Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.

by Steve Bowler on September 30, 2008 · 7 comments

in business

It appears that some of the most sought after content for Rock Band, the stuff that has been promised since the beginning, isn’t going to be available via “normal channels,” or, as it’s commonly referred to:  DLC.

The other week Bobby Kotick of Activision opined that maybe (paraphrasing) “Music companies should pay us royalties,” believing that the pendulum of popular music purchasing was in the video game’s court.  The assumption here is that sure, in many cases, the games are selling more units of the music than the music itself.

However, this week we got to hear how AC/DC is going to hit the market for Rock Band players, and, well, it’s telling.  It’s only going to be available at Wal-Mart.  Wal.  MART.  Like, on a physical disk.  In the store.  Sure, sure, go online and buy it at their web store and then wait for them to mail you the disk.  Pretend like it’s a new system.  But the bottom line here is:  Wal-Mart still holds all the cards as far as this brand of music distribution is concerned.

I’m just taking a stab at it, but it probably worked out like this:  Wal-Mart signed a deal with AC/DC’s label awhile back for an exclusive distribution right to their new CD, probably for a break on Wal-Mart’s take, in turn giving them some exclusivity in releasing AC/DC extra content.  Live concert DVDs.  Commemorative calendars.  Somewhere in the bylines was a tacked on “bonus video-game content.”  The label signed the agreement, because as is often the case with Wal-Mart, they gave them such a good “deal” the label would be a fool to sign otherwise.  In the end, Wal-Mart wins, and everyone else loses, as they’re now the only way to buy expanded content in a video-game.

Forget about the price-point for a second (granted, if it’s $30-40 it’s overpriced, even if it IS a standalone game with only 17 songs in it).  Consider that Wal-Mart just did an end-around on the entire video-game industry.  They figured out how to force the most anticipated content for one of the year’s hugest games to flow only through their brick and mortar retail portal.

Granted, Kotick runs Activision (Rock Band’s competitor’s parent), but it doesn’t sound very much like video-game companies even as large as EA or ActiBlizzard hold the cards when it comes to music, now,  does it?

This is very much the same retail “exclusive” bullshit that’s been plaguing this industry since its inception.  It’s also probably the reason why it’s so expensive.  If it was available via DLC, it would have probably been conisderably cheaper (downloadable content means there’s no game engine, no full game testing, and no disk printing process and no ginormous per-disk fees paid to the console manufacturers).

More importantly, this means that I’m going to have to actually set foot in a fucking Wal-Mart.  And give them money.

/shudder

Please, someone, hold me.

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