Less Than Expected Sales Of Beatles Rockband Shows It's Not Just About The Music

from the the-best-things-in-life-are-free... dept

You may recall last year that the head of Warner Music Group, Edgar Bronfman Jr., demanded that music video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band weren't paying enough for the music they used in the games, saying that the success of such games was "entirely dependent on the content we own and control." As we mentioned at the time, this is the usual fallacy of the entertainment industry, to assume that the entire value of the product is in the content itself, rather than other aspects of it -- such as the gameplay. It looks like the initial sales results of the massively overhyped Beatles Rockband is helping to prove this point. Despite all the attention and press and the fact that this was the Beatles' music being offered in such a game for the first time, reader Eric alerts us to the news that sales of the game have massively underperformed expectations. Sales were less than 60% of what most analysts expected, and some of the quotes from people suggest why:
"[It] felt like an expansion to me, not a full release... [It was] cool, but not quite enough to be a stand alone game ($60) purchase."
That's just one quote, but others have expressed a similar sentiment. The music... that's nice, but you can get Beatles' music all over. It's the game that makes this worth buying -- or not worth buying. And just adding new music to an old game wasn't nearly as exciting as many people hoped it would be. This isn't to say the music is "worthless." But it does suggest -- yet again -- that the entertainment industry overvalues the contribution of the content itself.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Alias (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:44am

    Typo...

    That=Than.

     

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    John Doe, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Am I the only one?

    Am I the only one that doesn't really care for the Beatles music? Maybe not since the game isn't selling that well.

     

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      redrum, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:28pm

      Re: Am I the only one?

      No you're not the only one. Ya know who else doesn't like the Beatles? Kids. Kids hate the Beatles. I was in Wally World a couple of weeks ago in the electronics section, and I heard teeny-bopper after teeny-bopper complain how much they hate them.

      They're more of a vocal group anyway. How many Beatles songs do you play air-guitar to? I thought it was a stupid idea from the start.

       

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:51am

    That's why..

    copyright holders absolutely, positively needs to be paid an arbitrary amount UP FRONT.

     

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    faceless (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:51am

    The Beatles Rock Band is selling in line with what Rock Band 2 and Rock Band did, analysts just overshot, because they're older and like the Beatles more and maybe overthought their signifigance. The REAL story is how bad Guitar Hero is selling. Guitar Hero 3 outsold Rock Band by a wide margin and Guitar Hero World Tour outsold Rock Band 2 by a pretty big margin too. However, while The Beatles Rock Band maintained the typical level of sales for the franchise, Guitar Hero 5 tanked to levels below Rock Band.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:16pm

      Re:

      Which is weird. GH5 is a good improvement on GHWT. Unfortunately, the calibration in GH5 absolutely stinks... to the point of making the game almost unplayable.

       

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    Ben (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 10:55am

    It is sad that this point has to repeatedly be made, if you overvalue and overprice your product than what the customer wants to pay, then you won't sell. Not to mention that the Beatles music is not hugely popular with the age group that consists of the majority playing these games.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Beatles Rock Band is highly overpriced. Here, it sells (legally) for over 120 dollars. In an economy where minimum wage is 300 dollars, it doesn't make any sense. And that doesn't include the price of the console and the controllers. I saw that in a store and wondered why they think people will not get it by not-so-legal means.

     

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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Tragic

    This game was indeed overhyped. Seeing it advertised at this year's E3 made me cringe. They made it sound like they had invented a whole new genre of gaming or something. The Beatles are old news. (They made great music, but it's still old news.) Again, the only reason the game sold anything was the gameplay. It pains me to see the industry think that its music is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

     

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      The Buzz Saw (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:10am

      Re: Tragic

      I'll make one minor correction.

      Yes, the music added SOME value because there are already a billion rock band games out. There is obvious incentive to want to apply that gameplay to a classic collection of music. However, as the article above stated, it wasn't all that worth it.

       

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    Steve R. (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Overpriced

    The Beatles, as a band, stop producing content 30 years ago. When I see the CDs in the store, they are still being sold for a premium price. Were these songs a normal asset they would have been depreciated to $0 by now. (Of course that doesn't mean that you might have to a couple of $ since there are material costs, distribution costs, etc.)

    Since the Beatles are no longer producing, how is the cost of these CDs and Rock Band through copyright justified????

     

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    Ben (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Wrong http://pewsocialtrends.org/pubs/739/woodstock-gentler-generation-gap-music-by-age http://p ewsocialtrends.org/assets/images/739-20.gif

    You may of missed this at the bottom:

    6. Twenty was the practical limit we could test in a pair of national telephone surveys; this meant that many great performers could not be included in the list.

    And:

    Differences less that 11 percent may not be statistically significant.

