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Rhythm Games As Platforms for This Console Generation

"Could Dance Central Spotlight be the start of a new direction for rhythm games this generation?"
Last console generation was the rise and fall and rhythm games with the oversaturation of Guitar Hero and Rock Band along with how expensive those games were at the time. However, some developers such as Harmonix and Sony with SingStar did wise up with less retail releases and approaching them more as separate platforms. The plastic instrument era ended relatively quick and the dancing era was the big next thing with Just Dance and Dance Central. Ubisoft is continuing annual releases at retailers with their Just Dance series while Harmonix is arguably taking the best approach to a “platform” with this week’s release of Dance Central Spotlight.

The main reason why Dance Central Spotlight is the most consumer friendly “platform” for rhythm games this console generation is the low price tag of $9.99 for the core game with ten songs assuming you have a Kinect for Xbox One since there’s that Kinectless bundle now out. When the Kinect comes out separately next month, Spotlight is bundled with it. Extra songs available as DLC will be every week just like Harmonix used to do for Rock Band for $1.99 focusing more on today’s hits along with re-releasing songs from the previous three games. Those will bought older songs from Dance Central 1-3 can be redownloaded for free when they come out for Spotlight. As the game came out on Monday night, there were already 20+ songs out as DLC, which is a good start as I bought about half of them.
Now you might be wondering whether or not $1.99 is the right price for a new Dance Central Spotlight song and it actually is. The ten songs, which is a good set for the core package if you listen to today’s music frequently, each have eight routines (seven have to unlocked in typical Dance Central fashion). The same is the case for each DLC song which is why the $1.99 price point is fair. The standard difficulty routines are there if you played a Dance Central game before and now there’s four more alternate routines to dance to. Two of them are more fitness focused with strength and cardio focused dances, so as a whole there’s plenty of variety within the songs themselves in Dance Central Spotlight.

Last console generation, SingStar for the Playstation 3 was one of the first rhythm games to implement the “platform” approach. Sure, all you needed was microphone peripherals but you can pretty much play the game and buy songs digitally without needing a disc. However, those without internet connections had to wait for retail releases with certain songs, which was the case for both SingStar and Rock Band. Who knows if this will continue with this current console generation, but personally I hope not because internet connections are more required than they used to for the Xbox One and Playstation 4. SingStar is coming to the PS4 this fall both digitally and at retailers as SingStar: Ultimate Party along with an app for iOS/Android that allows your phone to be a microphone, which is a neat touch and no need to spend more money on PS4-specific microphones.
Ubisoft on the other hand is continuing on with annual releases this year with Just Dance 2015 next month. Just Dance for four years has been multiplatform, which is why it is the more successful rhythm game for a while now, so to Ubisoft why stop these retail releases with minimal DLC support? There is also a mobile app coming out next month that acts as a second screen experience and also being to dance anywhere anytime. For as much as Ubisoft wants to keep going with this direction iterating little to nothing and recycling assets, this killed Guitar Hero off with numerous releases and with Just Dance having a normal and Kids iteration out every year, maybe it is time to go digital only like how Dance Central is now if these games don’t sell well anymore?

Rhythm games are the perfect example of going digital only especially in this console generation. While Ubisoft has not embraced it yet with Just Dance and hopefully they will in the future, Harmonix and the SingStar folks are taking advantage of their games being more as “digital platforms” with just one game and potentially endless amount of DLC support. Other genres are also taking a similar approach as well. Killer Instinct is the big example with it’s second season out next month. While they lose money made from retailers, rhythm games like Dance Central Spotlight can potentially make more with Harmonix’s consistent DLC schedule and people playing it regularly. Are rhythm games as platforms the right move to keep the genre successful or we’ll see like we seen with the plastic instrument era? Let us what you think in the comments below.


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