Much as I like the music game genre and whatnot,I have this unshakable feeling the genre is rapidly gathering unto "bubble" status: too many games, too fast, all watering each other down. I have fond memories of good times had with Guitar Hero, of office time-wasting with Rock Band, and I would rather the genre not suffer a fate the likes of Crocs: blistering hot one minute, falling into possible bankrupcy the next. Ya can't blame 'em; the Guitar Hero series alone has earned some $2 bil for Activision, whose CEO once claimed Guitar Hero: Aerosmith made more money for the band than any of their own albums (considering how fast the music industry is lining up for licenses, he's probably right). But I wonder if these guys have ever heard that one about the goose that layed those golden eggs (or the other one about the writing on the wall).
So that having been said, let's look at the tsunami of music game product coming at us this year, ranking their "bubble factor".
Already hot of the NA release of Guitar Hero: Metallica and a Guitar Hero arcade release, we have Guitar Hero: Van Halen in Q42009, Guitar Hero 5 in QA2009 as well, an update for their portable Guitar Hero franchise and comically enough, the series' very own anthology, entitled Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.
Yes, that is a lot of Guitar Hero; a Complete....Global...Satuartion that would make Wesker from Resident Evil 5 crap those black worms out of his butt in awe. And enough to create backlash even within the business, such as the creator of PaRappa the Rapper fuming recently on the issue.
Bubble Factor: 9
But Activision is not done yet for this year; in fact, while they're at it, they are diving into the brave new world of turntables. DJ Hero promises to give us a new peripheral, an actual Guitar Hero-ized turntable, mixer and all. In addition to hitting the, uh, "notes" (beats?), you'll need to fade and mix the tracks in properly.
On the one hand, with the right tracks, artists, and gameplay, this could be good. I'd be excited for stuff from Daft Punk and especially DJ Qbert, a guy skilled enough to take the insanity-inducing "Gonna Take You For A Ride" character select song from Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 and make it work. On the other hand, if this thing succeeds, then we'll have even MORE sequels, expansions, and me-too's to look forward to, and sure enough, DJ Hero already has competition (and allegations of dirty pool) from Scratch: The Ultimate DJ , as well as none other than "The World's Best DJ" throwing his, uh, turntable into the ring.
Bubble Factor: 4
The perennial number 2 to Guitar Hero soldiers on through 2009 with a few releases. We have a PSP release called Rock Band: Unplugged in June, The Beatles: Rock Band in September (as a Beatles fan, I shall tear that proverbial shit up, if I may confess) , and in what most be the most cynical, bubble-popping, shark-jumping release of them all: Lego Rock Band. My fiance, Melissa, recently made an apt comparison between the Lego-ification of videogame IPs and the Heartless of Kingdom Hearts fame: cute, adorable, and clearly eager to arise from cold black shadow to assimilate all they find.
Activision, for its part, is not content to let Rock Band wallow in second place, and is ready to siege them (and us) with Band Hero, a Rock Band clone with a more family-friendly theme. The circle is not complete enough; where's Lego Band Hero?
Bubble Factor: LEGO
Rolling Stone: Drum King
Oy vey. Originally a Wii release named We Rock: Drum King, the magazine clearly decided it shall not miss the chuck wagon (hah!) and worked in a little branding magic for the North America release at the end of this month. Rolling Stone has been something of a in-jokey kick-around in the news media industry for a while now and this is certainly not helping.
As to whether or not the license helps, all I can say is, last I read a Rolling Stone issue was to check out an article about slimy Senator Don Young and his habit of waving walrus penis bones at those who disagree with him.
Bubble Factor: Something about walrus penises (peni?)
If you are hoping for Jesus to save you at this point, don't count on him here, for this one in fact IS endorsed by Jesus. Yes, Guitar Praise is a Christian-themed spin on Guitar Hero. Those of you ready to pile on the snark, however, should know that Guitar Praise has actually won quite a bit of legitimate acclaim as well as performed fairly well in sales. The quibble it usually gets is that it's actually a PC game and is normally confined to it, as the consoles have been avoiding this one, and the tech to get it on the boob tube is not simple.
That's not enough to stop the gravy train, let alone the will of Jesus. And so Guitar Praise will have its first expansion pack this year, and on this subject I've but one word for you: STRYPER. Nuff said.
Bubble Factor: 0 (Dude, it's Jesus.)
Might as well end it with a Stryper pic. That always works.