Innovation And Invention In Virtual Rock Band Video Games

from the timing-matters dept

Reader David Kopp writes in to point us to a story in the Boston Globe that yet again highlights the difference between innovation and invention — this time in the virtual musician video game space. While we’ve already seen that Konami has sued over the video game Rock Band, claiming that it had patented the concept of virtual musician games, the Globe story highlights a Massachusetts startup that appears to have come up with a similar idea much earlier. The game was slightly different, but had many of the same elements — including a virtual guitar (that had actual strings in this case) and involved playing along with music on the screen. The band Aerosmith played a big part in the game, predating all the bands suddenly jumping on the Guitar Hero and Rock Band bandwagons of today.

The game was moderately successful, but was clearly ahead of its time in a variety of ways. The game was way too expensive, first of all, as the virtual guitar added an extra $100 to the $50 game price. The company also had trouble figuring out how to properly market the game, especially with the extra guitar. Also, since it was a PC game, it was less convenient than today’s console games, which are mostly played around a big television. These were all issues that were later worked out, but not in time for the folks at Virtual Music Entertainment, who had already sold out for a decent, but not enormous, payout in 2000. Still, it’s nice to see they’re not bitter or threatening to sue:

“Whether they stole it or not, it was a good idea. They were at the right place at the right time, and they executed it really well.”

And that’s exactly the point. Executing and getting it right is difficult, but that’s what the market is designed to reward, and that’s what really drives innovation.

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Comments on “Innovation And Invention In Virtual Rock Band Video Games”

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chris (profile) says:

Re: I think

How do you push a game out the door that requires the hardware that doesn’t exist yet?

easy, infinium took pre-orders on a game console that never existed:

the hard part is staying out of jail and getting the press to keep hyping your product even though you keep pushing back the ship date.

when the phantom finally does ship, i am going to play duke nukem forever on it.

Spectere (profile) says:

Konami has a history with this sort of thing...

This isn’t the first time that Konami’s attempted to maintain a stranglehold on the rhythm action gaming market. A couple of years ago they sued Roxor Games over a little four-panel arcade dancing game called In The Groove, effectively bullying the considerably smaller company into a quick settlement despite Konami’s fairly shaky legal grounds*.

*They primarily complained about Roxor’s upgrade kits using Konami’s hardware, despite arcade games having doing that for years. It kind of makes me wonder what would have happened if a goliath like EA/MTV would have owned the ITG franchise.

gene_cavanaugh (user link) says:


Executing and getting it right is difficult, but that’s what the market is designed to reward, and that’s what really drives innovation.
Agreed. But if the idea doesn’t exist, there is nothing to reward or drive!
I think we will eventually work our way to a workable IP system (the present one is disfunctional), but it must have both parts of the equation, the “stroke of genius” AND the execution.

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