25 October 2010

Dance Central: Why Music Games Are Still Compelling - by David Wesley

      Posted 10/24/10 09:28:00 am  

When Dance Central debuts next week, it could provide the type of innovation the music sub-genre has been seeking since the release of Rock Band. Dancing games were first popularized by Dance Dance Revolution in the late 1990s. However, the limitations of the dance mat prevented earlier dance games from attracting a wider audience of non-gamers.

With Kinect, Dance Central breaks free from the dance pad, giving players a wider and more natural stage. This should help attract new gamers who typically find video games contrived and unapproachable.

Another reason that Dance Central will likely be successful is its use of the types of psychological cues that have made music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band so successful.

Readers who have followed my previous posts know that I have been critical of the way game publishers have mismanaged the music simulation sub-genre. In 2009, music games suffered from market saturation and declining marginal utility. The industry is now trying to reinvigorate the market by making instruments more realistic, but risks alienating casual gamers who may feel intimidated by higher levels of complexity.

The solution we outlined in our book was simple. It included limiting the number of launch titles, increasing the time between launches, and developing sufficiently compelling new content to keep gamers interested. However, companies like Activision and Viacom had invested significant sums of money in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises and they were under pressure to provide a quick return on investment. Unlike recent Rock Band and Guitar Hero iterations, Dance Central provides the type of fresh and intuitive content that can reinvigorate the genre.

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