Music genre’s best days still ahead, Harmonix believes

Despite music game sales being in a downward spiral for the last year or so, Rock Band developer Harmonix doesn’t believe the genre has yet peaked. “I absolutely do not believe that rhythm-action gaming has reached its peak,” founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos told Edge. “Of course, 2009 was a tough year with the recession, which especially affects music games given the relatively high price point of instrument bundles. But in the long term, people’s passion for music isn’t going away, and rhythm gaming will continue to provide people with a deeper level of engagement with the music they love. So, yes, I do think that future music games will exceed the sales success of the last generation.”

Competitor and Guitar Hero maker Neversoft doesn’t necessarily agree. Guitar Hero project director Brian Bright believes matching the sales of Guitar Hero III — the second best-selling title in the last 15 years in the US — may be impossible. “As far as sales exceeding GHIII’s in the future, only time will tell,” Bright says, “but it’s a tall order.”

To ensure success in the future however, both agree that making it possible for users to create their own content is an absolute must-have.

“I think user-created content is key to the evolution. If you can’t create or edit licensed music due to copyright laws then you’re limited to pretending to play someone else’s music. I think the key is to create music, but make it compelling to create, so the game is in the creation, not the playback,” says Bright, and Rigopulos agrees, to a degree, “User-generated content will be absolutely critical to the ongoing success of the genre, I think. To be clear, though, when I talk about ‘users’ in this context, I don’t necessarily mean end-users or players. I’m talking about a huge community of power-users – skilled music creators – providing their music to the audience. The launch of the Rock Band Network will be our next ‘defining moment’.”