Rock Band vs Guitar Hero – this generation’s Blur vs Oasis
The Beatles music game may have broken all records when the “extra” track, All You Need Is Love, became the fasting selling downloadable song in Rock Band’s history, but that’s not the real music game story this month.
While The Beatles game has been credited with a sudden spike in the sales of Xbox, PlayStation and Wii consoles, there is still a vicious fight between the game and the new Guitar Hero 5 at the point of retail. Rock Band vs Guitar Hero is this generation’s Blur vs Oasis. And, surprisingly, Guitar Hero appears to be winning out.
Guitar Hero 5’ s marketers, knowing the competition, ordered in heavy artillery in the shape of tracks by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Nirvana. And it is the latter’s inclusion that has grabbed all the headlines. The big draw has turned out to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium.
Courtney Love, the legal custodian of the Kurt Cobain estate, and the two remaining members of Nirvana were all up for the band’s inclusion. Love even provided rare photos and archive footage of Cobain, as well as her own “hair and wardrobe” tips for the animated Kurt.
But as with most things involving Courtney Love, this would only end in tears. According to Guitar Hero, part of the deal about using Cobain’s avatar was that it could be “unlocked” – meaning you could take him away from the Nirvana songs and have him sing, for example, a Bon Jovi song on the game.
Love took to her Twitter account (a fascinatingly incoherent and illiterate ramble – and that’s on her good days). “I never signed off on this fucking feature [the unlocking of the avatar], there’s been four breaches of a very strict contract . it’s a travesty . creepy .. and vile . they’re raping him,” she tweeted, adding, for no good reason, “I’m no Yoko Ono.”
Love apparently didn’t read the small print when she signed the contract. Says the company’s CEO: “There’s absolutely a contract and we know that the cheque [given to Love] has been cashed. I can only deal with the facts. It’s very clear what the terms are.”
Legally it throws up a new term: the “right of personality”. Love is in charge of Cobain’s “personality” rights, which means she can prevent unauthorised use of his image and how he is portrayed. These rights appear to have been overridden in the contract with Guitar Hero.
The publicity can’t but have helped sales of the game. In the week of its release, it was the most purchased title across all game systems in the UK and Ireland. This is some indication of just how robust the Guitar Hero brand is. In fact, the brand is soon to grow substantially with the release in late October of a new strand of “music rhythm” games called DJ Hero.
In all the talk of the new supremacy of music games in the entertainment market (they now sell more than CDs, etc), it’s sometimes forgotten how narrow their base was. Guitar Hero and its big rival Rock Band have traditionally relied on the die-hard heavy rock market, simply because the typical hard rock fan is a male adolescent, as are most gamers.
DJ Hero now brings hip-hop/ dance into the music games fold. The game will be based on “turntablism” and contain more than 80 remixes. According to the press information: “To score points, the player must press buttons to activate accentuated bets, adjust their cross-fade between the songs and ‘scratch’ the turntable on the game’s custom controller in time to marks that scroll on the screen.”
In other words, Guitar Hero with a turntable replacing the guitar. Lending their images for playable avatars in the game, as well as their music, are Eminem, Jay-Z and Daft Punk, among others.
The new music gaming developments don’t end there: according to both Guitar Hero and Rock Band, big-name bands who only two years ago laughed in their face when they were approached to do a music video game are now sending them begging letters.
Music games: the new iTunes.
Love: didn’t read the small print