I'm not a Beatles fan per se – much like Elvis, I acknowledge their great music and importance culturally. I like a lot of their songs – and they made a LOT of great songs. So I write this article from the perspective of a person who isn't overly biased.
I'd like to write on Beatles Rock Band and what we can learn from it.
First of all let me be honest – the game is great. A dedicated Beatles fan I work with got it, adores it, and I got to see him and several other people play it. I, the guy who isn't a "fan" was impressed.
The game's basic idea is, of course, playing/singing along with the music. You can do individual songs and unlock assorted challenges, of course, but the real magic comes from two factors. The first is a story mode where you play through the history of the band, from early to later works. THe second part is tied to this – the scenes that appear as you play match the song – from seeing the young boy-band-esque Beatles early on in settings they actually played in, to trippy dream sequences for their later studio work. The story mode takes you on a truly magical mystery tour from the young good-looking lads from Liverpool to the nearly-mystical music smiths who created audio trips.
The game is not so much made as crafted. The love for the band and their work (45 tracks only, but how many other bands or performers have 45 memorable tracks?) is apparent throughout the product. The opening game video itself is marvelous, as the animated Beatles run through various environments and album covers, changing as they go. In short, its just a well made game that loves it's subject. If I were to compare it to non music games, its charm and craftsmanship put me in mind Dark Cloud 2 or Shadow Hearts.
So basically, this is a great creation. All the good reviews are earned.
Now, assuming it sells well – and even if for some mysterious reason it doesn't, the good reviews are important – what can we learn from this geekonomically?
CRAFTSMANSHIP: I can't emphasize this enough – the game seems to deliver what Beatles fans would want and is very lovingly made. Yes, we can churn out another FPS, but I think this game shows that craftsmanship pays off (especially as if this was done poorly it would be disastrous).
LEVERAGE EXISTING ENGINES: You don't need to re-invent the wheel, you can deliver a new version of an existing property or engine if the content is relevant. Beatles Rock Band pretty much emphasizes you can produced a good modification or specialized version of an existing product – with the right content.
RIDE THE PUBLICITY: It would be hard to avoid publicity on this. A project like this gets free publicity easily. It's a potential ruinous deal if you mess it up – but a great benefit if you do it right.
GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT: What did the Beatles fans and general fans want? Well a good game that felt relevant to the band and their history. The game delivers it with the right look, styles, plenty of unlockables, and a great list of songs from a great band. The game doesn't skimp – it loads on what people want. It may sound strange to call this out, but skimping on content is too easy for businesses to do – don't do it. This game shows it will pay off.
AIM FOR THE AGES: There are some games that will last for years and be remembered even longer: Diablo, Elder Scrolls: Arena, and more. This game is that – it's something I can see selling years from now. I can see it being updated for the future. It's a game that is meant to BE something, and it achieves it. In pure financial terms this thing has long tail.
This is a great example of What To Do Right in gaming. Give it some thought if you're in:
* Synergy Media.
– Steven Savage