Dear Mr Harmonix,
As the original developer of the Guitar Hero series of video games, and the company behind the Rock Band franchise, you'll doubtless have been unsettled by the news that revenues from both games have recently taken a tumble. In the words of Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith, your games' appeal is in danger of becoming "more selective."
Do not worry, however: MOJO is on hand with some killer ideas that should rejuvenate the genre!
While your games have achieved phenomenal success by tapping into every rock fan's secret desire to play air guitar (and receive praise for how well they do so), actually playing music is only one factor in why so many of us harbor daydreams of rock 'n' roll stardom. Your The Beatles: Rock Band project offers fans a chance to digitally "experience" landmark moments in Beatle history, but there's more to "being" a virtual Beatle than nailing "Helter Skelter" while playing in Expert Mode.
Imagine a game that allows players to live out the wilder, weirder episodes of the rock 'n' roll life...Let's call it, So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star?
For starters: rock 'n' rollers do a hell of a lot more with their six-string axes than just playing them. Fit the guitar controller with motion sensors, so I can score extra points by windmilling my arm at it like Pete Townshend, or attacking it with a screwdriver like Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. Better still, build it so it can be broken into pieces and then put back together, and let me score a bonus for smashing it into my living room floor while aping Paul Simonon from the cover of The Clash's London Calling. And how about a mini-game where I have to hit a chord at a precise moment, to explode the pigeon flying too close to my speaker stacks, like at that apocryphal Blue Cheer gig from the early '70s?
This is rock 'n' roll, after all, not some classical music recital. Have me dodge hurled beer glasses from the audience while playing, swinging my guitar at waves of over-zealous stage-invaders, and jumping into the mosh-pit for a cathartic brawl with the troublemakers. In fact, there's potential for shoot-'em-up action here: let my avatar use firearms, Ike Turner-style, to get the cash from shady promoters after the show or to "persuade" a snivelling rock hack to give me a positive review.
The games industry has been down this path before, only to retreat cravenly. Sensible Software's Sex 'n' Drugs 'n' Rock 'n' Roll was deemed to racy for an impressionable young public in the '90s. But that other behemoth gaming franchise, Grand Theft Auto, long ago smashed that particular taboo.
So how about taking inspiration from Grand Theft Auto, and have the player attempt to seduce fans backstage (with extra points if, like Kings Of Leon, you catch an STD, then write a hit song about it). Give players the option to virtually guzzle illicit stimulants: if it's high grade stuff, then their musical performances will get a boost, but they'll be running the risk of arrest, overdose, or "brown acid" (if your character gets dosed with this, the buttons on your controller get re-mapped without warning). And include a mini-game where the character scores points for how fast and how completely they can demolish a hotel room, with bonuses for accurately aiming the television into the swimming pool.
The game would offer players the chance to run amoral riot across a pixelated universe, swallowing contraband like Pac-Man and chased by a motley crew of cops, ex-bandmates, rock critics, record label drones and alimony lawyers. I'm imagining an experience where the player can live out their most ridiculous rock 'n' roll fantasies, squandering their points on fast cars and luxury homes (which players can "upgrade" to taste-free MTV Cribs standard).
Such rewards don't come to the player without risk. If, while playing So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star?, your character should lose all of their points, get arrested, die or (worst of all) release a triple concept album, you get sent to the Indie Circuit. This mode involves playing dispiriting shows to a bored man with a dog on a string, driving your rickety tourbus along tediously long journeys between shows (these are unskippable), and puzzle-games where you have to tune and restring your own guitar, because you can't afford roadies anymore.
In the end, it's entirely your choice, and every indicator suggests The Beatles: Rock Band will go on to make so much money you could afford to buy up the rights to Michael Jackson's song catalogue (consider them an early Xmas Gift for your new friend, Paul McCartney). But if you do take my advice, please don't hesitate to contact me for details on where to send my cut of the cash...
Your friend and future business partner,
Stevie Tony Chick Esq.
Vice President (R&D)
Racy Rock Games Ltd
Pop along to mojo4music.com, a web site that's dangerously obsessed with music.