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Rock Band Bar Nights: The future of music gaming?

9:30 PM on 09.03.2009 // Nick Chester

A few days ago, Harmonix and MTV Games announced its "Rock Band Bar Night" initiative, the goal to provide tools bar owners to host their own Rock Band nights around the United States. MTV and Harmnonix are promising to provide venues with the tools for promotion, including marketing support, as well as a new "e-commerce store" that will provide bars with access access to the game's massive downloadable library. 

To kick start the program, MTV and Harmonix are offering bars that sign up prior to September 8 an exclusive five-song preview disc of The Beatles: Rock Band (keep your eye out for that at your local watering hole). Additionally, a mobile-friendly Web site will allow potential inebriated rockers to search for Rock Band Bar Nights by zip code, with a free iPhone mobile application in the works. 

Bars featuring Rock Band as entertainment in place of traditional karaoke isn't a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. Check your local paper and you'll probably find a listing for one in your area. But this push to support venues looks like it's leading to what I've thought for awhile: The future of peripheral-based music games like Rock Band may not be in your living room. 

With the retail sales potential of the games possibly hitting its peak years ago, a lot of analysts have written the genre off as a fad. Fans of the games couldn't disagree more; we're still buying weekly downlodable content, purchasing new games, and expanding the library of what has become a staple of many social gatherings. With consumer sales waning, it always seemed like the logical next step was the push for this karaoke-night style entertainment. The next obvious step is for Harmonix to create software that's tailored for these nights, stripping out unnecessary game modes and streamlining the song selection and queue process for potential hosts. 

Karaoke remains as popular as ever, despite the range of low-end and mid-range machines available at retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. I don't see myself removing the plastic instruments from my living room anytime soon; there's something to be said about the convenience of being able to invite friends over to socialize while rocking out the 800 different songs. But at some point -- maybe two years, maybe nine --  the weight on my wallet is going to get too heavy, and I may start looking for other outlets. 

I just hope they keep that iPhone app up to date.

Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
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