LOS ANGELES, July 17, 2008 -- The singer testing out "Rock Band 2" -- a music simulation game -- is basically tone deaf. His version of Journey's "Anyway You Want It" sounds more like a William Hung remix than a lead singer Steve Perry original.
But that doesn't matter. He's hooked, and that's beautiful music to an industry flooding the market with similar new music video games this year.
At this week's E3 summit, the video game industry's biggest trade event of the year, nearly every company present is releasing some form of music game.
"Everyone is jumping on the music bandwagon," said Tommy Tallarico, a game composer recently inducted into the Guinness World Records for scoring more than 275 video games. "They all want a taste of the success of 'Guitar Hero' and 'Rock Band.'"
Let's put the success of "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," both musical simulation games, in perspective. In 2007, the revenue from both games made more money than all digital music downloads from services like iTunes. The two video games made a whopping $935 million, or $100 million more than all digital music sales, according to NPD and Nielsen SoundScan data.
Both the video game industry and the music industry are clambering to harness all the revenue making momentum these music games can muster.
Music Games Galore: A Mini Introduction
During E3, more games trying to break into the music genre were released than one could count.
Some of the big ones were: MTV and Harmonix's "Rock Band 2," Activision's "Guitar Hero World Tour," Nintendo's Wii Music, Microsoft's "Lips," Ultimate Band" by Disney Interactive Studios, and Konami's "Rock Revolution."
They're are all competing to cash in on the casual gamer crowd, says Guy Cocker, an editor for GameSport.com UK.
They all want to cash in on the growing number of gamers who aren't die hard fans, the same ones that helped the U.S. gaming industry post a record $17.9 billion in revenues last year and get on track to rack up even better sales figures this year.
And in order to draw that crowd in, games are trying to differentiate themselves in a lot of ways.
"Wii Music" will allow players to mimic the way musicians play more than 50 different instruments. They'll be able to perform, even if they don't know anything about actually playing. There are no scores or competitions. You experiment and play for the sake of playing.
Microsoft's karaoke game "Lips" enables players to plug their own mp3 players into a console and sing from songs in their own library.
"Rock Band 2" is offering more songs than most people will ever get to play. The game includes 84 songs and comes with the option to purchase roughly 500 more by Christmas. Players will be able to rock out on everything from Bob Dylan to AC/CD to Alanis Morissette to Fleetwood Mac to Duran, Duran.
"Guitar Hero World Tour," which features a similar drum, guitar, bass and vocal experience to "Rock Band," will allow players to create, record and share their own music.
In quickly growing world of music games, how they slice up the revenue pie will get divide up is anyone's guess.
Video Games and Radio Stars:
The gaming industry isn't the only sector to figure out that combining video games and music pad the wallets.
"Industry insiders are learning that video games are the radio and distribution channel for the music industry of the 21st century," says Tallarico. "And they're learning quickly."
Take Aerosmith's single "Same Old Song and Dance," for example, which was featured in "Guitar Hero III." According to Nielson, SoundScan, which tracks digital and retail music, sales of the song jumped 136 percent the week after the game was released and 400 percent a week after Christmas.
"Imagine how many people are buying and listening to Aerosmith songs right now because of "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith," says Tallarico. "Bands kill for that kind of exposure."
Another way musicians are profiting is through downloads offered directly through these new games.
Activision revealed that heavy metal band Metallica will debut its new album, Death Magnetic through Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, simultaneously with the store release this September.
And bands are jumping at the chance to participate.
The Sex Pistols reunited to rerecord an original master of "Anarchy in the U.K." so they could be included in "Guitar Hero III."