The importance of music games

October 18, 2009

Music and rhythm video games have existed for quite a while, and they have made a permanent place in the video game industry. They are a very important part of not only bringing a new audience to video games, but managing to combine two completely different industries into one.

This becomes more apparent with the more recent popularity of games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These games stand out as some of the few that can bring a new audience to games, and ones that are incredibly valuable for the growth of the industry.

It’s safe to say that, in the United States, music games really became popular with the release of the first few editions of Dance Dance Revolution. Over in Japan, Konami’s popular series of dance and rhythm games included several other game series that brought together many different music styles and instruments that all appealed to the Japanese market. Not only do they have DDR, but they also enjoy Beatmania, DrumMania, Pop’n Music, Guitar Freaks, and even ParaParaParadise. These are franchises that are widely popular in Japanese arcades, and also have found small success here in the States as well. DDR is easily the most popular of the bunch, and it started a genre of games that dramatically changed the industry.

But it was not until the release of the original Guitar Hero, and eventually Rock Band, where most gamers really began to take notice. These games branched out and reached an entirely new audience of non-gamers, and managed to be successful in an industry where many similar games have failed. While Dance Dance Revolution may have a huge following here, it has never reached the same level of popularity as Guitar Hero or Rock Band. These games forever changed the way gamers and the industry as a whole views music games, and successfully brought together two industries unlike any other game or genre has before.

These games can be just as challenging as any other kind, and they have a lot of replay value, so what is it about them that makes them appeal to the casual audience? The music itself. Many people playing these games enjoy them simply because of the music involved. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with being able to play a song or selection of songs you have only been able to listen to before. It is that sense of interaction you never get with any other form of media that makes them more successful.

And publishers have profited greatly from them, mainly Activision and MTV Games, the two big publishers behind the biggest franchises in music game history. Although analysts are predicting that the market is now over-saturated with music games, with so many Guitar Hero and Rock Band titles coming out each year. Those who do not play games regularly may not be able to afford a new game every other month or so, and even so, limiting the appeal of these games by dedicating them to specific audience may be a reason why. Also, with the increased expense of making the peripherals and controllers that go along with the games, like the guitar and drum controllers, it is hard to tell if these games are here to stay, or they are just a fad.

One exception is The Beatles: Rock Band, which manages to bring one of the most popular and successful bands in history to a video game, and manages to branch out to even more audiences than ever before. Those who never care about these games before might be interested in trying to play their favorite Beatles songs; it might just once again spark the interest in these games. Bands like Van Halen, Metallica, and even Aerosmith do not have as widespread an appeal as The Beatles.

With the different genres and types of music out there, and with downloadable content becoming bigger than ever, it’s hard not to find songs you enjoy in music games now. Although it has both managed to grow the gaming audience and branch the gap between games and audience, there still may be a long way to go before these games can reach their full potential. Or are their potentials limitless? Will they even be around and popular long enough for us to find out? It’s hard to tell at this point, but right now, music games will be around for a little while longer.