Page last updated at 02:40 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 03:40 UK

New spin on console music games

DJ Hero screen shot
FreeStyleGames showed off DJ Hero in Los Angeles

By Daniel Emery
BBC technology reporter, Los Angeles

Activision has lifted the lid on its latest music rhythm game, DJ Hero.

The game features a plastic turntable, three button controller, effects dial, and cross fader that lets players scratch and mix tracks in response to an on-screen prompt.

The developers have also included 10 bonus tracks that can played in conjunction with a Guitar Hero controller.

The concept of karaoke-style games, where players strum, sing, and drum along to musical tracks has grown into a multi-million pound industry following the launch of the first Guitar Hero by US developer Harmonix in November 2005

At the E3 expo in Los Angeles, the games developer - FreeStyleGames - demonstrated the workings of the DJ Hero kit.

Hybrid song

A set of coloured musical notes scroll down the screen in what the developers call a "highway".

DJ Hero controller
DJ Hero taps into the Guitar Hero market

Players need to hit the right button combination to "play" the musical note in time with the scrolling notes, twisting the turntable to achieve the right pitch, and perform effects or distort the musical track.

There are more than 80 songs bundled with the game, including music by artists Eminem, Jay-Z, DJ AM, and the Beastie Boys.

There are also 10 bonus tracks that can be played with the Guitar Hero controller and mixed along side DJ Hero tracks, resulting in a hybrid song that is both rock-riff and scratch.

At present the two major players vying for the musical market space are - Harmonix and Neversoft/FreeStyleGames who make the Rock Band and DJ series respectively, although Genius Products is also developing a virtual mixing desk called Scratch: The Ultimate DJ.

'Enjoy and interact'

Speaking to the BBC, Jamie Jackson - FreeStyleGames creative director and the man leading development of DJ Hero - said they made the game for people who liked music, but may not like rock (the staple music behind the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series).

"We're tapping into the huge market that Guitar Hero created," he said.

"Although we [the developers] are all hip-hop fans, we didn't just want a hip-hop style of game; we wanted R&B, techno, electronica.

"What we've tried to do is create an experience that will let people enjoy the music but will also let them interact with the music."

While the concept of music rhythm game's has proved popular with the public, some critics - such has Chad Kroeger from Nickelback - have said young people are more interested in playing music simulation games than learning real instruments.

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