealed to Harmonix associates early on. Their need for a tremendous number of drum sticks was one reason. No other supplier could provide the quantities needed and we were glad for the opportunity to help them.”
It’s all about a mutual beneficial relationship to Henry. For Ludwig, it was important that Rock Band have a level of sophistication that appeals to both gamers and drummers. (That’s why they have showcased the game in their booth at trade shows, which is always a popular draw.)
Grant also points out that the drumming aspect of these games is unique. “If you play the game, you know that one controller is really a ‘GSO’ or ‘guitar-shaped-object.’ While the drum controller is not a drum, the patterns and hand coordination are exactly the same.” And the drumsticks are real sticks. “From our perspective, there is no other real option.”
According to Mike Robinson, Evans and Percussion brand manager at D’Addario, Inc., they were proactive in reaching out to all the video game manufacturers and “while this was happening we were contacted by a company representing Guitar Hero,” he says. A complimentary deal was struck.
“Evans products will be featured on all drums in Guitar Hero World Tour,” Robinson says. “You will see the Evans logo on all snare, tom, and bass drum heads as you play your way through the game. In addition, players can choose to put the Evans logo on their shirt. We are also working with Guitar Hero on promotions at PASIC and other areas including their Guitar Hero World Tour Bus Tour taking place this fall at college campuses around the country.”
An electronic drum kit, by ION and built by Alesis, is featured in Rock Band 2. Featuring four pads, three cymbals and a pedal, the press release on it declares it is “designed to take a proper [Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer] Chad Smith-style beating.” The kit is not bundled with the game itself, and at $299.99, it’s either an inexpensive electronic drum kit or a fairly pricey game controller, depending on how one wants to look at it.
“Anything that exposes music lovers to the act of being a part of an ensemble has the potential to make them more interested in learning a real instrument,” says Kurt Heiden, marketing communications manager for the brand. “With Drum Rocker, nothing is faked. Players are playing a real electronic percussion kit that can be plugged into an Alesis DM5 drum module or Trigger I/O and they can play it just like a real drum kit.”
He adds that in regards to drumming, the game does require musicianship on at least the level of playing rhythmically, and that’s an advantage the drums have over the other instruments in the game. “The lack of strings on the guitar puts many musicians off, but the drums and cymbals are no different musically than playing a real kit.”
Minding the (Virtual) Store
In Guitar Hero, there’s a virtual Guitar Center store where gamers will find some products also found in their real-life counterparts [see sidebar Guitar Center interview].
“We are thrilled to a partner with Guitar Hero and Rock Band,” says Ernie Ball’s marketing director, Brian Ball. Ball is actually a long time player, and as an accomplished musician himself sums it up when he says: “It provides is the same feeling you get as you’re in a cover band.”
Ernie Ball has a history with Guitar Hero. But now for the latest installment, they have a much higher profile. “As the gamer gets better, he or she will have the opportunity to be ‘sponsored’ by Ernie Ball,” Ball says, adding with a smile: “Ernie thinks if you shred, you should have a full sponsorship. Rock on!”
Also, the products will be in the virtual Guitar Center store where players can pick out what type of Ernie Ball strings they want. “It’s cool – there’s a huge variety of selection in the [virtual] store.” While the choice they make won’t affect on the sound, but Ball points out it’s a powerful form of product placement: “When you consider the millions of units the franchise has sold, it’s a lot of impressions.”
But he knows that alone won’t turn players into customers. “If a consumer perceives a product is placed in a game solely for the sake of marketing, I don’t think it’s effective. Today we have intelligent consumers. If you’re pedaling burgers in a boxing game, it’s not going to feel authentic. This feels authentic to us.” Helping is Slash’s association with the Guitar Hero and Ernie Ball’s association with Slash – he’s been an endorser of theirs for 25 years.
“We were extremely excited when we started talking with Activision about increasing our presence inGuitar Hero 4 with EMG pickups being an upgradeable option within the game,” says Scott Wunschel, EMG, Inc.’s National Sales manager. “Our relationship goes back to Guitar Hero II and it made sense for EMG to be the official guitar pickup for Guitar Hero 4. This brings with it a global branding opportunity that will only bring EMG closer to our current and future customer base. As an industry we need to reach out to new customers through various mediums and bring them into the musical instrument world. Guitar Hero 4 gives EMG and other manufacturers this opportunity. In addition, we are working with Activision to develop promotions that will bring customers into our dealer stores based around the Guitar Hero 4 game. Simply by playing the game, gamers will have the opportunity to find out what EMG pickups are all about. This is exactly the type of partnership that fits in with our direction in branding and marketing.”
