In many ways, what makes the Guitar Hero format so lucrative for the music industry is the very thing that makes its usefulness so transient from song to song: the need for a constant supply of new material. For many bands, providing that material isn't a problem, but most of the time, Guitar Hero is just another place to put a well-used track. The current thirst in both industries for developing a sense of community requires a higher level of involvement. Likewise, to really develop the relationship between the music and games industries requires more than just labels passively licensing music to developers - it requires some real creative thinking.
Enter God Of War III. At the time of writing, plans are underway to bundle the Ultimate Edition of the upcoming PS3 release with an EP of original music inspired by the game. Titled God of War: Blood & Metal, the EP will feature tracks from Killswitch Engage, Dream Theater, Opeth, Taking Dawn and Trivium. It's by no means the first game metal musicians have created original music for (Korn recently wrote and performed the title track for Haze, for example), but certainly it's the first to do it to such an extent.
Like Davies-Kreye, Trivium frontman Matt Heafy relished the opportunity to be more creative with the project as opposed to the usual off-hand contribution his band makes to soundtracks. "It's something I've always wanted to be involved with," he says. "Some bands act like they can only write so many songs a year or so many songs per album or so many extra songs. For us, it's like we already have 30-plus songs written for our next record, and if something asks us to make a new original song, I'm sure we will."
Yet it's worth noting that despite all this optimism, not all sides of the industry are quite as prepared to take the same leap. In the end, the reason why Fuse 07 never led to Fuse 08 was a quirk of the industry: The Tom Clancy series the festival was created to promote took a two-year breather. Likewise, a lot of labels still need to open up to truly collaborating with the gaming industry.
"We work with other publishers like EMI and Sony, but we found them quite protective," says Fuse mastermind Phil Brannelly. "It's not just the music industry, but I think the games industry is still perceived a little bit as games for kids in bedrooms. I think there's a bit of work for us to do in the games industry to educate people. People that work with Guitar Hero through Activision and Rock Band through EA have seen this, so we're slowly changing that perception."
For any lasting impact, the future of the relationship between videogames and music will ultimately be about more than just these games. "I think revenue streams are becoming a lot more homogenized," concludes Weir. "Any crossover that can help a brand and help bands expand is brilliant. The videogames industry needs music industry; the music industry needs the videogames industry."
Ruth Booth is a freelance music culture journalist and editor at www.rockmidgets.com. She likes nothing more than ganking noobs with a glass of whisky and Raging Speedhorn's "The Gush" on full blast.