Rock Band and Guitar Hero aren't the sensations they used to be. That doesn't mean they're bad. Not Rock Band 3. But they're not the cultural phenomenons they once were. That's temporary, according to a man who should know.
"I think the music genre is going to recover," John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts, the company the distributes Rock Band, told me this morning during an interview in New York. "I don't know exactly how. It could be based on some new innovation. Maybe it all becomes dance-based."
Riccitiello was just guessing, though he's not a man without some sense of what is going on. He's been a big fan of and corporate partner with Harmonix Music Systems, the Boston-area development studio that makes Rock Band and Kinect launch game Dance Central.
Adding more doubt to the music game genre these days is the fact that Harmonix, the masters of these games, is actually up for sale. Parent company Viacom, the group that owns MTV and was once so proud of the Rock Band games, recently said it wants to sell Harmonix.
Riccitiello likes Harmonix. Though... there was that thing yesterday he said about Harmonix that some took to be an insult, a comment he wanted to clarify: "When asked about it yesterday, what I said was Alex [Rigopulos, co-founder of the studio] is a great developer, Harmonix is one of the great developers of all time. They've got the leading dance product and maybe the leading game full stop on Kinect and the question was what investors might be thinking about it. [I said t]he nervous investor would be worried about the decline in the music sector feeling like a falling knife. The only part of that conversation that got reported was the 'falling knife' part. Given the run up to it it's a little bit unfair condemnation of people I have a great deal of respect for. Harmonix is at least as responsible as any company on earth for the creation of a genre. There aren't that many times you can point to that level of innovation."
All that praise, you'd think maybe Riccitiello wants to buy Harmonix? He wouldn't comment, but, when asked if they'd find a buyer he said, "I assume so."
And once Harmonix is good to go, let the music game comeback begin. What should it be like?