    I don't think these numbers can be used to determine that the popularity of the Beatles is high for the age group that buys these games.

     

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    Justin, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:40am

    This game is about the music though

    If this line of games is not about the music, what is the driving force behind everything newer then the first game? The only major change to the game is adding a drum set, so that gets you one more version of the game but what about all the others? A simple question to ask is "Would this game sell if the music was removed?" Now when it comes to Need for Speed or Madden, I would say yes they still sell. But in this case, not so much.

    This is a case of overinflated forecast. If you substitute any other company that sells strictly tangible goods you would say that their marketing and sales force really screwed this one up. Not that the addition of some new feature just wasn't that good and is overvalued.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:11pm

      Re: This game is about the music though

      Yes, music is important. But does it matter what music it is? That's the point Mike is making.

      The music industry people are demanding huge payments because songs they own are being used. They think its THEIR songs that are making the game successful.

      What Mike is saying is that the game is successful because it has addictive gameplay, and people want to play the game. You could insert ANY band and ANY music into the game with the exact same effect, because people are buying the game for the game.

      The boost in sales for bands featured in games is proof enough of that, because they're fairly solid evidence that most people buying the game never heard those songs before.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:14pm

        Re: Re: This game is about the music though

        An amendment...

        When I say "ANY band and ANY music", it of course has to be music that players can stand listening to for long periods of time.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: This game is about the music though

          Agree. I think the correct question is "Will this game sell the same if the music was changed?", and the answer seems to be that the music is not as important as the game. Removing the music completely doesn't make much sense in a music-based game.

           

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        Justin, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:25pm

        Re: Re: This game is about the music though

        Ok, So I buy the first one for game play, I will agree with you there, but what makes me buy the second or third if I already have a perfectly good one on the shelf? The 2nd,3rd,4th,5th... are not that much more advanced in game play to warrant spending $50-$80 on just another game that uses a guitar as a controller. Gameplay only gets you so far. That is like saying I buy the new Madden because the stiff arm feature works better. Again I ask what makes me buy the next version of the game?

        Also, When you see a commercial for a new version what do they pitch to you. "Now with brighter colors and a new crowd meter" No, they pitch Matalica and Beatles, They pitch the music that is in the game, not game play. Why do they keep coming out with Metalica and AC DC instead of Joe Blow from the garage band down the block? because they know that if they put out something that nobody knows sales will drop and quick.

        A couple days ago Mike posted a story about a clerk that was singing in a grocery store and asked if you take the music away does it change the effect of the store, in that case it does not. That is why I ask if you take away the music for this game does it change the effect? I would have to say that gameplay is a small part of it, but the music in the game is the driving force of the game.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 5:38pm

          Re: Re: Re: This game is about the music though

          What they pitch and what actually sells are two totally different things. Proof? Read the article.

          "Why do they keep coming out with Metalica and AC DC instead of Joe Blow from the garage band down the block? because they know that if they put out something that nobody knows sales will drop and quick."

          And your proof is? Sequels to games like Guitar Hero had plenty of bands and songs that the demographic had never heard before (once again, look to the boosted music sales for those bands). I can't even remember the commercials and ads for it right now, but I'm almost certain that the music itself wasn't the major hype focus.

          The first few versions of these games relied on the gameplay to sell - and they sold very well using that. What you see now is an attempt to milk the franchise further...to varying degrees of success.


          And by the way...Madden is a very poor example to use. Most sport franchise games literally are just slightly modified graphics, gameplay and AI.

           

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    Chris Becke, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Too much.

    The problem with these games is, speaking as a fan of the genre, each additional purchase does not extend my collection of music so much as fragment it.
    I look at Guitar Hero V on the shelf, and think... sure, some good tracks there... but what about GH III, GH Aerosmith, World Tour, Metallica? And Ive got some Rock Band titles too.
    the more I have, sadly, the less I play. Because now when I put a disk in I set myself up for dissapointment. "Oh - this game doesnt have *that* song - the one I really wanted to play"

     

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    PRMan, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 11:53am

    Beatles music isn't that great

    I still remember when they hyped it on American Idol and had it for 2 episodes.

    My kids: Meh...again. Why can't they play something good?

    Randy: That's a great song, but it just didn't do anything for me...

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    Maybe it's because it's really NOT a great song. It's a supremely overhyped song because people were caught up in the free love and drugs message that went along with it.

    Young people miss all that and just hear the music, which isn't really that good except that everyone keeps telling you how good it is...

     

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    JohnForDummies (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Beatles who?

    It's funny, because a week after the release, the news was that the game was outperforming their expectations: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/60503

    What made the Metallica and Aerosmith Guitar Hero games worth buying (to me at least) was that they included many other songs by other artists. With the Beatles, I know maybe 4 or 5 of their songs, and playing through their entire set lists would probably drive me nuts. Iconic or not, they are last century's news. Either add other content, or change SOMETHING about the game. Otherwise, what's the point?

