Rocksmith: Doomed From the Start?


There are a lot of warning lights flashing here.

45 songs? They’re going to compete with Rock Band’s 2,600+ by releasing less songs than any Rock Band disc has? How many will Rock Band have when this comes out? 3,500? At least a good 300 or so songs will have pro guitar support by then.

Notice that they’re taking the PowerGig/Guitar Hero World Tour advertising approach. Act like your competition doesn’t exist and hope that your audience isn’t any smarter so that you can pretend that you’re doing something new.

Speaking of PowerGig advertising, that game was very careful about showing as little actual gameplay as possible in the early adverts while instead showing people with guitars trying to hype it up. These trailers are doing the same thing.

Is there multiplayer? Can I play drums, bass, keys, vocals? Or is it just guitar? Why would I pay for a game with less features than the one that came out a year earlier?

How about DLC? No company has successfully pumped out weekly DLC other than Harmonix. I doubt this will even have the support Guitar Hero had, so you’re probably looking at a few packs near release and then maybe a few scattered tracks each month (see: PowerGig, Lips, Rock Revolution). When the game inevitably sells badly they’ll likely just discontinue any DLC altogether.

PowerGig, the game with which Rocksmith seems to have a death pact.

Look at the MMO market. Last I heard it would cost a company an estimated $1 billion to compete with World of Warcraft. Rock Band isn’t on the same scale as that, but it still has a pretty firm grip on the market for music games. If you’re going to compete with it you’re going to have to try really, really hard and you’re going to have to pull out the stops for a big release. Ubisoft is trying to introduce a new music game IP, but they can’t even be bothered to have a decent sized setlist? They mime the marketing of an already failed music game IP? They’re setting this up to fail right from the start and I can’t caution people enough to be careful before they buy.

The only thing this game has going for it is the idea of using any guitar, but how much will that cost? How accurate will it actually be? What sort of compatibility issues are we looking at here? Will the investment be worth it, or will DLC be discontinued shortly after release, leaving a new audience with expensive peripherals to swim in a shallow pool of music?

– – – – –

Ubisoft, this isn’t like any other video game genre.  You can’t get good sales with a mediocre game.  You can’t make an Army of Two to compete with Gears of War.  In a world of expensive peripherals and huge DLC catalogs you have to make something truly great that will either steal or create an entire fanbase.  You’re with the big boys here, and anything less than amazing in this genre hits the bargain bin three months later.

June Update:

Visual confusion does not a good music game make.

The more I see of this game the more I want it to be good, but they just can’t seem to show me any evidence that it will be.  They’re still shamelessly avoiding gameplay footage in most of their videos, and when they show it I don’t like what I see.  What’s with the strange, floating, spinning rectangular notes?  Why make simple chart viewing so disorienting?  Instead of following notes as they go down the screen I have to try to track them in a three-dimensional space?  I also have heard nothing about them fixing the large delay that made the Squier’s workaround so necessary in the first place, which means that you’ll have to be awkwardly compensating for the timing by playing notes before they come up in the song.  That just bothers me.

I know that I’ll inevitably pick this game up on sale at some point.  I’m sure it’s going to be in the bargain bin at Best Buy after a few months…but that’s good for me, not Ubisoft.  What are you guys doing?  You’re pussyfooting in a genre that’s ready to light your feet on fire.

July Update:

I assume that you are one of those “If its not Rock Band, then its not good” people. But you do bring up some good points in your argument.

It’s pretty much impossible to counter that sort of accusation, but I have either purchased or rented every guitar game on 360 aside from Van Halen so far.  Yes, that includes Rock of the Dead.  I don’t want this game to suck (I’m not even entirely convinced that it will suck), but I’m pretty convinced that it’s doomed.  The extent to which Rocksmith in E3 2011 has been mirroring Power Gig during E3 2010 is just depressing.

I work at a Best Buy, usually in the gaming department.  I know that it’s freakishly hard to convince people to buy anything that costs more than the usual $60 in a department like that.  One of the big saving graces for Rock Band has been that it can use existing equipment that players already own, which means that they can just pick up the $20 disc and dive into the revenue-driving DLC catalog without picking up hundreds of dollars of peripherals.

Expensive peripherals are already a problem for music games, so why base a whole new game exclusively around a new expensive peripheral?

Rocksmith won’t have that.  You’ll either have to buy a guitar or already own one in order to even play the game, which severely limits what people will pick up the game in the first place.  I know from experience that most people don’t want to pay more than $60 for a game, so the number of people who will be willing to buy the game, the cable, and a new guitar all at once will be pretty low.  If you want proof go ahead and see how well the Squier has done for Rock Band.  This means that most Rocksmith buyers will already own a guitar, want to learn how to play it, be a gamer, want to learn through a game, and be willing to pay the $70 or $80 for the game and cable bundle.

Music games are already often considered to be a niche market, and Rocksmith is exclusively catering to a niche within a niche.  They’re probably fully aware of this, so why not go big to make sure as many potential customers pick up the game as they can?  Instead the lack of bass, small setlist, confusing UI, etc. will turn away a portion of that already small base.

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3 Responses to “Rocksmith: Doomed From the Start?”

  1. agedbike Says:

    there is a lot of gameplay footage on youtube and there is a guitar bundle for $200.

  2. This seems like a pretty biased view on the game. Have you given it a look since it’s release? If you have and you still believe all that you’ve said, you’re holding a grudge. The UI is entirely accessible for me (and I have a history of hating trying to learn UI setup) the set list contains 50+ songs from release, and they have plans to release bass compatibility. Not to mention from the start this is about as easy to play as Guitar Hero and only leads into greater rewards than the ability to mash 5 buttons along with a pre-recording of Dragonforce.

    • I’m actually enjoying it quite a bit. This article was originally written in March and centered around what little we knew about the game back then. Biased? It’s an opinion piece. If it wasn’t biased it would just be a copy-paste of the company’s press release.

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