After learning about The Beatles: Rock Band Limited Edition Premium Bundle, I thought Electronic Arts had lost its collective mind. A videogame bundle that cost as much as the console it plays on? What is this Steel Battalion? We all remember how successful that was, right?
But this only speaks to the incredible popularity of the genre. A popularity that attracts criticism and praise.
The criticism comes from artists like Nickelback's Chad Kroeger:
"I feel like there's not enough rock bands out there, especially when we go on the road," said Kroeger, who performs with the Canadian rock outfit on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on Wednesday night. "It's tough to find other bands out there, because either they're making a record, or they just got done touring. So kids: Start rock bands. Set down the Guitar Hero, learn how to play an actual guitar and start a band, because it's hard to find more bands to put a solid rock-and-roll package together, to get out there. It's getting harder and harder, but I think we've done it."
The artist once again known as Prince also chimed in during an interview with PBS.org. Here he also admits to turning down an offer from Activision to work on a Guitar Hero game. (Prince is also one of the few musicians who isn't lending his name and likeness to a music game.)
Well, I ain't mad at them. I hear it made, like, $2 billion and they came to us and offered us a very small portion of that. But I just think it's more important that kids learn how to actually play the guitar. It's a tough instrument—it's not easy. It took me a long time, and it was frustrating at first. And you just have to stick with it, and it's cool for people who don't have time to learn the chords or ain't interested in it, but to play music is one of the greatest things.
To create something from nothing is one of the greatest feelings, and I would—I don't know, I wish it upon everybody. It's heaven.
But the industry does have its supporters. In this case it is someone you'd think would be hurt by the popularity of plastic game guitars. Private music instructor Bo Moore tells The Tribune-Democrat how Guitar Hero and Rockband are giving young gamers the music bug.
"A lot of kids have been getting into it because of games, especially Guitar Hero," said Moore, who owns Bo Moore's Downtown Music in a second-floor shop on Main Street in Johnstown. "Kids who might never have become interested in learning to play the guitar are now coming to us."
Moore recently closed an instrument sales shop at street level and is focusing on giving lessons. He said he has more than 100 students.
"We're so busy right now, and I think these games have been a big factor behind it," he said. "We especially see a big boom right after Christmastime. We're always swamped, with a long waiting list."
Electronic Arts is working on Rockband DLC as well as a sequel while Activision readies Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero and DJ Hero for later this year. Such investments could further revolutionize the genre or drive it into the ground. No way to know for sure so we'll just have to sit back and watch.
But it is clear that the genre has its hooks in us and you don't have to look any further than clips from South Park, The Big Band Theory and some dude with a video camera (all via YouTube):