News from the virtual world:
— MONSTERS OF ROCK: The most intriguing face-off in the video-game industry this fall is between Electronic Arts' "Rock Band" and Activision's "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock."
Will "GH" fans remain loyal to the original (and less expensive) franchise? Or will the addition of drums, bass and microphone put "Rock Band" on the top of the charts?
For many fantasy rockers, the choice may come down to which game has the best tunes. And both publishers have been hyping their set lists, with new additions announced just about every week.
Last week, for example, "Guitar Hero" scored Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade," and signed ex-Rage guitarist Tom Morello to be a character in the game.
"Rock Band" countered with a huge slab of tunes from the Grateful Dead, including "Casey Jones," "Truckin"' and "Uncle John's Band."
EA also delighted alternative rock fans by revealing fresh tracks from Garbage, the Pixies, Hole and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
EA also launched a "Rock Band" tour at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas. Buses equipped with playable versions of the new game will hit 24 cities between now and December. EA and MTV will also be auditioning bands nationwide for a slot performing at the "Rock Band" launch concert later this year.
— WISH LIST: While rock 'n roll has been pronounced dead too many times to count, it always seems to come bouncing back. No doubt, the "Guitar Hero"/"Rock Band" rivalry is a shot in the arm for the industry — and for the bands who are finding new exposure.
Still, some big acts have resisted the lure so far.
The three biggest holdouts are the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd; any one of them would be a huge get for either Activision or EA. But the Beatles and Zeppelin seem like long shots, given that neither band will even let its songs be sold on iTunes.
After that, there's a second tier of bands that seem like naturals for the guitar game genre.
We're talking AC/DC, Def Leppard and, in particular, Neil Young and Crazy Horse. It seems inevitable that they'll all show up sooner or later.
Then there are the indie bands that I love but that may be under the radar of the game giants. As the kind of music geek who will buy "Rock Band" just to play the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation," I want more tunes from the likes of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and the Replacements.
Bring the noise.
— URBAN LEGEND: Perhaps the whole "Guitar Hero" phenomenon leaves you cold, and you're looking for a game with a little more hip-hop flavor.
Your wish may come true with "Play the Industry," reportedly being developed by an odd pair of talents: rapper Master P and "Austin Powers" actor Seth Green.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Master P is working on the game with Green's Stoopid Monkey Productions, creators of the Cartoon Network hit "Robot Chicken."
Stoopid Monkey's Matthew Senreich told the paper that the game will let you make a fortune as an athlete, rapper, mogul or agent, and described it as closer to "The Sims" than to a fighting or shooting game.
The project is still in very early stages, but the partners hope to have it ready in 2009.
— NEW IN STORES: Ubisoft brings the guitar genre to the Nintendo DS with "Jam Sessions." ... Electronic Arts launches its new skateboarding game, "Skate," on the Xbox 360, but if you prefer another kind of skating you have your choice between EA Sports' "NHL 08" or 2K Sports' "NHL 2K8" (both for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2). ... Sony's "Heavenly Sword" beams down to the PS3. ... Namco continues to give my copy editor fits with ".hack//G.U. vol. 3//Redemption" for the PS2. ... The Xbox 360 also gets Majesco's samurai epic "Kengo: Legend of the 9" and Koei's racer "Fatal Inertia." ... And THQ appeals to your inner cartoonist with "Drawn to Life," for the DS.