Last week, Activision Blizzard confirmed several rumors about its planned slate of music-based video games including verification that the next single-band installation of Guitar Hero would revolve around the 80’s superstar rockers, Van Halen. (The band had more Billboard Hot 100 hits than any other rock band in the decade). Not to be outdone, today rival MTV Games, maker of Rock Band, countered back with news that they’re working on a game built around a band that helped to define the 90’s music scene: Pearl Jam.
Details about the game are scarce. At this point its even a guess whether the Pearl Jam title will be a full fledged game, or simply a “track pack expansion” for the Rock Band series. All that’s been revealed is the game is scheduled for sometime in 2010. That, and that fans will have some input on the game’s development. Through a promotion with Rhapsody, the band is asking fans to vote on songs for inclusion at their website. More details on Rock Band: Pearl Jam are expected to come out at E3, the gaming industry’s big trade show, next month.
Whatever the game turns out to be, one thing to watch: how the marketplace responds to the new titles. Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been incredibly strong sellers but between the fall and 2010, at least five major new music games are scheduled. Headlining the list is MTV Games’ high profile Beatles Rock Band release due in September. Also on the calendar are DJ Hero, Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and more. Throw in "Scratch:The Ultimate DJ,." which may fall into the same release window, and consumers are going to be inundated with options. The question is: will fans keep spending, even buy more than one of the releases? Or will the overflow of sequels and derivatives dilute the genre?
The time period between the fall and holiday season of 2009 could be a real test.
In other news related to the music game genre….
it looks like some legal issues surrounding DJ Hero competitor, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, may be on the road to resolution.
The game’s owner, Scratch DJ, LLC (a joint venture between Genius Products and Numark), previously filed a suit against Activision in LA Superior Court claiming Activision was interfering with the release of the rival game. The story line was complex (full details here), but to paraphrase: Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, was being developed for Genius/Numark by third party developer 7 Studios as a work for hire. Activision opportunistically bought 7 Studios in March, while at the same time, it continued to develop its own competing title, DJ Hero.
This purchase of 7 Studios gave Activision Blizzard control over a studio developing a title competitive to its own. Genius claimed Activision was using this power to interfere with the delivery of their title.
In an April 15th hearing, the judge presiding over the case found there was no evidence of wrongdoing on Activision’s part but late last week, the judge did issue a preliminary injunction against 7 Studios (now owned by Activision). The order compels the studio to turn over all work related to the game including the source code. Subject to the order, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ should be back on the development fast track.
Responding to the decision, Jack O’Donnell, manager of Scratch and CEO of Numark (a partner in the joint venture established to build the game) said that “with the injunction order, [Scratch] will now be able to move forward to complete and launch our much anticipated Scratch game.”
Come fall, Scratch: The Ultimate DJ and Activision’s competing DJ Hero could both hit the market around the same time.
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