Oh, hello. I didn't see you come in. I hail from the now-defunct 1UP and am looking for a new home/community for the grand reopening of my blog. Why I didn't think of Destructoid earlier is anyone's guess, but it seems like things will be a good fit here...or at least I hope they will. If you like esoteric ramblings on small, nitpicked issues in gaming, you've come to the right place. Maybe I take things a little too seriously, but I like to think of it as passion rather than pretention. Please to enjoy.
I'm a sucker for tycoon games. The Roller Coaster Tycoon series reeled me in at an early age, and while my tastes have expanded to city-builders and 4X strategy titles, I still yearn for the days of five dollar bathroom admission fees and colliding coasters. While Sony's BigFest likely/sadly won't feature either of those things, the novelty of its concept could very well make up for their absence. Assuming, of course, it manages to avoid the obvious pitfalls set out on the path ahead of it. Given their sheer numbers, though, it seems almost inevitable for the project to stumble.
The fundamental ideas behind BigFest are actually rather enticing. Players are tasked with the management of a music festival à la traditional tycoon games, providing amenities, setting concession stand prices, and drawing in paying crowds. The twist here is that players can also select the music played at their festivals in a non-trivial capacity. Real-world music will be featured in the game, and the songs and artists featured at highly-attended concerts will receive in-game notoriety as well, giving them more exposure to BigFest players as they ascend the in-game charts. It's a symbiotic relationship of sorts between virtual concert promoters and real-world musicians, with each satisfying the unique needs of the other. With the addition of an Animal Crossing-esque online component where players can attend rival festivals, however, the game also provides players an outlet to put their musical tastes on display for friends, allowing for the introduction and sharing of new music in a more intimate setting than the game's global "Hot 100" list.
There's a lot to BigFest that could go right, especially if its gameplay is satisfyingly deep and its online components are handled well. However, for every thing that could go right, there seem to be ten things that could go wrong. For starters, note that the game is being published by Sony. On one hand, this could be something of a blessing; because this is a Vita title, Sony may be able to advertise this game more than it likely would be through a third-party publisher. A higher playerbase is always a good thing for any game, but with BigFest's focus on online music promotion and festival sharing, it seems especially vital for this game in particular. On the other hand, Sony has a horse in the music race already through Sony Music Entertainment, and it's unclear as to how that might influence the very structure of the game. The reveal trailer states that at least some of the music offered in BigFest will be from unsigned bands, which is great. In theory. Because this is from Sony, however, how this music will be obtained is at this point questionable at best.
Like them or not, an entire library of KoL knockoffs wouldn't be good for anyone
The worst thing that can happen to BigFest is having an overly-curated music library for players to choose from, and because Sony is in the business of music, the pessimist in me foresees only that future being brought to fruition. Sure, players can promote unsigned artists, but what if those artists are prescreened as potential (read: commercially viable) additions to some Sony-owned label? What if those artists with the highest rankings get fast-tracked to record deals? While this arrangement may be beneficial for Sony and the select artists who rise above the chaff, what was once a symbiotic relationship between them and the players of BigFest would become an almost parasitic one, with Sony all but neutering any sense of musical discovery afforded to players while manipulating them under the guise of gameplay to act as focus testers for their next musical investment. It's a pessimistic prediction, I'll admit, but until Sony offers more details on the matter, it seems to me a more likely course of events than the idealized alternative.
In order to retain that symbiotic relationship between players and musicians (and publishers) which makes BigFest so promising in the abstract, I feel as though a Bandcamp-style business model would be the way to go, albeit with some tweaks. Any artist whatsoever would be allowed to upload music to the service, and any player would be allowed to host that music in their festivals for the enjoyment of their virtual audiences and any visiting players, perhaps for a certain fee of in-game currency to stay true to the actual world of concert promotion, with fees getting higher as songs and artists get more popular, and lower as they get less so. In addition to their global leaderboard standings, this could also be a good metric for bands to gauge their popularity amongst players should they choose to care about such things.
Much like bandcamp, artists could also allow for downloads of their music that could be linked to the player's PSN account, redeemable on any device capable of accessing the PS Store (PS3, PS4, Vita, computer, etc.), either for free or for a fee as designated by the artist. Paid transactions could be handled through the PS Store and Sony could take a percentage of the sale like Bandcamp does, ostensibly eliminating any need for curation on Sony's part as they would inevitably see money coming in from players who make these purchases. It really is a win for every party involved when it comes right down to it. Players will have access to a substantially larger library of music to pick and choose from, thereby allowing a greater sense of musical discovery, as well as offering more opportunities for personalization, which is always a plus as any Animal Crossing player will tell you. More musicians will be allowed to access what will for them be a promotional tool and will have greater control over how their music can be consumed by fans. In addition to any introductory price points they may wish to charge for the game itself, Sony will also see returns from this system by way of those musicians who decide to charge players money to download their music, all without alienating players or less commercially-viable bands in the process. So Sony, if you're listening, please don't go down the road I think you will with BigFest. As gamers, we can often tell when we're being used or manipulated, and mismanaging your approach with this game is a surefire way to lose consumer trust and loyalty in turn.