Turn That Game Down!
Chances are very good most people when asked will say they watch less TV now than 10 years ago. That most certainly isn't because of quantity, and a qualitative assessment is a nebulous reason. The real reason for most people probably revolves around the Internet, and more specifically, community pages like YouTube, Facebook and MySpace.
While many other mediums or ways to be entertained may have been hijacked by the those who already have access to power and money, the Internet remains a democratic option. Users can interact with segments of it as they choose and at their own pace. They can also form a community online, talking about what they love. Given the critical mass of such online communities (like MySpace), large companies have attempted to tap into them to varying degrees of success. One of the better such initiatives yet, however, may have just been pushed forward by Electronic Arts with the Burnout Bandslam.
We chatted with EA's Steve Schnur, Worldwide Executive of Music, and Hillary Dixon, Entertainment Marketing Manager, about what exactly makes Burnout rock.
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup
The original Burnout Bandslam was European only, but it was such a success, EA decided to run it in the U.S. too this year. The basics of the competition are that users on MySpace are encouraged to submit their music to myspace.com/burnoutbandslam. There, they will be evaluated and discussed by fans from areas of Europe and the U.S. Winners from each continent will not only have the chance to get their songs in a future Burnout game, but also receive a Virgin Records demo recording contract.
"We've been wildly pleased with the response so far," said Dixon. "With over 7,800 submissions to date, we had people in the middle of the night submit and sharing and interacting. We've never been able to join with both the U.S. and Euro EA teams like this this before and we're proud that its been really successful. I don't think language is a barrier anymore in communicating. People want to experience a wide variety of experiences from all over the world."
"If you had reach in to particular Euro territories or Canada or U.S. individually, it would be a different mix. This is different than problems in the past with adults saying, 'What are our kids listening to?'" said Schnur, who added, "We see music in games as more than just a licensing opportunity. I mean, sometimes you want to play something on a guitar on a song you liked 30 years ago. We think young players want to hear something that will speak to them specifically."
"We're the equivalent of what MTV was in 1983," he stated boldly. "We can't listen to radio, can't watch music television. We have to pretend like we're 14, tap into what's rawly 'cool.' I'm the first one to talk about the boredom of hip-hop and how pop is homogenized. We can deliver something unique to the user on a global scale."
The Symphony of Destruction
If you're not familiar with the Burnout series, you may not know just how intrinsic music is with the games. Fans, however, know that the soundtrack has been key in setting the tone of each of the titles. It matches the spirit of reckless abandon that comes from pushing your car to the limit and back again, and with bands like Fall Out Boy, Franz Ferdinand and My Chemical Romance before they became famous, the soundtracks have manged to be on the cutting edge of cool.
"What makes this title so unique is that its all about rebellious, its about turning your car the wrong way and the crashes. Rock fits it so well, because there's this natural rebellious nature in a lot of rock bands. Rock is the sort of music that makes your parents tell you to turn it the hell down, and my goal in life is to have parents scream 'Turn that game down!'" explained Schnur. "Burnout's all about what you're not supposed to be going. Like watching Nascar; you're not supposed to be thinking about people crashing, but you are."
"You have certain games where music is suppose to pump you up and certain games where its supposed to move you. We're looking for a group of aggressive songs to define the game. We're looking for the same on a global scale to get that," he continued. "Incidentally, the majority of songs submitted are by people that have played this game.
"If you click into the gallery, they're aggressive rock and roll songs and are totally in line with what the game is. It's interesting that you get that and we don't have to talk to them that this has to be aggressive, hard driving, and fun," agreed Dixon. "We have America and 11 European territories that are reaching out to this. They like to listen to music, submitting their own and voting on what will go on. What we've done was a bit of a risk but its worked out well."
The use of MySpace as a promotional method isn't too exceptional now. In the videogame sector, Subzero and Scorpion had their own pages before Mortal Kombat: Armageddon released. Burnout Bandslam, however, has connected with the fans in a real in meaningful way, which can be articulated by simply checking out the number of good songs from unknown groups this contest has managed to produce.
"This is a generation that doesn't understand linear entertainment; they expect choices. They go to online environments like this one and they have fun participating in the voting," said Schnur. "There'd be a time of the '90s when going onto the radio was 'making it.' That's changed in the digital age. The new definition ends up making it is making it into a game."
"We want online consumers to feel connected to our bands," added Dixon. "It's a huge opportunity to reach out and say, "What sort of bands do you want?" We want to make make a product that speaks to that. We're looking for more ways for gamers to connect with the games."
Given the reception to such a move, GameDaily BIZ would expect to see more events like this in the future from EA. "We don't see this as a one time event," says Schnur. "It's a big deal to be put into Burnout, and there's also the power of Virgin behind you. We expected them to do well like bands in Burnout in the past and we hope this will become popular, at least among gamers. Really, the initial exposure is the hardest hill to climb for any band."
"We hope so," responded Dixon when asked about more MySpace ventures. "We value MySpace as a partner. As we have continued to work in fresh spaces and paving the way with new mediums. They have a huge interactive community and we'd like to tap into it more."