According to a report coming out of gaming industry news giant Gamasutra.com, the combined sales of music or rhythm based games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero have dropped from $1.6 billion in 2008 to a stunning (projected) $400 million this year.
Why the drop off? The report sites a few things that stand out- The high cost of those massive boxed sets of instruments and the emerging digital nature of the games themselves.
As to the first point, it makes sense that at the start everybody bought the band kits- but now pretty much anyone who's interested in playing a plastic guitar or drums has one already. So that in and of itself is a major loser of revenue, since buying the game disc alone is infinitely cheaper than getting the bundle.
The second point is a double edged sword- sure the online music stores are great and all, their offerings of new tunes to play around with on a weekly basis is a way to keep the titles in question fresh and new all year long -but think about it for a second and you can see why they'd hurt retail sales. Some tracks aren't cross compatible, but if you already have your favorite songs in Rock Band 2 and you don't really give a fig about playing the keyboard- then why would you invest in RB3?
Suddenly it makes perfect sense why Rock Band 3, Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, and the godawful Rise of the Six String are struggling so mightily on the store shelves. In fact, after seeing these numbers, it also makes perfect sense why Viacom wants to ditch (Rock Band creator) Harmonix.