Can Guitar Hero Help Save the Music Industry? A Guest Post
David Edery, the worldwide games portfolio manager for Xbox Live Arcade, a research affiliate of the M.I.T. Comparative Media Studies Program, and author of the book Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business, blogged here last week about video games. This is his second of two guest posts on the subject. Here’s an earlier relevant discussion about the music industry.
Can Guitar Hero Help Save the Music Industry?
By David Edery
A Guest Post
One of the most interesting developments in the video-game industry is the way that games are being used to jazz up — if not completely re-invent — other, more mature industries. There are several good examples of this phenomenon: the stuffed toy industry and the fitness industry, for example, but my focus for this guest post is the music industry.
While many people are familiar with now-ubiquitous games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero, few realize how dramatically these games have affected music consumption in the U.S.
Both Rock Band and Guitar Hero are extremely successful franchises that have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for their respective publishers. Players use controllers that resemble musical instruments (a guitar, a drum set, or a microphone) to “play” their favorite songs, which come bundled with the games or can be downloaded separately at extra cost. Think of it as the next generation of karaoke.
When Guitar Hero was first created by Harmonix (which is also the creator of Rock Band, not coincidentally), the music industry cared little for video games. How things have changed! The president of Universal Music Group claims that songs included in Guitar Hero will sell two to three times better.
Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas,” a song originally released in 1994, saw a tenfold increase in sales when included in Guitar Hero 3. More interestingly, a special version of Guitar Hero focused entirely on Aerosmith’s music resulted in more revenue for the band than any individual Aerosmith album.
I contacted MTV Networks and they were kind enough to share several interesting statistics. For example, Motley Crüe’s single “Saints of Los Angeles” premiered in the Rock Band Music Store day and date with its single release, and it sold more than five times as many units there as it did on iTunes in its first week.
Back in July, twelve of the The Who’s greatest hits were released for Rock Band, and in two weeks, fans purchased over 715,000 tracks. During the same two-week period, all twelve tracks experienced a 159 percent increase in SoundScan sales. (SoundScan measures physical CD sales, as well as digital music sales.)
And in August, Buckcherry’s new single “Rescue Me” was made available in Rock Band prior to the group’s new album release. The success of the download is credited with helping the new album Black Butterfly to debut at number eight on the Billboard Top 200.
No band, no matter how famous, has failed to take notice of this phenomenon. MTVN and the Beatles recently announced the development of an entirely new music game based solely on the Beatles’ music to be released during the 2009 holiday season. We can definitely expect more announcements of this sort in the years to come.
This is not simply a localized phenomenon. Businesses of all kinds are finding ways to use games and the principles they teach us to juice sales and re-invent moribund markets. And while not everything can be turned into a game, a great many things can be. After all, who ever really imagined that a game in which you solve math problems would become one of the great commercial success stories of the modern game industry?