DragonForce, “Through the Fire and Flames”
It’s doubtful that the British fantasy/metal band DragonForce would have ever crawled out of its cave of obscurity had it not been for the star turn it took in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (the game’s title being a misnomer, as the band was anything but a legend). But thanks to the inclusion of the group’s song “Through the Fire and Flames,” DragonForce became something of a hit-and entirely emblematic of the power videogames have on today’s music business. The song achieved cult status among gamers for being one of the most difficult to execute in the Guitar Hero series, and in the weeks following the game’s release in October 2007, digital sales of “Through the Fire and Flames” jumped from 2,000 per week to 10,000, approaching 40,000 per week by the end of the year.
For the big music companies, gaming licenses now bring in more revenue than they get from Hollywood. Music-oriented games accounted for 15 percent of all videogame sold in the first half of 2008, and with the global gaming business expected to swell from $48 billion last year to $68 billion in 2012, it’s no wonder bands are angling to get in on the action. The fourth installment of Guitar Hero, released last summer, featured a heavy dose of Aerosmith songs. Even the Beatles, whose songs still aren’t available online, struck a deal for a videogame in tandem with EMI and Harmonix, maker of the genre’s other big seller, Rock Band.
Of course, bands were eager to hook up with videogames well before Guitar Hero and Rock Band came along, whether it was serving as a backdrop for the Tony Hawk series or in Grand Theft Auto, whose grand larceny-prone protagonist can select songs on the radio in the various cars he steals. But where the music business sees real opportunity is using gaming as a distribution platform. In 2008, both Metallica and MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e released new songs as a game download on the same day as their commercial release. In CrÃ¼e’s case, its single “Saints of Los Angeles” generated 50,000 sales through its release on Rock Band in the first week. Those are numbers you can play with.