Controllers with Real Deal Feel
Peavey was one of the first to jump on board, creating controllers and even opening up their custom shop to customize the plastic guitar controllers.
“Peavey’s always been a hardware company, creating the physical things you can put your hands on,” explains Tony Moscal, general manager business development. “We wanted to create peripherals for the game.” He points out that the game’s goal is to create the “rock god” experience, but then you’re holding this tiny plastic toy guitar. “It’s not the real deal, and we decided to go ahead and complete the cycle.”
|NAMM Supports Grant To Examine Effects of “Virtual Music Making”
NAMM wants answers.
The NAMM Foundation announced that it has awarded a grant to Drexel University, which will be conducting research on how video games that simulate music making, such as Guitar Hero orRock Band, might serve as an inspiration or learning tool for middle-and-high-school students to develop musical skills.
The proposed research will investigate the following questions regarding musical video games: Does game proficiency have a positive impact on musical skill development? Does avid game play lead to the pursuit of other music making outlets? Does interest and regular participation in the playing of music video games affect whether a student seeks additional formal music education?
According to principal investor Youngmoo Kim, assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Drexel University, video games based on the premise of simulated music play are indicative of a strong demand within society for some form of musical experience and expression.
“In particularly at-risk communities, true music education has been a lesser priority within the public school curriculum and in some areas has disappeared completely,” Kim said. “For students within school districts that provide little or no funding for fine arts programs, music video games may represent the foremost form of musical interaction to which these students are exposed. Consequently, it is crucial to understand the impact and the potential for these music games to serve as a learning tool—ranging from the amount of interest the games generate in making music and pursuing music education, to their impact on actual musical skill development.”
Mary Luehrsen, executive director of the NAMM Foundation, said that the research being conducted at Drexel University supports the overall mission of the NAMM Foundation to encourage more people to get involved in playing music.
“The ‘crossover’ potential of music video games to musical skill development and literacy has not been studied, and this technology has great appeal for all ages,” said Luehrsen. “This study has the potential to reveal important connections between technology and the innate drive to make music.”
Their first client was an unlikely one – Coors Lite. They were taking the games to bars and public arenas, and wanted to have their customers get on stage with a real guitar. Jack Daniels, who they have already partnered with and put their logos on amps and guitars, were doing the same thing. But then for Peavey a controller made from a real guitar was not enough: they had to put together the Peavey Riffmaster Pro System that includes two guitars, a mic, a fully functional Peavey PA system housed in an “amp stack” enclosure with four 10″ speakers. The 150-watt “amp head” sits on top and houses the gaming console in addition to powering the full-range sound system. That’s not for the casual gamer, but marketed toward bars and clubs as that system runs $2,000.
Their popular custom shop, which has long allowed for guitarists to put any image they want on a guitar, was opened up for gamers to do the same to their Peavey-made controllers, like a real guitar. The gamer can put a girlfriend, boyfriend, or even his or her kid on it, or any design or image they can supply in a 300 dpi image.
But again, this is costing some money, with custom controllers costing upwards of $400. Who would do this?
Moscal generously spells it out so everyone can understand, even those who might not be sure who Tony Hawk is, but for sure knows who Minnesota Fats was: “If I score 3,000 points on one of these games, I’m happy. But some of these kids are scoring 4,000 and 5,000. They then go to different places to play and enter contests. So think about the excellent pool player. Does he or she show up and just take a cue off the wall? No. They come in, open their case, and get out their custom cue. That’s the way it is with these.”
Peavey is releasing a controller made from a real guitar for $179 that will be shipping this month.
An Indianapolis company called Painted Axe, which mostly focuses on custom art design on guitars, recently announced it is offering four new custom Guitar Hero face plates inspired by Alice Cooper guitarist Keri Kelli. “We are incredibly excited and honored by Keri’s interest and confidence in Painted Axe,” said Michael Gauf of Painted Axe. “Keri’s notoriety and willingness to think outside the box is another positive step for Painted Axe. We want musicians to know Painted Axe provides unique opportunities for them to connect with fans and broaden their musical expression.”
M&M Merchandisers is just now releasing their Guitar Controller Xtreme (GCX). The GCX controller is also a real electric guitar with a real guitar body with custom flame graphics, real tuning keys, whammy bar, and strum bar. The GCX also features a maple fretboard, covered tuners, chrome hardware, black single coil pickup cover, traditional bridge, bolt on neck, five colored fret buttons, toggle power switch, LED power indicator light, chrome select and start buttons, built-in tilt sensor, accessible battery compartment, and includes a strap.
