Seven45 Studios announced their upcoming game Power Gig: Rise of the Sixstring and the accompanying sixstringed electric guitar (yes, it is an actual guitar that can be used to play music as well as games) at GDC a couple of weeks ago. And while it may seem a natural evolution of the genre that really took off with the first Guitar Hero a few years back, and that seemed to peak with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Rock Band in 2007 and in revenues the following year, it makes me wonder if a more hardcore experience is the innovation the genre needs at this time.
There is no doubt that the "plastic guitar fatigue" is real. We don't need to cram our apartments full with more plastic at this point, and those who still play regularly would rather spend their cash on downloadable tracks they actually want to play rather than more plastic and huge tracklist that is mostly made up of songs you don't want to play.
There has been attempts to broaden the market with titles like Band Hero and Lego Rock Band. More aimed at the whole family, and especially families with younger band members, and with a more diverse selection of songs and artists. One of the original founders of the genre, Konami, tried their luck with Rock Revolution, and it flopped spectacularly. Then there was DJ Hero, a title Activision had huge hopes for, that delivered in terms of quality, but fell well short of the early sales expectations Activision and analysts had. Perhaps it just wasn't appealing to enough people to live out their disc jockey dreams?
Where does Seven45 Studios fit into the picture. At this point we know it will come with a guitar controller sporting six strings on top of the frets we have gotten used to. The normal gameplay is similar to Guitar Hero and Rock Band, while there is also an expert mode where the controller will track you fingers as you hold down simple chords. The game will actually teach us how to play the guitar, and after rocking out with the game you will be able to plug the guitar controller into an amplifier and rock out for real. Don't look in the mirror though, because you will look a bit silly with a slightly small guitar, but still... it's something new.
Seven45 Studios will reveal their microphone and drum peripheral closer to or at E3 this summer, and I think it's safe to assume that there are plans to promote a more authentic musical experience in these areas as well. But is this the way forward for the genre? Perhaps, I'm sure there are some Rock Band or Guitar Hero players who would like to take the next step, but most of them are probably comfortable with the way things are, and don't feel the need for more plastic.
It's a tough situation for everyone as the dollar amount spent in the segment decreases and there are more companies wanting a piece of the action. Selling plastic controllers is probably more lucrative for the gaming companies, while the music industry probably enjoys their take on the DLC more. There are a lot of different interested parties, and everyone has grown accustomed to making lots of money at this point. Meanwhile, there are people with hundreds and hundreds of tracks, that don't really need more fuel to their occasional Rock Band and/or Guitar Hero parties. Once you have a decent collection of tracks for Rock Band, you don't really need more. Maybe you'll buy a bit of DLC if it's with one of your favourite artists, but that's it.
Power Gig: Rise of the Sixstring and Seven45 Studios has a tough job ahead themselves to convince consumer they need strings on their plastic guitars. The upside is that their peripherals will work with any old games people may have so if your plastic instruments are starting to get worn, you could just as well go for Power Gig to replace them this fall. But their real problem is that they are going in alone against the established behemoths Activision and MTV. There is never going to be another 2008 for the music genre, but there is still a lot of money out there, and the next big innovation in the genre is likely to be worth a lot to whoever comes up with it. I'm not sure it is strings, though.
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