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Making Music

The flood of plastic instruments needs a dose of common sense.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Published as part of our sister-site' widely-read weekly newsletter, the Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to newsletter subscribers.

At a friend's birthday party last weekend, one outsized gift was swiftly unwrapped and proceeded to provide much of the entertainment for the evening - Harmonix' fantastic Rock Band, whose controversial UK pricing hasn't prevented it from fuelling countless nights of rhythm-action rock fantasy up and down the country.

It is, however, undeniably bulky. The original box for the game is huge, and carrying the instruments back to London after the weekend required a significant redistribution of luggage between our cars. Even separated from their bulky packaging, the combination of guitar, drum kit and microphone will inevitably take up a significant chunk of storage space in the home of any consumer.

The weekend's Rock Band fun, however, encouraged me to do a quick inventory of the fake plastic instrument count in my own home. That turned up two Guitar Hero (PS2) axes, a third-party Guitar Hero (PS2) wireless controller, and my own rhythm-action pride and joy, a ridiculously overpriced Guitar Freaks arcade-style controller.

That's four plastic guitars - and thus far, we have resisted the urge to step up to the next gen, which will make our GH controllers obsolete, requiring us to buy new ones. That in itself is fair enough, since moving up a hardware generation unsurprisingly brings with it the risk of having to dump old controllers. What isn't fair enough, however, is that with more and more companies getting in on the musical gaming act, consumers who enjoy the genre now face seeing their plastic guitar quotas rise exponentially.

As it stands, you can't use your Guitar Hero axe on Rock Band on PS3, or vice versa. Guitar Hero axes on the 360 work in Rock Band, but Rock Band's guitar controller doesn't return the favour. When Guitar Hero World Tour comes out later this year, bringing with it drums and vocals, it seems unlikely that the kits will be cross-compatible - and Konami will add its own flavour of peripheral with Rock Revolution.

All of these games have their merits, and many consumers would like the option to play all of them, if possible. After all, videogames have built their success on the fact that, like other creative mediums, they are not in any way exclusive, and don't always directly compete with one another. They compete in broad terms - but many of the same gamers who bought Halo 3 also bought Call of Duty 4, for instance, and buying GTA IV last month doesn't mean you didn't also buy MGS4 this month.