     

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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Win.

    Yes!!!!!

    I am already mad that I can't purchase mp3s. Now they want me to ditch my character, my bands, and my stands, and spend a ton of money on an entirely new game? Yeah, I don't think so. That's just another way to tell me that you don't value me as a customer.

    If you don't care enough to sell what I want, then I don't care enough to buy what you sell.

    Even if you are the remaining Beatles.

     

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    Gunnar, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    The big problem with this release is that it was marketed as a stand-alone, but nobody wants to play the same band's music over and over again. It should have been sold as an expansion that could be added to the main library.

    I bought this, but it's way too much effort to stop everything and insert a disc and put the band back together just to play a Beatles song.

     

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    Mike, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    Well

    I really enjoyed The Beatles Rockband. It was an oasis of music; finally I can play the game, and know the words to the songs already. I am a casual games in my twenties who happens to like this music more than current music. Next I'd like to see a Herb Alpert, Buddy Rich, or Ray Charles compilation. or anything from WWII era big bands. I like to play the drum part and not be restricted to 4/4 modern rock all the time.

    I hope these numbers don't affect the DLC that was planned for these coming months, because they were going to release the whole Sgt. pepper and Abbey road albums. I want "When I'm 64"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    umm demographics?

    Well if someone released something targeted at gamers... shouldn't they expect some old, but classic, music might not be in the demographics that play a lot of games? Maybe the 15-35ish crowd wasn't really HUGE fans of Beatles??

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Industry Crutch

    Loss sales will be blamed on copyright infringement. HOW ELSE COULD THE BEATLES NOT SELL OUT!!!!!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    It is once again a great Techdirt reach, attempting tocome to some grand conclusion, mostly by ignoring mitigating factors. Those factors have been well highlighted here in the comments, such as the age group who might like the music versus the age that might play the game, the idea of it being sold as a stand alone versus add on, etc.

    The music is a significant part of the guitar hero and rock band products. Without decent music that people enjoy, the games would likely not be anywhere near as popular. I don't think it is hard to imagine that players would rather rock out to popular or well known tunes rather than gaming elevator music.

    So using this as some twisted way to say the music has less value just isn't anything other than a horrible sort of shilling.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:53pm

      Re:

      "such as the age group who might like the music versus the age that might play the game"

      Actually, according to the ESA, most gamers are of the age that tends to rock out to The Beatles.

      "The music is a significant part of the guitar hero and rock band products. Without decent music that people enjoy, the games would likely not be anywhere near as popular."

      True, and nobody has said otherwise.

      "I don't think it is hard to imagine that players would rather rock out to popular or well known tunes rather than gaming elevator music."

      Well, ignoring the weak "elevator music" jab, you are correct. But that effect is relatively minor. The important part is excellent music you can rock out to -- and that can be obtained without labels being involved.

      The games would probably be no less popular is they included music of equal quality that was performed and written by complete unknowns.

      Mike's point is that the industry (meaning the traditional collection of businesses) grossly overvalues its music, something that is plainly true but which the industry can't seem to see.

      His point is not that the music isn't an important part of the game or that it has no value.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 2:31pm

        Re: Re:

        How do overvalue the music? remove music, no game. I over value tires on my car and gas in the tank, because I know with those two things nothing else happens.

        You will very rarely at this point (aka never) find widely popular and well known music that isn't under contract somewhere. You could get some dude nobody knows to bang out some rocking tunes and buy them as work for hire, but the reality is that the tunes people know are known because of the wide distribution that record labels provide. Shocking, isn't it?

        Beatles Rockband sold more than half a million copies, over and above the normal sales of rockband. Mike's conclusion is wishful speculation from a guy trying to pee all over the record companies and rights holders. It isn't based in fact, just wishful thinking.

         

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          Gatewood Green (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 3:34pm

          Re: How do you overvalue music?

          No code, no game, No graphics, no game. No console or computer, no game. No controller, no game. Let's see, that is five major components of which the code and console were probably far more expensive to produce. The music was already produced (labor paid for). Although in many cases the music has to be edited and remixed (by the game company) for the game to allow for game play use.

          So remind me how much value the music is by itself?

          That said...

          Truth is "value" is what next idiot on the street is willing to pay. I like listening to the Beetles, but not $60+ much. I'd consider the game for $10. The console, controllers and original RB games cost enough. The additional investment in the Beetles' version game just does not seem to be to myself worth the payoff. Bad ROI.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 5:07pm

            Re: Re: How do you overvalue music?

            ... and if you could spell Beatles, I might follow your logic. $10 for a game? Sorry, that ain't going to happen.