And there are plenty of non-traditional MI manufacturers getting in the game. For example, The Ant Commandos, a provider of wireless video game music peripherals and accessories, is shipping its “Illuminated Drumsticks” Available in two “captivating” colors (flame red and electric blue), they are designed for “anyone bored playing with old-fashioned wooden” – er, real – “drumsticks.” These drumsticks do require two standard AAA batteries, two more than traditional sticks require…
Creating Music in the Game
Line 6 is also in the game, but it has its own studio, a studio where the players can “create” music. Activision actually approached Line 6 about an interesting proposal …
“They wanted to allow gamers to actually create songs themselves,” says Erik Tarkiainen, Line 6′s vice president of marketing. The thinking goes like this: as gamers get better, more proficient at least in terms of rhythm and timing, they will then want to “create” their own music. Thus in the new Guitar Hero, there is a virtual studio that integrates Line 6′s guitar tone technology, enabling gamers to use amps, cabs and effects from the POD in the game’s Music Studio. The game’s studio lets players express their musical creativity by giving them access to a full complement of tools to compose, record, edit and share their own rock ‘n’ roll anthems. Here they can mix and match basic sequences, lead riffs, and rhythms via the game controller to create their own “songs.”
“They will of course be able to have access to our many different amp sounds, because as you know, the sound of the guitar can be as much a part of the composition as the notes you are playing,” Tarkiainen says. “Gamers will get to experience what real guitarists get to do.”
He sees it as a bridge from the virtual world to the real music making one.
“What’s exciting to us is that hopefully tens of millions of gamers will get excited about creating music, not just playing the game,” he adds. “With this, they can see if they have the inspiration to create their own songs. It’s a great entry point. We are giving them a taste of what it’s like to be original.” For Tarkiainen, it’s one thing to “play” a classic rock song on the game and then want to learn an instrument so that song can be played on a real instrument; but if the game can inspire the player to take the leap and want to create his or her own music, that’s a greater motivating force to learn an instrument. “The payoff is that’s a huge motivator to learn guitar, drums, keyboard, or even go into music software. Up until now, we hope they’ve been playing a plastic guitar and then hope they want to play a real guitar. What I hope will happen is they walk into a music store and say to the clerk, ‘I want to make my own music.’
“You don’t have to spend years learning an instrument to express yourself. You can make music right away. It might not be great at first, but it’s yours.”
Creating Music Makers?
But the question, quite literally the million-dollar question, remains: are these games creating music makers? Are kids who spend hours playing these games getting their hands on real instruments, taking lessons, and forming bands?
“These music games are absolutely a plus for the industry,” says Heiden of ION. “In a world full of iPods that only offer passive listening, these games offer a transitional vehicle that can lead to taking up an instrument. The industry should be embracing these games because they will result in future customers by way of those wanting to learn the real thing after mastering a Rock Band instrument. Those who master the Drum Rocker with Rock Band 2 will be well on their way to being ready to drum in a band.”
Fender’s Lyons hesitates for a moment when asked if the games are creating musicians. “At this point, any data we have is largely anecdotal. Unless dealers could start asking every kid who buys a starter guitar pack if he or she was inspired by the games and kept tally, I don’t know how we’d know for sure…
“But this is the way I look at it: these games are selling millions of copies, and kids are not only playing it, but they are listening to this great classic rock. How can that not help our industry? That’s what inspired us to play … that and thinking it would help us meet girls. [Laughs] So this is really no different. They aren’t sitting in a beanbag chair staring at a stereo like we did, but they are participating on a bigger level. It’s really just one step closer.”
Lyons points out that the game in general is at least better than the shoot-em-up and run-em-over games that are typically popular with the kids. “And parents are playing the game as well. Parents know the music, and now they have something in common with their kid. And the parents have the check book, and they are thinking, ‘guess who is getting a guitar for Christmas.’”
|Hal Leonard Capitalizes on Popularity of Games
“This is absolutely creating an awareness and interest, and we do think its turning gamers into playing guitar,” say Jeff Schroedl, vice president of Hal Leonard’s pop and standard publications.
“You have to take a look at the game,” adds vice president of national sales, David Jahnke. “I love the way it mixes new styles with classic rock. It’s creating an awareness of guitar music, and that should lead to future musicians.” Like others, Jahnke stresses that even if one can’t make the leap from playing the game to playing an instrument, the power of the music will surely inspire. He tells the story of recently speaking with drummer/manager of Kansas, Phil Ehart. “I made the comment that I’ve been hearing ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’ a lot lately, which is featured in one of the games. He just laughed and shook his head,” Jahnke recalls. “He then told me that that is one of the main reasons the band was going out on tour last summer – because of the renewed interest in the band the game has brought them! Now they are back on tour playing to a whole new audience.”
