Page last updated at 00:51 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

DJ game aims to buck predictions

By Daniel Emery
Technology reporter, BBC News

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DJ Hero artists Scratch Perverts

A video-game that boasts rap artist Jay-Z amongst its advisors is hoping to capitalise on the popularity of music titles despite poor sales forecasts.

DJ Hero will be launched in the UK on Thursday and allows players to emulate their music-mixing idols.

Its publishers hope it will follow the success of Guitar Hero, the rock-based game that let users jam along to tracks using a guitar-shaped controller.

However, US games analysts believe the game will not sell as well as expected.

"We remain very cautious about the title's prospects at launch," Doug Creutz at analysts Cowen and Company said in a report.

"A survey of online retailers indicates a demand profile that is well below what we would have expected to see just a few days before launch for a title that was destined to be a big (or even modest) hit."

The company has reduced its US sales estimates for the fourth quarter of the year from 1.6 million to 600,000 and its first year estimate from 2.5 million to 950,000.

"We still believe that DJ Hero will be an important part of Activision Blizzards music franchise strategy, but we think it may take a few versions of the game for it to reach its full market potential," he wrote.

'Bonus tunes'

DJ Hero, which is developed by British studio FreeStyleGames, was announced in January 2009 and made its first major public debut at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. It is already available in North America but goes on sale in the UK on Friday.

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You judge who's best - game or DJ

Players use a plastic turntable, three button controller, effects dial, and cross fader to mix over 100 tracks, triggered by on-screen prompts.

Rap artists Jay-Z and Eminem, who acted as advisors during the games development, will also offer a track as downloadable content for the game.

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

Johnny Minkley, editor of Eurogamer TV, said that he had been trying the game out for over a week and, so far, was hooked.

"I've played guitar most of my life, so playing Guitar Hero didn't feel odd and I found that having played the real thing helped.

"However, I have never used a set of decks in my life, so I went into this game blind but it turned out to be really fun and it's got me wanting to try out the real thing."

There are some big differences from other music games, beyond the obvious turntable controller. While other games have you jamming along to existing tracks, all the music on DJ Hero was custom made for the game.

"The game plays a very clever trick, in that you think you are changing the music, even though it is really a pre programmed soundtrack," said Mr Minkley.

There are no shortage of music games on the market.

In addition to new titles, there have been numerous add-ons to existing games, such as Beatles Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

Mr Minkley said that users were getting a little wary of the sheer volume titles available, but that DJ Hero was different enough to set it apart from the pack.

DJ Hero controller
The DJ Hero pack has an RRP of 109

"There has been a lot of cynicism towards this title, but having played it, it feels genuinely fresh," said Mr Minkley.

However, the price of the game may put some users off.

DJ Hero has an recommended price of £109, although there are reports that retailers are reducing this to below £100. Guitar-based titles have retailed from between £49 and £75,

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.

Following a split with publisher Activision, Harmonix went on to launch the rival series Rock Band. The latest instalment - Beatles Rock Band - was released earlier this year.



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