Can Beatles revive video game industry?

Tue Sep 8, 2009 7:24pm EDT
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By Franklin Paul and Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Beatles are back -- but this time the world's most famous rock band may be stirring more excitement in executive suites than in campuses and schoolyards.

When "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game hits store shelves on Wednesday -- packed with 45 songs for players to sing, strum and drum along with -- the industry hopes it will provide the lift that retailers, publishers and console makers desperately need for this holiday shopping season.

Developed by Harmonix Music Systems, published by Viacom Inc's MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts Inc, the game could sell 2 million units in the first month alone, according to analyst estimates.

"I think 'The Beatles: Rock Band' will be huge," said analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities, who sees the game drawing in entire families -- a demographic that was first tapped by Nintendo Co Ltd for party games and fitness titles on its Wii console.

The game has won rave reviews from critics. "With all due respect to Wii Sports, no video game has ever brought more parents together with their teenage and adult children than 'The Beatles: Rock Band' likely will in the months and years to come," The New York Times said.

But not all analysts are convinced it will be a hit, due to the cost of its accessories and shifts in customers' musical tastes.

Another risk is that the new game debuts just days after Activision Blizzard Inc's latest version of "Guitar Hero," which includes songs by The Rolling Stones and Nirvana.

"It will have a great first month, due to lots of great marketing and advertising for it, which means that the fans will pick it up early," said Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst. "But I don't see it driving overall share for 'Rock Band' versus 'Guitar Hero,' and I don't think it's going to drive all kinds of new people into games."   Continued...

<p>Musicians Ringo Starr (L) and Paul McCartney introduce the new video game "The Beatles: Rock Band" at the Microsoft XBox 360 E3 2009 media briefing in Los Angeles June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>