By Jared Newman | Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 7:38 am
The race to successfully fuse a guitar video game controller with a genuine musical instrument is over, with two publishers showing off peripherals at E3 that double as real guitars — strings, frets and all.
For Rock Band 3, guitar maker Fender will sell a version of its Squier ax that can also play the game. A video from Engadget shows how the player can easily switch back and forth when the guitar is plugged into an amplifier. Lesser known, but also prominently featured on the show floor, is the guitar for PowerGig: Rise of the Six String. No need for a special edition here; even the default PowerGig guitar is a fully-functioning musical instrument.
I haven’t tried Fender’s Rock Band guitar, but I did play around with PowerGig’s peripheral at a pre-E3 event in Los Angeles. It is not a MIDI controller, like the YouRock and Gambridge guitars I played with at CES. The PowerGig guitar has six strings that run the length of the fretboard, complete with a sound pickup on the bridge and tuning pegs on the headstock. It’s smaller than a real guitar — a special full-size version is in the works — but it felt comfortable for playing the blues and noodling out solos high on the fretboard.
As for gaming, it’s just more fun when real strings are involved. When you want to play games with the controller, a small panel pops up on the bridge and mutes the strings. You’ll still hold down strings on the fret board as you would with Guitar Hero’s fat plastic buttons, and strum with your other hand, but any unwanted noise is silenced by the pop-up panel.
Best of all, both PowerGig and Rock Band 3 are using their software as music trainers. In PowerGig, advanced players can strum power chords, which require you to place a second finger on a different fret and string. Rock Band, according to IGN, replaces the game’s five lines of big colored button prompts with six strings and indicators of which fret you should hold down. Essentially, it’ll teach you how to play the songs you’re acting out.
Now, I could get on my high horse about how a music game won’t teach you concepts like groove or improvisation — or music theory — but whatever. This is some cool technology that finally bridges the gap between imitation and the real thing. PowerGig: Rise of the Six String is coming to Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in October, and Rock Band 3 arrives this holiday season.