While the compact disc format seems to be outdated and nearly useless as digital sales rise, the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises have reinvented a way for music to sell. Guitar Hero made its foray into the gaming market focusing on one instrument while Rock Band ventured into a more communal territory by including not only a guitar but also drums and a microphone. Guitar Hero World Tour now includes all instruments but severely lacks in downloadable music which makes it easy for Rock Band 2 to usurp as the king of music games. While Rock Band’s plethora of downloadable music may have garnered it more success and established it as a clear market leader in the music games genre, there are still areas open for improvement.
Downloadable Music – By far Rock Band has the most downloadable music (often referred to as downloadable content) in comparison to any other music game. Not only is the mass of DLC superior, but Harmonix also allows you to import almost all of your Rock Band 1 songs for play into Rock Band 2 for a $5.99 fee through the corresponding store (Playstation Store or Xbox Marketplace). Despite its dominance, Rock Band’s DLC can be improved. Recently Harmonix decided to expand its horizons and release a country pack and for the holiday season, a collection of Christmas songs were released. It would be interesting to see the sales on these items. I wouldn’t expect them to be best sellers. While downloadable music opportunities are restricted to an extent by the willingness of the record company to license the music as available, it might still be a good idea to allow user voting and then communicate more with the users as to what the status of the development is on these tracks.
Presale Previews – A very simple enhancement that might really help sales would be to put either audio or video previews on the Playstations Store and Xbox Marketplace. In some cases, the user may not know the song by title and artist but rather by listening to it. Even a short audio preview would accomplish this reminder. A video showing the song playing and how the notes are organized ingame might be even more useful.
Game Enhancements – While Harmonix may be hesistant to do this due to concentrating on getting more downloadable music and also wanting to leave some new features for future Rock Band releases, consumers no doubt would appreciate some game enhancements. Criterion who make Burnout Paradise have probably done the best job with DLC to improve the gaming experience. Criterion also made all of the enhancements free which Harmonix would not be required to do, but some specific improvements would really make game play better. Here is my wishlist:
- Countdown into game after pausing (this could be added as an option as it is in Guitar Hero)
- Ability to create your own tour (pick your own songs to be played on whichever level you want and construct your own custom tour which would add replayability)
- Song timer – add an option to include the time remaining in the song on the screen.
- More freedom in Quickplay with setlists – when making a setlist and choosing a difficulty level, the user is chained to placing all songs on the same difficulty level. As we know, some songs on medium as equivalent in difficulty to some songs on expert.
- Reward instead of punishment for trying higher difficulty levels – Despite your current status (on tour your user should have a # of stars and a noted difficulty level), you are punished by losing fans if you fail on a higher difficulty level. This takes away from a user trying out a harder setting. I would suggest not taking away any fans unless the user is already at the same or higher difficulty level than the setting they are currently attempting. For example, you have 5 stars on Hard and try expert and fail – no fans are lost. However, you have 5 stars on Expert and try a song on Hard, you would lose fans if you failed. This does not take into account that different songs vary in challenge depending on the song itself, but it’s a start.
- Better stats recording – Have a separate high score for each difficulty level. A comprehensive chart in the main menu showing all high scores for each instrument for each level would be a nice add-on.
- New High Score notification – this can be done on all modes. When a user attains a new high score, include a new high score notification once the song is done.
- Include an option to show how many notes are consecutively correct on screen during gameplay.
These are all ideas for enhancements that could be done via patching or even made available for a fee through the respective storefronts.
Will we see any of these improvements issued by Harmonix or are they too nervous to ruin a good thing as it stands or maybe they need to save features to help sell future Rock Band releases?