One of Hal Leonard’s main products related to the games are their Rock Band and Guitar Hero TAB books. They already had those songs in other books, so as soon as they realized how popular the games were, the company contacted the two game makers and licensed the art and name. Then the folios were easily compiled.
It was just November of last year when they released their first book for Guitar Hero. WithRock Band, they had a little more advanced notice of the song list, says Schroedl.
“Rock Band is unique because it has the vocal, bass, guitar, and drum parts, and that gave us the opportunity to expanding the product line,” Jahnke says. The book geared toward singers is an especially big hit. And they are able to weave it all into their popular Play Along series that include CDs, which allow the players to slow down the tracks without changing the key in addition to the usual features.
They both acknowledged that the gamers doing well “playing” an Aerosmith guitar solo on the virtual stage, then goes out and buys one of the transcriptions, are not likely going to be able to play that solo on a real guitar right off the bat. But they are soon releasing a related guitar method that is built on simplified versions of the songs from the game.
Jahnke stresses again that the resurgence of “good” music is always good for the industry. “I remember the early 1990s when Clapton Unplugged came out,” he recalls. “Then rap and hip hop was good for the DJ and turntable markets, and created a new audience in another direction. But now these games are really giving young kids the greatest guitar music of all time.”
Jahnke adds that they’ve been talking to a lot of stores since they first brought out the book, and they have been encouraging them to hold in store events. “One of our retailers partnered with the local Best Buy, who brought down all the gear to the store – big screen TV, the gear to play the game, etc. The event got over 100 kids in who received door prizes. But the winner won a year’s worth of guitar lessons. That was something substantial.”
Brian Ball has no doubts. “I’m a huge supporter, and I do think it’s good for the industry. We’re talking about 10 million people buying the games. That’s ten million at least curious about the guitar. How can that be a bad thing? If even 10 percent of them are inspired and ask their Mom if they can play the guitar, that’s a lot of consumers. And I’m being conservative. I think it could be up to 30 percent to 40 percent of people interested in playing music because of these games.”
“We really don’t know what the conversion rate is but we certainly believe that the potential is there,” states Zildjian’s Brad Baker.
For Robinson at Evans, this is an extremely important opportunity. “One of the biggest challenges in our industry is reaching potential music makers,” he says. “Exposure of our brand to these the games players is sure to help with our brand identity and credibility as a name that supports new music makers and those musicians who paved the way with the great music you hear throughout the game.”
For Jodi Malone, the evidence is in. She runs themusicalmom.org, a Website that helps parents who home school get their children a music education. “I have big praise for Guitar Hero, and have recently hosted a contest at the California Homeschool Network (CHW),” she says. The winners received a real guitar, and she followed up that event with free 15-minute guitar lessons. By the end of the event, she sold over $1,200 of guitars, books, and accessories. She’s already been asked by the organizers of that show to hold another Guitar Hero contest at their next convention.
Last summer she also sponsored a contest using all the NAMM materials from their “Wanna Play?” program. “It was a huge success,” she says.
Retailers Score with Game
“I think MI retailers should absolutely stock the game,” Ball says. “If they don’t offer this, it only gives that consumer another reason to go to the big box. In this day and age, independent stores have to carry things of this magnitude. If you’re selling guitars, basses, strings, drums, or keyboards, you really should consider it.” Contests are a great way to drive people into the store, and he even floats the idea of a cross promotion: Buy Guitar Hero or Rock Band here, and when you want to buy a guitar it’s 10 percent off, or you get three free lessons. “They are already curious if they are buying the game.”
Fender has had their dealers hold contests, and Lyons mentions a MI dealer Tom Lee Music in Vancouver who held a two-week long event that included preliminaries and then a final contest.
Many MI retailers have been skeptical, even negative about the games. Then there’s Mom’s Music stores, which are owned by brothers Mark and Max Maxwell. Mark owns one in Jeffersonville, Ind., and Max owns one across the river in Louisville, Ky. Walk into their stores and you’ll see Rock Band set up in their store. “It’s a great thing,” says Max Maxwell. “I don’t know how many come in with their kids to play the game and then want to take lessons.”
Maxwell said brother Mark first put up a Guitar Hero rig up in his store for people to play last year, and he thought he’d try Rock Band. “The kids are wearing it out. And if I could sell the games, I’d have them on my floor, but I’ve never really looked into that.”
The Maxwells are convinced that it’s having a positive effect on the music industry. They do “Weekend Warrior” programs and he says all the parents have these games at home, and they like that there is a comfortable place for kids to play while they practice or shop. In general, it keeps the store active.