             

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    DKone, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Try it with Led Zeppelin

    IMHO, the music of the Beatles is just not that exciting. If I were a betting man, I would wager 100 bucks that the sales of a stand alone 'Rock band - Led Zeppelin' would be through the roof.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 1:54pm

      Re: Try it with Led Zeppelin

      "IMHO, the music of the Beatles is just not that exciting. If I were a betting man, I would wager 100 bucks that the sales of a stand alone 'Rock band - Led Zeppelin' would be through the roof."

      Closer, I think, but still too narrow IMO. What you COULD do, especially for thos of us 18-35 year olds that grew up in part listening to and LOVING some of the true classic rock with our parents (Hint: The Beatles ain't in that category, they are oldies, plain and simple), would be to release Rock Band: Classic Rock. Band listing would be easy to create AND extremely impressive:

      1. Led Zepplin
      2. The Doors
      3. Jimi Hendrix
      4. The Who
      5. ZZ Top
      6. George Thoroughgood (sp?)
      7. The Rolling Stones
      8. Kansas
      9. Boston
      10. Pink Floyd
      11. Jethro Tull
      12. Rush
      13. Lynrd Skynrd
      14. AC/DC
      15. The Clash
      16. Deep Purple
      17. Blue Oyster Cult (and not Don't Fear The Reaper, dammit, but a GOOD song, like Godzilla!)
      18. Styxx
      19. Queen
      10. And maybe mix in a little Jazz Fusion and/or Urban genre music like Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Steely Dan, etc.

       

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    Analyst (profile), Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    All the other bands...

    All of the other bands mentioned have been willing to release their music for Rock Band 1 and 2.

    I recall reading a statement along the lines that the whole point of the Beatles Rock Band was "to protect the integrity of the music." Translated into English: "We're too vain to become just another bunch of tracks in the core game."

    The joy of Rock Band is in (a) gameplay and (b) the broad selection of music. Rock Band is loaded with great music. I personally have lost count of how many songs I have in my library - songs from great artists spanning 4 decades of music.

    So now the promoters of the Beatles come along and DEMAND that users swap disks to play just them. Vanity is what killed sales.

     

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    Mart, Oct 25th, 2009 @ 2:01am

    Who's fault is this?

    Wait a minute... So some "analysts" think the game will sell over 1 mil. Based on what? No idea, they're analysts, not affiliated with Harmonix, EA or MTV music. Next, the game goes on sale, beats rival GH5 2 to 1. Harmonix and MTV execs claim they're very pleased with initial sales, and that they're in line with expectations. But because these "analysts" say they should have shipped more, the game's suddenly a "dud"? Why is there no headline "Analysts have issues predicting Beatles sales"?

    Would these be some of the same analysts claiming the Wii would never sell?

     

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    Sheinen, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    What jarr's the freckles off of my nether-regions is that these games have really well set up music stores accessable via the Live services.

    Thousands of downloadable songs are available for them, with new tracks released weekly on X-box live at least.

    Why the fudge do they actually need to re-package anything and split it across several discs? The games get a slight face-lift but otherwise remain identical. Put the albums on the DL content rather than another disc - you can charge less, sell more and keep your customers happy!

    Daft buggers

     

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    Dudeface, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 1:03am

    Late to the party but....

    Overpriced depends on the costs of remixing the original tracks into 4 distinct parts for use. In the case of the Beatles, the original recordings were mostly in mono/one channel for all parts - so they had to digitally break apart each individual guitar, bass, vocal, etc to get the 4 parts for the game. Regardless of whether you like the music (which is why one person might buy it or not), Beatles RB price reflects that studio time. I bought the game and the more I play it, each detail of the game becomes more endearing - how they dissected the parts, the harmonizing vocals, the killer art details, the added commentary of the band members as songs load... it's a frickin' blast that's made me appreciate the Beatles musicianship far beyond than I have with other bands in other RBs. Get four guys playing all parts on expert with three of them singing at the same time and you'll see precisely what I mean.... yeah, it is worth $60.

     

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    Kolehmainen, Feb 2nd, 2010 @ 2:49am

    A step in the right direction

    I didn't use to care much for plastic instrument music games. Also I didn't consider myself a great Beatles fan. Beatles Rock Band however has made me appreciate their music on a whole new level. We really enjoy playing the game with the family, kids, teens, and adults alike. I'd even venture to say that Beatles music makes Rock Band more interesting than most mainstream rock, being somewhat more quirky and varied than most hit songs. Personally, I was never too interested in the other rock games with their predictable list of hard rock classics. Given the choice, I'd love to play "King Crimson Rock Band", "James Brown Funk Band", or "Miles Davis Fusion Band", but Beatles is a refreshing step in the right direction!

     

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