Acclaim’s Music Game Approach Could Please Labels

By  |  Monday, February 16, 2009 at 12:02 pm

rockfreeThe massive multiplayer music game RockFree has been in public beta for a while now, and will launch for real in a few weeks. When that happens, players will get a taste of the revenue model that’s built to please record labels more than that of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, VentureBeat’s Evan Van Zelfden reports.

In those console hits, the publishers paid a flat fee to license each song, with Activision paying $20,000 per track. Naturally, the troubled music industry gets irritated when the game franchises then rake in millions of dollars, or billions in the case of Guitar Hero.

Acclaim won’t pay any licensing fees at all. Instead, CEO Howard Marks said his company will hand over 20 percent of the revenue from microtransactions to a song’s master holder and publisher.

The otherwise free-to-play game includes three playlist “slots” that can be filled with selections from an online library or uploaded by users. Players can purchase more slots at $1 a pop, and Marks expects that the average user who chooses to pay will fork over $14 per month for this privilege. Warner Music — whose CEO, Edgar Bronfman Jr., called the flat fees for Guitar and Rock Band “paltry” — is in the database for RockFree.

I’m a little skeptical that RockFree will be more lucrative for record labels. At 20 cents for every new track, 100,000 transactions per song are needed to equal what Activision was paying for its Guitar Hero tracks. And the problem with that is, RockFree kind of stinks. Massive multiplayer perks aside, banging out guitar tracks on a computer keyboard doesn’t compare to wielding a fake plastic instrument — which isn’t as cool as playing a real instrument, but that’s another story.

This arrangement will probably work out nicely for the companies involved because it’s happening on a smaller scale. I don’t expect it to shake up how the bigger console franchises are doing business.

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