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Analyze This: Divining The Next Guitar Hero-Style Phenomenon

Following the success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the music game genre has become a genuine phenomenon. But what previously niche genre is next? Gamasutra asks analysts from The simExchange, Creative Strategies, and Strategy Analytics...

They are the professional analysts whose job it is to research, keep track of, advise their clients, and opine to the media about the gaming business. Analyze This cuts right to the chase.

Rather than reporting on a subject, and throwing in quotes by analysts to support or refute a point, Gamasutra offers up a timely question pertaining to the business side of the video game industry and simply lets the analysts offer their thoughts directly to you. Each person's opinion is his own and will (probably) not necessarily agree with their fellow colleagues'.

Music games have grown from a niche to one of the most dominant genres in 2007. Rock Band and Guitar Hero III are fighting the most publicized battle of this holiday season. The third installment in the Guitar Hero franchise launch netted Activision's biggest sales week ever for the company.

So we asked David Mercer of Strategy Analytics, Jesse Divnich of The simExchange, and Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies:

What opportunities are there for other emerging niche genres?

What will be the next Guitar Hero-style phenomenon?


Martin Olausson, Strategy Analytics:

Opportunities for other emerging niche genres: What sets games like Guitar Hero or SingStar apart from other games, in our opinion, is not necessarily the fact that they are music-related -- rather, it is because they have a distinct social element to them that drives user engagement and involvement not only for the people playing the game but also from the onlookers.

This means that these types of games become core to a social gathering, and people even organize things like Guitar Hero and SingStar parties.

The other factors that has been paramount in driving the success of these games is increased simplicity, combined with a higher level of physical involvement. These are the same central elements that have been fundamental in driving the phenomenal success of the Nintendo Wii and have engaged whole new segments of gamers.

Even models love SingStar!

What will be the next Guitar Hero-style phenomenon: We expect to see much more games that build on the core elements of simplicity and physical engagement in the next years.

Specific genres are really only limited to the creative genius of the developers, but we anticipate more games that build on the success of Guitar Hero in the music genre and also more games that simplify and increase physical engagement in the sports genre.

 


Jesse Divnich, The simExchange:

Opportunities for other emerging niche genres: Only a handful of titles in the niche categories reach the status that the Guitar Hero series has. Boogie, Amplitude, MTV Music Generator, Karaoke Revolution and SingStar are just a few of the many that have failed in the music niche.

To the publishers' benefit, the consumer has been more open to these niche genres [in] this generation over last -- the Nintendo DS being the best example with Cooking Mama, Brain Age and My Word Coach.

For emerging genres, we will likely see an influx of "board game" type titles over the next few years. I expect Scene It? on the Xbox 360 to have moderate success. Study tools and educational titles [are] a definite, as those have already had great success overseas.

What will be the next Guitar Hero-style phenomenon: Marketing also plays a significant role. After all, the only difference between Amplitude and Guitar Hero is a peripheral attachment and a decent marketing budget -- both titles were made by Harmonix!

Any future successful niche title will need some strong marketing support, which can only come from one of the bigger publishers. This would explain why MTV partnered with Electronic Arts on Rock Band, which is just more proof that MTV has lost its touch with the American youth when it turns to a video game company to try to convince teenagers what to buy.

Harmonix's independent follow-up to Guitar Hero, Rock Band.

For the peripheral genre, it is harder to predict the next winner as the consumer acts with more caution as the entry barrier is elevated due to the higher price. This explains why it took a few Guitar Hero [sequels], and a few add-ons, before it achieved widespread success. Personally, I think it would be foolish for anyone to try to predict the next big peripheral series. It really is a crapshoot. But rest assured: The knock-offs will be prevalent -- Flute Hero?


Ben Bajarin, Creative Strategies:

Opportunities for other emerging niche genres: The opportunity is to develop fresh and innovative ways to play video games. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are examples of new types of game play experience.

Gaming for so long has been driven by the usual RPG, FPS, sports, etc. categories. When the development community starts to think about new ways gaming can appeal to all kinds of people in different walks of the life, the results will be positive.

What will be the next Guitar Hero-style phenomenon: I'm particularly looking at "social gaming." A number of hardware and software vendors have used this term with me, and I think it is very interesting. Since the Wii came out, I have called it the "board game for a new generation" -- using the metaphor of a board game that many families still [play] but did more often before TV.

Microsoft's casual gamer-friendly Scene It? controllers

This is where we are at today: playing games as a group is still desirable, but what a logical place for this to happen now on a game console. Another good example is Scene It? for the Xbox 360. I took Scene It? to our family Thanksgiving, and everyone loved it. In my opinion, Scene It? on the 360 was way more fun and immersive than the DVD [version of the] game.

I think expanding the category for people to get more out of their consoles and begin having fun together as a group is where some truly new innovations will come from.

Got a business-related question concerning the games industry that you would like to suggest for discussion in Analyze This? Are you a professional analyst and would like to take part in this column? Email [email protected]

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