Music games might be down, but they aren't out just yet.
Game developer Ubisoft is planning to release a new guitar game, called Rocksmith, later this year. In a statement today, Ubisoft's senior vice president of marketing, Tony Key, said that the new title will prove to be "the most authentic and addicting music game ever created."
Ubisoft hopes to achieve that lofty goal by putting a real guitar in the hands of gamers, rather than the plastic guitars with buttons used in Rock Band or Guitar Hero. The title will launch with a "sizable library of music" from major rock bands, including the Rolling Stones and Nirvana. The Hollywood Reporter was first to write about the news earlier today.
Ubisoft's decision to launch a game in a category that has been on the decline recently is a curious one.
As Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter pointed out in a research note to investors in January, the industry is undergoing a "virtual disintegration of interest in the music category." Sales in that market hit an all-time high of $1.7 billion in 2008, according to Pachter, but then fell to $900 million in 2009. Sales in the music category were under $300 million in 2010.
"Over the period from 2005 to 2008, video game software sales grew by 81 percent, with the music genre accounting for one third of the gain," Pachter wrote to investors. "From 2008 through 2010, software sales declined by 14.9 percent, and the music genre accounted for over 80 percent of the decline."
Activision was keen to that decline. Last month, the company announced that it had discontinued the Guitar Hero franchise. It cited "continued declines in the music genre," and explained that its decision was based on its desire to "focus on the greatest opportunities."
But Rocksmith will find at least one competitor in the market. In response to the news of Guitar Hero's death, Harmonix, the developer behind Rock Band, posted on its site forum last month that its music title isn't going away.
"The music genre is one that calls for constant reinvention, and Harmonix is continuing to welcome and embrace that call," Harmonix developer John Drake said. "In short, the beat of Rock Band marches on. We're continuing to invest in the franchise and the brand that we have built and will do our best to serve all loyal band game fans."