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MassDebate avatar 2:46 PM on 07.12.2011  (server time)
MassDebate: Has rhythm action gaming had its heyday?

Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

The proposition: Rhythm action gaming has had its heyday

GoofierBrute states his case for the proposition:

There’s no denying that rhythm action games (or rhythm games as they are commonly known as) have left an indelible mark on the history of the video games industry. It has given us many excellent games, has generated billions in revenue for major publishers, and it has helped greatly in making gaming an acceptable pastime in the eyes of the general populace.

However, the days of the rhythm game being successful and relevant are things of the past. What once was a guaranteed easy buck for publishers is now a former shell of itself, with all but the most hardcore of fans still willing to put down the money for them. There have been a lot of theories that have been given as to why the rhythm genre has died down, but I feel that there are two primary reasons why it’s no longer a relevant genre:

1. Oversaturation: perhaps the biggest reason why you no longer see many rhythm games is also the simplest: the market was oversaturated by rhythm games. During the second resurgence of the genre (which is said to have started in 2005 with the creation of the first Guitar Hero), big hitters in the genre like Guitar Hero & Rock Band were releasing on a yearly basis, with four Rock Band titles in 2009, and five Guitar Hero titles in 2010 (seven if you count the spin offs DJ Hero & Band Hero) This wouldn’t have been a problem if it was for primary reason number two :

2. Lack of innovation/evolution: every genre has in one way or another innovated or evolved to make themselves relevant as hardware and technology evolve. Modern first person shooters like Call of Duty have regenerating health. Japanese style role playing games like Tales of Graces and The Last Story eliminated the random encounters with monsters, making battles a more strategic experience. Modern rhythm games on the other hand have done very little to differentiate themselves from their earliest beginnings.

Sure, the ability to sing along with the songs in addition to playing a instrument wasn’t something that was fully realized until Rock Band, and the music maker in Guitar Hero: World Tour was a very cool add-on, and shaking your hips in Dance Central to “Funky Town” is genuinely hilarious, but other than these minor upgrades, the only things that truly separates the original Dance Dance Revolution and PaRappa the Rapper from the aforementioned in terms of gameplay are the song tracks. You are still timing your button presses, voice, hips, etc. to the beat of a song and getting graded on how well (or in my case how bad) you did. And as stated in my first point, when these are games that are coming out on a yearly basis, it quickly becomes apparent to the average consumer that it’s in their best interest to spend their sixty bucks (assuming they have the instruments already, if not then much more than that) on a game that doesn't feel like an exact copy of the game they bought last year.

Now, despite me being negative in this entire argument, I do have a confession to make: I enjoy this genre and the games it has given us. Not enjoy as in “I have five started everything on expert”, but enjoy as in “if I’m with some friends and I’m in the mood, I like to rock out with some Motorhead and Billy Idol on Rock Band 2”. And I feel that a lot of Dtoiders and gamers in general have that attitude. But this isn’t a debate over whether or not these games are good or if it’s fun to watch a three-hundred pound twenty-something shake their hips to a Lady Gaga song. This is a debate over whether or not the rhythm action game genre has had its heyday. And I can say without a doubt that it indeed has.

Wolfy-Boey states his case against the proposition:

Let’s get this out of the first, shall we?

Yes, the Guitar Hero franchise- and all its subsidiaries- is officially dead (“resting” as Activision would say). The latest iteration of it's most formidable competitor Rock Band, while certainly successful, has proven to be a bit of a disappointment at retail. As a result of this, publishers have seemingly abandoned any sort clone/copy cat they had initially planned. All except for Ubisoft, of course.

These are cold hard facts which I cannot neither deny nor ignore. But it’s these same facts that have given birth to the popular notion that rhythm based games have somehow had their heyday and this where I have to draw the line between fact and myth. The reality is, contrary to what most would have you believe, music games have never been better. Here’s why.

Through the immense popularity and runaway success of the Guitar Hero games, people’s perception of what a rhythm based game is has been narrowed down to one thing and one thing only; expensive plastic instruments. Thus, when the series came to an abrupt (and unjust!) end, many were quick to assume that this would mean the demise of the music game genre as a whole. However, there’s a misunderstanding, the death of the “*Insert Instrument* Hero” games does not and has not meant the damming of the music game genre as a whole, but the death of peripheral based music games.

Yet the genre is currently enjoying quite a healthy life in both retail and digital markets. In fact, there are more music games now there ever were. Guitar Hero and it's kind may have had their day, but the impact they've had on the industry is absolute. Gone are the days where rhythm games are deemed financially unviable prospects. As an example, Rock Band 3 was labelled a disappointment because it sold only over a million copies worldwide. Compare that to the days where the most “successful” rhythm games were PaRappa The Rapper and Samba De Amigo.

Just as well, and true to the medium it's inspired by, rhythm based games have proven to be quite versatile and have shown to manifest in a variety of ways, rearing their head in a multitude of other genres like some shape-shifting baboon (oh, they exist). It's one of the few genres where there are no real conventions or preconceived notions developers feel obligated to follow. Take a look at the following games as an example: Patapon, Rhythm Heaven, The Bit. Trip. series, Elite Beats Agents and Everyday Shooter. Each one of these titles uses music in their own individual way to bring a unique experience to the player. With so much versatility, it almost makes it hard to believe that theses games could be even considered to be in the same league as one another. It's that same versatility that will also lead music games to newfound blockbuster success. Actually, it already has.

Dance games have become the hottest commodity in town, with Just Dance and Zumba Fitness dominating the market with an iron (upwardly pumped) fist. Now to those of you who may be thinking, "Dance games aren't rhythm based games" I ask you: How is not? The act of dancing in and of itself is a rhythm based game, encouraging one to "shake it like a salt-shaker" in accordance to the music that's being played. If thats not a rhythm based game, then I don't know what is.

So, do I think rhythm based games have has their day? Heck no! In fact, I'd go as far as to say that we're in the golden age of rhythm gaming. So sit back, turn up the volume and get ready, for the time of your life.

Many thanks to GofierBrute and Wolfy-Boey for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (GoofierBrute and Wolfy-Boey) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment GOOF or WOLF depending on whether you support the proposition (GOOF) or you oppose the proposition (WOLF). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with GOOF or WOLF may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 18th July. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 17th July for your vote to count.

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