When the first Guitar Hero came onto the scene in 2005, it spawned a new genre centered around rhythm based gameplay that emphasized the use of fake, plastic instruments. For the next 4 years, this genre would go on to dominate house parties, initiate school oriented contests (at least where I went to school), and suck numerous hours out of casual and hardcore gamers alike. Now, in present day 2013, that scene has all but vanished and many people are left with their plastic instruments collecting dust in closets or attics. The Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises are on indefinite hiatuses. Any unsold music based games are available at stores for incredibly low prices, and even then they are failing to be moved off store shelves. With the music genre seemingly dead, many have dismissed it as a fad that was fun while it lasted. However, with the next generation of consoles approaching this fall, is it possible that the music genre could see a resurgence that would make it as relevant as it was 5 years ago?

 For me, it's certainly possible, but developers are going to have to build upon the foundation already set and are going to need to invent brand new mechanics to revitalize the genre. While I can't conceive everything that could be done to retool the genre, here are some of my ideas that could possibly give the music genre a breath of fresh air.

#1. Ditch The Plastic Instruments Once and For All

While I initially thought that plastic instruments were a clever gimmick to get players to feel like they were actual rockstars, they soon wore out there welcome and became extra accessories that only jacked up the price of music games. Not only were they expensive, but they didn't even teach you the core techniques of playing guitar. While I can't say from firsthand knowledge if drum or keyboard accessories did much to teach the player anything about how to play them in real life, I'm sure one would learn a great deal more by using a real drum kit or keyboard. The same goes for guitars. Sure, we have games like Rocksmith enabling players to use a real guitar to learn how to play a handful of songs, but as of now, it's only teaches you guitar parts of a song. Creating a game that let a player use their real drum kits, basses, and keyboards would benefit a much larger group of musicians.

#2. Larger and More Diverse Song Libraries (Included on Disk)

Previous Rock Band and Guitar Hero entries have had song libraries that cap out at about 100 songs. While that is enough to provide hours of gameplay, it's highly unlikely that anyone will like all 100 songs. And while that number may seem like more than enough for some players, only 100 songs is a meager sampling in an industry brimming with bands and musicians from several genres. Shipping a game with close to 1,000 tracks would provide gamers with more than enough playtime. But with a larger track-list comes a larger demand for a more varied selection of music. As a fan of various genres of music, it was disappointing to see both series had most of their set-lists restricted to classic and modern rock. Including more reggae, indie, and even experimental music would surely appeal to a broader audience. Sure, I know that the Rock Band network solved this issue with it's vast array of songs, but unless there was a song I was dying to play, I wasn't going to shell out any more money than I spent on buying the game. Of course, new music is always being released and discovered, so developers could still make a digital marketplace to release new content, maybe just at lower price points or in bundles to make the purchase worth it. Making a larger track-list would require that developers sign deals with more record companies, but I'm sure the payoff would be well worth it.

#3. A Learning Tool That Responds to Player Skill Level

Some people might be apprehensive to have to learn how to play a real instrument, as it can be a daunting task. A game that could implement a robust and responsive learning tool into the single player campaign would be great to both new and experienced players alike. The system could gauge a player's techniques and playing style, and could determine what they are doing right and wrong. This could be an invaluable tool to seasoned musicians who might still be doing something wrong and are unaware of the issue. This learning system could then ramp up the difficulty as the player progresses in skill, or can identify a style that the player is fond of and can find songs that are suitable to that style. It could also create challenges that require the player to perform a certain technique a number of times, maybe one that they aren't familiar or comfortable with. This could make learning new skills not only fun but also rewarding, as completing the challenges could net the player in game rewards. It seems that Rocksmith 2014 is attempting to do something similar to this, which sounds great, but I would like to see if it really works as intended when the game releases. Even still, Rocksmith doesn't seem to have a compelling single player to back it up, which brings me to my next point...

#4.  A More Immersive Single Player

If you could even classify previous Rock Band or Guitar Hero single player as a campaign or narrative, then all it consisted of was hopping from one venue to the next as they increased in size (with the exception of the hilariously bad story in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock). Creating a single player experience that mimics or at least tries to convey the life of a rockstar would be an enticing proposition. Recruiting other band members, signing record deals, choosing sponsors, picking where to tour, creating your merchandise, and even customizing your tour bus and stage set up would be a great way to feel like you were living the life on the road. While I don't want it to be a full fledged touring simulator, I think it would be amazing if developers could streamline these ideas into a intuitive interface that was both enjoyable and rewarding. Oh, and the goofy character models and animations have to go. I would frequently miss notes because of how ridiculous my band members would look while performing.

#5. Multiplayer That Lets You Create Real Bands and Play Original Music

As many musicians will tell you, it's not as easy to land a record deal and garner a sizeable fan-base as one would believe. While we all wait to become the superstars that we envy, being able to create a real band through a music game is certainly an entertaining alternative. Maybe you can't find a drummer or a keyboardist in your local area that you need to complete your band. A smart matchmaking system could help pair aspiring musicians with people who are interested in creating the same type of music. Players could then form bands and create their own compositions where they could then post them to a virtual marketplace where others could listen and rate. The developer could pick some of the best tracks of the week to showcase. Heck, maybe some bands will even gain a record deal in real life. A mode that would let players go head to head with other bands would also be a great rehearsal tool, whether it be licensed or original recordings. A practice mode that just lets players experiment with different pedals, amps, etc. would also be a fun way to jam out.

A game to include all these features mentioned would certainly be ambitious and costly. It would be no easy task for developers to create a game on this magnitude, but if made with care and detail, it could pay off in ways unprecedented. It could be more than just an entertaining game, acting as a unique learning experience as well as a potential avenue to find undiscovered bands that are just as talented as today's mainstream artists.

Music and gaming are two of my biggest passions in life. That's why it was so disheartening to see the once massively successful genre quickly fade away over the past couple of years. With a new console generation on the horizon, is it the right time for a rebirth of the genre? Even if only one or two of the ideas I mentioned make it into a future music game, it would be a step in the right direction, and could possibly restore music games to their former glory.

If you have any ideas as to how music games can evolve, let me know in the comments.