Did The Record Labels Kill The Golden Goose In Music Video Games?

from the of-course-they-did... dept

For the last decade or so, every year the major record labels seem to bet on some single "magic bullet" to fix all that ails them. They go through phases. There was their own crappy DRM'd and locked-down music stores. There were ringtones. And... there were music video games like Guitar Hero and Rockband. And, of course, as soon as those games actually started helping the recording industry, the industry decided to suck them dry. Edgar Bronfman kicked it off by declaring angrily that those games had to pay much more to license the music -- even though the music in those games tended to lead to much greater sales of albums for those artists.

And now it looks like the labels may have succeeded in bleeding those types of games dry. With Activision announcing that it was dumping Guitar Hero, one of the major reasons given is the high cost of licensing music. Yup, the labels priced things so high that they made it impractical to actually offer any more. Yet another case of the labels overvaluing their own content. Now, it's also true that these games haven't evolved that much, and people haven't seen the point of buying new versions, but part of that lack of evolving is because so much of the budget had to go towards overpaying for music, rather than innovating.

Filed Under: guitar hero, music, video games
Companies: activision


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2011 @ 11:02am

    Not to hijack the inevitable Mike bashing this thread has turned into but I'm surprised that there is something that no one has mentioned -- this was all foretold.

    When the original developer of Guitar Hero left to create Rockband, everyone cried that Activision was going to run the franchise into the ground. This was reinforced by the announced business models - Harmonix wanted to rely on an infrequent game disc supported by new downloadable material every week. Activision paid lip service to the idea of downloads but put out very little, prefering to flood the market with more frequent new games. Like the music industry when downloads became available, users wondered why they had to buy a whole new $80 game to get the 5 songs they liked.

    Now that the predictions have come true, it's amusing that Activision is trying to justify it by claiming that demand has slowed - as show by Rockband 3's weak sales. Rockband 3 had issues of it's own - a new play mode promoted to the minority "power users" and a lack of supply of their promised new instruments. They made one bad move, and the parent company panicked and ran.

    As far as the "licensing costs sank the franchise" line goes, I don't buy it. Rockband has been putting out 3-10 tracks a week since RB1 was released, in a pay-per-song business model. If the costs were as high as they say, that whole model would have been yanked long ago.

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