"A lot of this audience is not used to paying for things. This starts to help with the challenge of 'Can I engage someone with the music in the game?'" Crupnik said. "'Can I start to create some cracks in an unwillingness to pay?' ...This is a cool way to do a transaction."
For bands, "Guitar Hero" probably holds another special allure: its immense popularity. According to NPD's numbers, since the original game was launched in 2005, the franchise has sold 13.6 million units.
"Guitar Hero and Rock Band have really hit a chord — no pun intended — with both traditional and non-traditional gamers because they have both finally allowed many to realize one of their greatest dreams — to be a rock star," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in an e-mail. "As the video games industry grows, it's becoming an ever-more attractive promotional outlet for all kinds of industries."
Still, Frazier believes it could be another outlet for music distribution, but not the only one.
"It has a long way to go until it becomes the ultimate outlet because gaming is still far from heavily penetrated, but it's certainly gaining prominence and importance," she said.
Rob Enderle, a Silicon Valley-based technology analyst, envisions games like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" ushering in a whole new form of participatory entertainment.
"We're at the very beginning of what is likely going to be a major change," Enderle said. "Why just music? You could star in your own virtual reality show, be a participant in a movie. ... As the technology advances, you could blur the lines between the bands and the person."
In the here and now, however, Activision remains mum on whether their '80s duet with Run DMC, "Walk This Way," would make the cut and if the band plans to release new material in the game.
"You'll just have to wait and see," said Activision spokesman Aaron Grant, eyebrows raised.