Major labels eager to enter iPad app marketplace

Fri Apr 9, 2010 11:51pm EDT
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By Antony Bruno

DENVER (Billboard) - When avid technophile Mike Shinoda was approached backstage last year with an idea for developing a Linkin Park iPhone game, the band's co-frontman knew he wanted it to be more than just another run-of-the-mill artist app.

"It was important to us to do something creative and fun," he says. "We didn't want to throw a bunch of songs at the game, slap our name on it and cash the checks."

The result is "8-Bit Rebellion," a soon-to-be-released iPhone game with an iPad version on the way. Whereas most artist-branded games tend to be rhythm-based, "8-Bit Rebellion" is an action game that has users fighting enemies alongside members of the band. The soundtrack features several Linkin Park hits in both standard and 8-bit fidelity, plus an exclusive track, "Blackbirds," for fans who complete the game.

But according to Maryanna Donaldson, creative director of the game's developer, Artificial Life, the real innovation was the degree to which Linkin Park was involved. Each band member helped design a different "district" in which the game takes place, personalized to his individual interests. Shinoda designed the members' avatars and edited every line of dialogue. The process wound up taking the better part of a year, but Donaldson says the result sets a new bar for artist-branded apps.

"For it to be top quality and appealing to the fan, the artist should be very involved," she says.

Meanwhile, the band's label, Warner Bros. Records, is supporting the app's launch with a movie-style trailer that will run in the IGN gaming community as well as virally through Linkin Park's YouTube channel. There will also be a Web site where fans can create and post 8-bit avatars of themselves.

"We're treating this like the release of a Linkin Park album or song," Warner Bros. Records senior vice president of new media Jeremy Welt says.