Music Games More Popular Than Sports Games?

Perhaps we should have seen this coming when the big improvement for Madden 09 was the addition of Cris Collinsworth. Or maybe we should have seen it coming when that cute chick at the office suddenly declared she was buying an XBox 360, squealing “I love Journey! My sorority used to sing that song at bars all the time in college!” But music games have finally surpassed sports games in popularity. The awesome Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack is not amused.

John Madden Football

(Any excuse to run this photo.)

So lazy talentless rock star wannabees now outnumber lazy talentless athlete wannabees, according to a new study by market research firm Odyssey. It’s not a huge surprise: both lifestyles boast riches, travel and groupies, but unless you’re an underachieving white wide receiver, only the rock star lifestyle features cocaine.

“We have seen an explosion in the music simulation category,” Odyssey president and CEO Nick Donatiello stated. “The phenomenal success of the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises in the past year has reshaped the landscape of the console game market.

While sports is still one of the critical categories, sports games are becoming relatively less important.”

Despite the alliance suggested by the more-than-slightly homoerotic commercial for Guitar Hero featuring LeBron James, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Phelps and Tony Hawk, this is a battle for the soul of stoners.

For a genre that started with a little hoodrat dog named PaRappa the Rapper, the numbers are pretty impressive. Of the respondents (that’s all people, not just gamers), 58 percent played music games last year, compared to only 50 percent of sports games. The curiously generic “action games” took first on the list, with 65 percent playing. No word on where inaction games fell.

The troubling fact is that sports games have fallen steadily from a high of 62 percent in 2005. What happened in 2005 to drive their popularity downward? I’m no longer in college, for one. But let’s take a look at the cover athletes for the major EA games that year. Eric Chavez (oops), Carmelo Anthony (stopped snitchin’), Ray Lewis (killed a guy) and Markus Naslund (who? [also, that little matter of there not being an actual NHL season that year]).

You could argue that titles like Major League Eating: The Game have diluted the market for sports games, and that Guitar Hero’s inexplicable ability to make you think that your button pressing timing equates to musical skill has taken away some of the audience. Maybe the ubiquitous nature of sports coverage in the ESPN era has lessened the need for simulations, while the death of MTV as a music channel has created the need to rock out with your c**k out.

Or maybe it’s a fad. Remember when people thought Dance Dance Revolution was cool? That’ll be Rock Band in a couple of years, while John Madden will live on long after his IRL death, haunting your dreams with “Hey, hey, heck of a play!” and “He’ll remember that number.”