Jeff Vogel over The Bottom-Feeder has an interesting post up wondering whether games like Guitar Hero are doomed. While Jeff makes a good case about why the current level of sales and popularity is unsustainable, I think he’s a bit negative about the actual prospects of the rhythm/music genre. What I think he misses is that the survival of the genre has little to do with $240 Beatles sets and the storage of drums and much more to do with the executive cadre at places like Activision and Harmonix. Put simply, this is yet another case of Dungeons & Dragons, the pet rock and Pokemon — it’s a fad.
Fads begin because of — well, to be honest, nobody really knows how fads begin. Something neat comes and catches the public’s imagination for a while and then burns out. It takes a really smart group of business people to realize that they’re riding a wave, not presiding over a huge paradigm shift in our culture and given the astonishing stupidity of a lot of executives I’ve met in both gaming and the music business, I’m not sure that they realize that. The challenge for makers of music games now is to manage the shift from fad crest to the eventual crash — and mark my words, it’s coming. They need to figure out how to sustain an audience — who their hard-core is– for these games because if they keep pumping out overpriced garbage, they may find themselves with an audience turning away in disgust rather than what they want — a steady stream of income and a new channel for artists to release music to the public.
If they start planning for the crash now, music and rhytm games can be steady money-earners for a long time. If they assume that the fad will last forever, they deserve what they get.