Ubisoft Announces New Guitar Video Game 'Rocksmith'

Rocksmith Photo 2011

News of the title, which will feature an electric guitar and songs from the Rolling Stones and Nirvana, comes on the heels of Activision's pulling the plug on "Guitar Hero."

A little more than a month after Activision killed its Guitar Hero franchise, Ubisoft says it will enter the breach with Rocksmith, a video game played with a real electric guitar rather than a plastic replica.

Ubisoft is even negotiating with the likes of Gibson and others to sell a version of the game for about $200 that would come bundled with an electric guitar, people close to the negotiations told The Hollywood Reporter.

When Rocksmith debuts around September, it will come with about 45 songs from the likes of the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Nirvana and the Animals.

While comparisons with Guitar Hero are inevitable, Ubisoft cringes at them, pointing out that pushing buttons on a toy is nothing like playing a real guitar.

"Guitar Hero is a party game. Rocksmith is a music experience," Ubisoft senior vp marketing Tony Key said.

Rocksmith, in fact, is part of Ubisoft's continued push into a booming subsector of the industry that it calls "games with benefits." One benefit to Rocksmith, of course, is that you'll learn how to play a guitar, or increase your skills if you already know how.

Games that keep you physically fit or help you learn a language or improve your dance techniques are examples of games with benefits, and Key says consumers will be seeing lots more of them from Ubisoft.

Rocksmith comes with a standard input jack that can plug most electric guitars into a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, though not a Nintendo Wii.

It's played much like Guitar Hero or Electronic Arts' Rock Band, but here you're strumming and picking actual notes and chords on real strings. Rocksmith also learns your abilities as you play and adjusts to gently push you beyond your limitations so that you'll hone your skills.

While Guitar Hero's six-year run was hugely impressive, sales of games that make up the dance and music genres of video games peaked in 2008 at $2 billion before falling 46% the next year and 34% the year after that, according to research firm NPD.

Rocksmith will avoid the fate of Guitar Hero, Ubisoft says, because people won't tire of learning how to play the guitar. In fact, the game will encourage new students by making the process much more fun than it ever has been.

"The dream of playing guitar compared to how many follow through -- there's a big gap," Key said. "We will create a new generation of guitar players."

Another Guitar Hero killer was the cost to license music. But Key says that's not an issue yet with Rocksmith because bands seem eager to align themselves with a guitar game with benefits more so than mere video game. He promises songs on Rocksmith that aren't available to Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

Does that include something from Led Zeppelin, which Activision CEO Bobby Kotick once referred to as "the Holy Grail"?

"I can't specifically disclose the conversation I had with them," Key said.