Rock Band and Guitar Hero have fired their shots off at retail, but the battle is moving to downloadable content. Matt Matthews breaks down Activision and Harmonix’s DLC battle with some delicious stats…
Guitar Hero and Rock Band have clearly changed the videogame industry. They are generating monster revenues, even measured against the big names of this hit-driven business. Former and new gamers alike are paying big to own a plastic guitar, creating a larger audience for other games and products down the line. Perhaps just as importantly, these games have become darlings of the music industry – witness Aerosmith’s new Guitar Hero collection, due this summer.
All of that’s quite interesting, but one angle that interests me is the downloadable content (DLC) that both Guitar Hero III and Rock Band are offering through Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace and Sony’s PlayStation Store. Just like Valve built the strength of Steam on the success of Half-Life 2, so are console consumers being lured to accept the regular purchase of add-on content through these musical fantasy programs.
And for the publishers and developers, it’s a brilliant plan. As new licenses are signed on, content can be adapted to the existing products and distributed directly to consumers with no brick-and-mortar middle-men to take a cut. The addition of Rock Band’s in-game storefront last week is simply another step toward a long term add-on revenue stream. And there is the little fact that DLC gets the industry a little closer to curbing the rental and used game markets.
But is the DLC itself making money? For example, how often are consumers downloading new tracks? The answers I obtained are shown here:
Along the way, I’ll also look at how much additional revenue Guitar Hero III and Rock Band DLC might be worth to publishers. For our first stop, we’ll go back to the first real test of the musical DLC business model: Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360.
Xbox 360 Tests the DLC Waters
The Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II, launched in early April 2007, expanded on the successful PlayStation 2 version by adding new songs on the disc and then offering other tracks on Xbox Live Marketplace. The game itself, packaged with a guitar, was quite successful at retail in the United States and, according to figures from the NPD Group, placed on the top 10 software charts for March, April, May, June and July.
As May was coming to a close, Activision officials commented that the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II had seen over 200,000 downloads of the three track packs (each containing three songs) released up to that point.