While the global economy is still tight, gaming represents one the few sectors that’s still going strong by comparison.
Activision is set to test how strong this fall by releasing a passel of titles that includes expensive add-ons and/or peripherals, with four announced packages that will cost at least 100 dollars.
First up is September’s Guitar Hero 5, which has a bundle that includes the game and a guitar controller for $100.00. (I know it’s technically $99.99, but I’m not counting pennies here.) Music games, in many ways, have really brought the over-$100 price point into play - to the point that it’s now considered a nominal entry fee for music games and some sort of controller - and so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The Guitar Hero franchise itself is going strong, easily besting the more robust Rock Band franchise in sales, but it’s suffered from something of an identity crisis of late; competing with some of Rock Band’s features while maintaining its thrash-metal sensibilities, and this despite including songs like Wings’ “Band on the Run”, which was often performed by 1980’s metal-heads on a stage decorated with an eyeball-covered maw. Now, they’re adding Johnny Cash and Carlos Santana as playbale characters, so there will either be a complete overhaul… or Guitar Hero 5 will require the most willing suspension of disbelief ever.
In mid-October, skateboard legend Tony Hawk resurfaces with a new franchise, a couple of years after EA’s innovative Skate franchise consigned Hawk’s long-running original series to the dustbin of history. Long one of the most successful brands in gaming, the latest Hawk - entitled Tony Hawk: Ride - will include a skateboard controller that’s weight-sensing and includes visual sensors on the sides so gamers can pull off grinds, grabs and ollies while standing on an actual board. While I have nightmares about stepping on the tail of the board and launching it into my HDTV, if Ride can make it’s new $120 game work as well - and be as fun - as it hopes, it might be able to raise the bar once more.
In late October, DJ Hero arrives on the scene. Sporting the rather simplistic-looking controller pictured above, this title will also cost $120 and Activision hopes that it’s a hit with a similar-but-different demographic than the Guitar Hero franchise already claims. Sure, it sounds a little peculiar right now, and it may seem like Activision may be strangling the golden goose a bit, but until it lands on store shelves, no one really knows anything… except that it’s expensive.
Last but definitely not least, November’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will sell a bazillion copies - I expect it to be the highest-selling game of 2009 - and it comes in three flavors. The game itself will cost $60, the “Hardened” version that includes a steel box and some extras will cost $80, and the “Prestige Edition” of the game will cost $150 - and it includes night-vision goggles.
You read that right. Here’s developer Infinity Ward’s Robert Bowling, showing off what might be the most over-the-top retail package in gaming history.
What’s even more remarkable about Modern Warfare 2’s Prestige Edition is that the main attraction doesn’t have anything to do with game play. It’s just there for you to spy on your neighbors or simply indulge in Grade-A geekery. And you know what? It’ll probably do just fine at the registers.
The fact that Activision and other gaming companies are looking to maximize their profits through add-ons and peripherals isn’t surprising, but it’ll be interesting to see how retail outlets handle stocking and displaying these things; most stores have their displays designed around the DVD-sized cases that games have been in for years, but that won’t cut it anymore.
Of course, that’s not your problem - your problem, and mine, is to find a place to store all this stuff.