Harmonix pairs up with Hasbro to reinvent the music game peripheral
Harmonix and Hasbro join forces for a music-mixing card game
The industry’s concerted attempts to revive plastic-peripheral-based music games in 2015 through Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4 were, in commercial terms at least, failures. The latter case, in particular, proved almost fatal for publisher Mad Catz, which shouldered the major manufacturing risks associated with the plastic instruments used for Harmonix’s game. The peripheral maker was forced to lay off almost 40 per cent of its staff following poor sales. For that reason, Hasbro’s partnership with the storied US music-game company on DropMix, which allows player to mash up songs using collectible cards played onto a chunky plastic mixing table, seems at once courageous and reckless.
The starter pack, which will retail for a plucky $99.99, contains the two-footlong board (which, at one end, contains a slot into which you place your phone or tablet), a free download of the game app and a selection of 60 collectible cards. Each card corresponds to a different hit song, split across four genres: pop, rock, electronic and hip-hop. Place a card, and an isolated channel of music from the original track begins to play, depending on whereabouts on the board it’s played. A Tribe Called Quest card laid onto the blue card slot, for example, will produce the song’s isolated drum track. Place the card on the yellow slot, by contrast, and you’ll hear just the vocal line.
DropMix’s magic occurs when you add a second card to the board. The game automatically splices together the two separate audio tracks from the two separate songs to create an impromptu mash-up. In this way, for example, you can listen to Carly Rae Jepsen singing Call Me Maybe over a woozy bass line from The Weeknd, accompanied by a keyboard line from a Childish Bambino cut (the list of artists who have loaned their names and music to DropMix is as diverse and A-list as you might hope and expect from a Harmonix game).
With 60 cards in the starter pack, and over 200 more available in add-on packs and Panini-style random selections, there are, Harmonix says, millions of potential mash-ups waiting to be discovered. To understand the sheer scope of what’s on offer here, consider that playing the same five cards onto the board in a different order will result in a different piece of music, since the first card played sets the tempo and key. The audio engineers at Harmonix, who have been working on the game for the past two years, have hand-crafted many of the mixes, but the game, which is built in a heavily modified version of Unity, also creates the mash-ups via algorithms.
DropMix’s cards are glossy and feel like premium products – vital, given the price