Wii Music To Go Up Against 'Guitar Hero,' 'Rock Band'

Wii MusicThe arrival of Nintendo's Wii Music in stores this week sets the stage for a battle of the music video "games" this holiday season, as the new Wii Music takes on the latest versions of Activision's three-year-old "Guitar Hero" (Guitar Hero World Tour) and EA's year-old "Rock Band" ("Rock Band 2"). 

In recent research from NPD Group, 22% of consumers said they plan to give video games as gifts this holiday season--ranking behind apparel, toys, movies, books and electronics, but ahead of accessories, music, food and fragrances. Last year, according to NPD, music game titles accounted for some 12% of the total $9.5 billion in video game sales--or $1.2 billion. The figure for music game sales was only $132 million in 2005, but has already reached $896 billion this year. NPD does not make full-year projections.

Wii Music also becomes the third element in Nintendo's strategic Wii Series, joining Wii Sports--which launched with the interactive game console in 2006--and Wii Fit, released earlier this year. These three games are playable only on the Wii platform, unlike third party-distributed games like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," which also have versions for Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

"It's too early to say just how successful Wii Music will be, but first-party Wii titles tend to do well on the sales front," says David Riley, director at NPD Group, adding: "While there are definite advantages to exclusive content, it's obvious that cross-platform titles--when they're as successful as these two properties--will benefit gamers, retailers, publishers and manufacturers.

On www.wiimusic.com, Wii general producer and famed video game designer (Mario, Donkey Kong, etc.) Shigeru Miyamoto describes Wii Music as "not quite a game and not quite an instrument." Rather than using controllers that look like instruments, as with "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band," Wii Music players use the motion-sensitive Wii Remote and a "Nunchuk" controller to mimic the hand and finger motions they would use with more than 60 instruments--from bowing a violin to striking a vibraphone to plucking a sitar.

Less strictly rock-oriented than the competition, Wii Music allows up to four players to jam together while rearranging more than 50 included songs that range from classic rock to Beethoven to "La Cucaracha" to Nintendo's own Super Mario Bros. theme. Also unlike the others, Wii Music does not have a competitive scoring mechanism.

Of course, instruments alone do not make up the total music experience. For the budding singers out there, Xbox 360 on Wednesday announced an exclusive karaoke-like title called "Lips." Available in mid-November just in time for holiday parties, it includes two motion-sensitive microphones. Users can play a variety of games as they sing along with 40 included songs--including the original music video, lyrics and scoring--from artists ranging from Johnny Cash and Alicia Keys to Young MC and the Ramones. Additional songs will be available via download.

Tags: music, technology
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