Much has been made of the vital relationship between the video game and music industries over the last several decades. Iconic games such as the Tony Hawk, Grand Theft Auto, and FIFA series are arguably more renowned for their soundtracks than actual gameplay.
They have helped numerous artists get on the map, providing them with new audiences and a financial boost. Video games aid musicians in various ways, but there is a surprising lack of music-inspired games available nowadays.
Popular titles, including Guitar Hero and Just Dance, are renowned for bringing a genuine music focus to the gaming world. They were all the rage more than a decade ago but have seemingly struggled to keep up with the industry’s fast-paced development. Online multiplayer titles like Fortnite or FIFA Ultimate Team have become by far the most popular options. How can music games even get a look in anymore? Keep reading for an exploration of this genre and what contributed to its downfall.
Music-Inspired Video Games: A Brief History
The 70s and 80s saw a handful of incredibly simple music-inspired games, but most of them quickly faded into relative obscurity. Dance Aerobics was released in 1987, the prequel to the popular Dance Dance Revolution. This was the first game to use on-screen cues to control the characters on-screen. Instead of playing the music, you controlled a dancer, using the NES Power Pad to hit the cues as they dropped on the screen.
It took several years for anyone to elaborate on the concept. PaRappa the Rapper, an absurd Japanese-American creation, was released on PS1 in 1996. Players had to hit the right cues in the right rhythm to get the character to rap words and phrases. It was unexpectedly successful in Japan and other countries, effectively kickstarting the music game revolution.
Players had various options by the early 2000s. Nintendo released the popular Donkey Konga series, where you used a dedicated bongo-replica controller to drum along to popular songs and Nintendo classics. The arrival of Guitar Hero in 2004 solidified this burgeoning game genre. Its iconic guitar controller was a definitive symbol, causing a wave of excitement. Unfortunately, things went downhill after the 2010s, as the public seemed to lose interest.
Different Types of Music-Related Games
Music-related games come in various shapes and sizes. Arguably, the most popular are console games such as Rock Band or Just Dance. These often use dedicated controllers to give players a more hands-on feel. For example, Rock Band has mics, guitars, and even drum sets you can play along with.
Branded games like Guitar Hero: Metallica are also common examples of music-inspired titles. Developers use branding with world-famous bands or singers to generate more popularity and excitement. In the iGaming world, NetEnt has unveiled several titles featuring legendary rock stars. Slots like Guns N Roses and Jimi Hendrix are extremely popular nowadays, with licensed soundtracks of all the main hits alongside tailored bonus features inspired by the iconic musicians. However, it’s always best to read expert advice on how to choose the right slots for your budget and tastes. Players can even play online slots real money titles such as Ozzy Osbourne or Motorhead for an added musical boost. Other branded music games include Butterstar Galactica, an innovative Hudson Mohawke-produced game promoting his new album.
Some Iconic Music Game Titles
Before we explore some of the main reasons why music games struggle nowadays compared to other genres, let’s recap some of the most significant titles from over the years. We may never have got to enjoy the genre without pivotal examples such as:
- Guitar Hero
- Rock Band
- Just Dance
- Donkey Konga
Reasons Why Music Games Are Less Popular Than Other Titles
Activision discontinued the Guitar Hero series in 2011, citing a lack of audience and reduced profitability. The market for music-themed games was already in dire straits before the announcement, but it was a definite nail in the coffin as far as other game developers were concerned.
There have been hardly any new music games in the years since. Here are a few reasons:
- The popularity of online multiplayer FPS games like Call of Duty
- Difficulty in accurately replicating playing an instrument
- Lack of interest when dedicated music production software is easily available
Whether or not music-based video games can have a resurgence is anyone’s guess. New technology like the metaverse could have a positive impact, with a virtual reality far better suited to give players a more realistic idea of what it feels like to be rocking out on stage. The possibilities are endless!