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DAILY MANIFESTO

Drummed Out

Posted on Wednesday, May 28 @ 12:19:16 Eastern by
Note to self in five years: I'm running out of space in my living room.

Usually, I would be talking about my TV space, with stacks upon stacks of games and DVDs, "trying hard but not really neatly fitted" consoles, and clumps of cable wires cluttering my small budget-priced TV. Every five years or so, I reorganize my electronics configuration to accommodate the space of a new generation's worth of consoles, though the experience is actually quite pleasant. Any old consoles and games can be thrown safely tucked into a closet, and I can just forget about them and move on.

This time around, I probably won't be so lucky, and as a stout follower of the rhythm genre, I know I won't be lucky. I'm talking about drum peripherals: one for Rock Band, one each for the upcoming Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Revolution, and however many more for future iterations (and any new band-based franchises) thereof. Their sheer size gobbles up floor space, and their presence immediately labels their owner as one of those feared video game fanatics who can turn small children into poop-throwing apes (wait, not much difference).

But the problem isn't really with space or flaunting potential (or how do you not look awkward moving the Rock Band drum peripheral without lifting the pads off its base?) - it's with obsolete peripherals. This isn't a new problem, as can be noted by GR's propensity to pump out yet another box of craptastic wires and plastic.

These drum peripherals, however, are another story. Rock Band's drums (picture 1) have four pads and one bass pedal; Guitar Hero World Tour's (picture 2) is projected to have three lower pads, two higher "hi-hat" pads, and one bass pedal; and Rock Revolution's (picture 3) is shooting for six pads in a hexagonal layout and one bass pe... you know.

Without going into detail about how someone living in a small apartment can fit all this stuff and how someone can swtich between these three games without getting irrirated over the re-setup time, how many drum set variations do we need? What's next? A seven-pad drum set? A set with four lower pads, three mid-level pads, and two higher pads? Two bass pedals? Three? A double bass pedal? A cymbal peripheral? Quieter pads? Studier frames? Drumsticks made out of birch? A limited edition drum chair?

All the hooplah over patents and oneups-manship will likely boil over to the guitar peripheral as well, under the guise of minimally "enhanced" models. Don't be surprised to find the "updated" models, purposefully bundled in the next iteration of the franchises, to have a glossier sheen, detachable parts, new button placements, better wireless connections, and five millimeters thicker here or thinner there, and whatsoever in whatever place so on and so forth, et cetera, et cetera... except not all at once. Indeed. expect these peripherals to tiptoe along the evolutionary peripheral chain, taking steps as miniscule as possible, in a way that marginalizes the older models and profits from you as much as possible.

This forseeable sophisticated system of nickel and diming (more like "fifty-dollars and hundred-dollars-ing") comes right out of your wallet. The full Rock Band set retails at $170, so considering that the game costs $60 (if even that), then most of the expense comes from the peripherals. And the bundle for Guitar Hero World Tour (and Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero V) probably won't be any different. Consequently, most people will likely be forced to choose one and only one franchise, especially given living room space, game-specific downloadable content, and friends online who just don't have the cash to buy Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Revolution.

On the long term, Rock Band and Guitar Hero has already formed a bitter rivalry that essentially makes the band-based rhythm game an arena for two and no one else. It's courageous for Konami and Bemani to step silently into the ring with Rock Revolution betwen these two head-banging, fret-shredding beasts, but most of the pie has already been eaten and won't be shared lightly without a few bruises in the wrong areas.

As much as I appreciate the competitive spirit between Activision and EA - it's at least better than a monopoly (*cough* Madden) - I don't wish to get gipped by $100 peripherals that become dust-collecting furniture in a year just because they're lacking one measly button. So let's not hope that happens. If the final evolution of the drum pad peripheral is ultimately trying to get me to become the next Neil Peart, just give me a drum set with twenty-five pads, twelve hi-hats, six cymbals, three bass pedals, a soundproof booth, an elevator to reach the three gongs above me, and a bloody slab of sirloin. Yeah, that would be beast.
 
 
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