“Anything you can do to keep kids in the store.” To naysayers he asserts: “I can’t believe why anybody would be bummed about kids playing music, even if it’s this way. It makes kids excited about the idea of playing [real instruments]. It’s been very powerful for us.”
But there’s no shortage of healthy skepticism [see Gary Gands guest editorial, page 40].
Greg McVeigh of Guesthouse Projects, who represents Heil Microphones, has the game in his house, which he says his two young sons constantly fight over. But that’s better than the alternative: “I’m not going to enter their argument because I know that in a few minutes the stage will shift to Youtube viewing or which DVD will be watched this morning. Somewhere during the morning, Disney Channel will prevail and all will be well. All the while, a neat little Strat copy hangs on the wall begging to be called on to play with the kids.”
As for MI product placement,”as a person who works in artist relations and who understands the power of product placement, I can see where a manufacturer would see value in associating itself with a game maker. But it is a short-term victory. Sure it is cool to know that millions are seeing your logo or digitized product. But in doing so, that same guitar manufacturer just showed kids that they don’t have to know how to play a real guitar. They don’t need to take lessons, learn to tune, figure out the chords to their favorite song, and most importantly, get to feel what it is like to play rock and roll in front of a crowd. Really play rock and roll.
“But, these games are the way of the modern world, and manufacturers will have to sort out the short term from the long term. I would hate to see the games take the place of real music.”
Asked how much further Fender is going to go with this, Lyons demurred, saying he wasn’t at liberty to speak about specifics, but they are working on some ideas. An entry line of products integrated into the game, with their artist participating will be part of it. Also they are excited that the makers of Rock Bandwill be exploring country and pop genres in future versions.
“We are working with a third party controller company for a replica of our P-Bass, which gamers can use as a controller. Those will be available by Christmas.”
Fender did a Rock Band Truck Tour getting kids in the truck, playing the game, surrounded by instruments. He said one thing he’s heard from the road is that kids are coming in and playing the game, saying they can spend up to four hours a day on it. “We point out that if they spent that kind of time on guitar, they would be pretty amazing players and be in a band.” But the kids too typically shrug as the game offers instant gratification that a real guitar can’t. “That’s the big obstacle – taking the weeks to get that first couple of chords down.”
Ludwig’s Grant Henry: “We are working closely with the Harmonix people on new ways to enjoy theRock Band experience. That’s about all we can say at this time.”
“Very simply put, these ‘games’ are dream makers,” says Michael Farley of Farley’s Musical Essentials. “Those with a simple fascination will be weeded out, and the future Guitar Heroes will emerge. It is all about bringing attention to the instrument and industry.” He says the game is a great way to “preach the gospel of guitar,” and that it will instill in gamers a real sense of hunger for music.
“I predict that you are seeing the future [of real] Guitar Heroes, now in their infancy, coming to maturation.”
And how much crazier could it get? How about a movie?
It was reported at the end of August that the director of X-Men and Rush Hour, Bret Ratner, has approached the Activision about doing a movie. He was quoted as saying, “I love Guitar Hero and I think it’s a part of pop culture. I would love to do a ‘Guitar Hero‘ movie, if Activision would ever let me.”
It probably will be at a movie theater near you. But will it drive people to a music instrument store near you?
|Games At Least Good for Rock Music Sales
National media is certainly giving the games even more exposure than it already has. CNN this summer did a feature titled “Guitar Hero saving rock music?”
The report pointed out that only a few years ago, rock music was struggling on the charts. With hip-hop and teen pop ruling the day, rock was finding it hard to be heard, let alone played. But Guitar Hero and Rock Band have prompted kids born in the days of N’Sync to be exposed to musicians of the 1970s and 1980s such as Aerosmith, Kiss, AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Jimmy Buffett, and Pat Benatar. The games’ amazing popularity has spilled over and created success in other markets.
Geoff Mayfield, senior analyst and director of charts for Billboard magazine, sees a direct cause-and-effect for some of the artists who have licensed their songs to Guitar Hero.
“A few weeks ago, when the game featuring Aerosmith came out, there was more than a 40-percent increase in their catalog sales. I expect you’ll see that again when Metallica gets the same kind of treatment in a few weeks,”
The results have played out at such places as Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles, where most teens have grown up on a steady diet of hip-hop and R&B.
Recently, heavy metal blared from the school’s darkened auditorium as it sponsored a three-dayGuitar Hero Face-Off. Spotlights illuminated the competitors, and an audience full of enthusiasts screamed wildly at the end of each song.