Don’t count on seeing many more for a while.
The console world is being torn up by the explosion in popularity of music themed games. These used to be largely gimmick-driven games that had limited impact in the party game genre, but they have now become mainstream fixtures that have been held up as potential saviors for the ailing record industry. There have been a few of these released for the PC – most notably the Guitar Hero series – but so far it has been largely quiet in the music based games genre for the PC. Developers seem to be sticking largely to traditional genres, rather than branching out significantly into this new and burgeoning one.
One game has already clearly demonstrated the market viability of a PC based music game. The independently created Audio Surf has been a top seller on Steam since it was released in February.Audiosurf takes your own MP3 library and transforms individual songs into navigable tracks of blocks that mimic the sounds of the music. It has the advantage of being capable of dynamically creating racetracks to go along with whatever music that you feed into it, but it doesn’t use any fancy peripherals beyond the mouse and keyboard.
Guitar Hero and its ilk take a different tack. They purchase the rights to licensed music from major artists, have a cover band do their own version, and then create button presses to go along with the song. They use peripherals like toy guitars and drum sets for players to accompany the music with. These games have become so popular that they have become fixtures at many parties around the world, even among non-gamers. The games are simple and involve music that the majority of the population is likely to be familiar with already, lowering the barrier to entry. Each song only takes a few minutes too, so gamers don’t need to play it for hours in order to get to the good stuff.
Guitar Hero I-III have been released for the PC, but its major competitor Rock Band has not been, and there are no plans to put it out for the platform either. This could be because of fears of piracy, but it could also be because few people are going to crowd around a typical monitor screen with all of the bulky plastic instruments. However, players who want to can easily just hook up their machine to a TV screen, so this isn’t a major concern. The fact that you need the hardware that comes packaged with the game to play it properly helps to make sure that players won’t pirate the game.
Hopefully, more developers will start to tackle this genre soon to give PC gamers more of the music-based gaming action that they so clearly crave. Even if they don’t know it yet.