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Old 07-24-2020, 02:38 AM   #1
Devilchilly
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Post Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

So this has been on my mind for the past few weeks and I've always been genuinely curious as to why rhythm games have always been in obscurity for so long, compared to the more mainstream gaming genres such as MOBA, MMORPGs, FPS, etc.

I've received many answers throughout the years on different social medias and forums, but never got or heard of something that compiled all of those answers into one place. Therefore, the question of "Why is it up to this point has there still been no videos that discuss about this topic?" naturally popped up in my head. A video that answers or at least speculates why rhythm games don't emit as big an appeal to the general gaming populace in contrast to the more popular ones, maybe.

It is understandable if the main reason for this was just that nobody bothered to do it and that they're just lazy, lmao. I could also take some time out and make this project a reality, with enough research and support from the rhythm gaming community, of course. However, I'm also pretty busy with life now so it's not something within my reach yet.

What do you all think about this? Looking forward to hearing everyone's opinions.

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Old 07-24-2020, 03:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

I honestly think it's because rhythm games are not really a genre that's pumped out on a yearly basis and you hear about often unless you're actually going out of your way to google about what's going on with the rhythm games.

Plus the fact that they're called "Rhythm Games" and seeing the more popular videos of such (The Big Black, Freedom Dive etc.) people might be put off the fact that they'll never be that good.
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Old 07-24-2020, 04:24 AM   #3
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

I'd love to see a video! Here are my thoughts:

I don't think rhythm games at this point are obscure; rather, they're often viewed as a niche genre. I can think of a few things off the top of my head as to why rhythm games feel more niche than other game genres:

1) Not everybody can maintain a good internal rhythm.
I feel that other genres may be more accessible to the general public, while rhythm games seem to be more open to the musically inclined, and a mess for those who aren't.

2) Rhythm games are often about self-improvement, with little multiplayer aspects.
Despite FFR having a tournament going on, the general basis of most rhythm games is self-improvement. You don't directly interact with players in the game...at best, it's "your best score vs his/hers" but in the end there is no actual intermingling within the game. Therefore the rhythm game community has to grow via interactions by other indirect means.

3) In the instances where rhythm games diversify, it's often in the form of another franchise's spinoff, so rhythm games are often viewed as a "twist" or "alternative" as opposed to a mainline form of game. Example: Crypt of the Necrodancer is seen as a "twist" on a roguelike game. Cadence of Hyrule is an interesting "alternative" to Zelda games with Necrodancer gameplay.

4) Rhythm games often lend themselves to having sequels as simply another version of the same game simply with new songs and/or slight improvements on gameplay. Players in a single game series look forward to new songs as opposed to "fresh, new innovative gameplay." Casual gamers who don't play rhythm games will roll their eyes or fall asleep at the next Let's Dance iteration, and that's pretty clearly seen during game presentations.

5) Rhythm games simply occurred at a later period than other game genres, so it's playing catch-up. Many people (myself included) were first introduced to the rhythm game genre from Parappa the Rapper in 1996/1997. That's pretty late. The current year is 2020 and while the rhythm game genre may have removed itself from obscurity, it may forever be considered niche by many. Not necessarily a fair assessment, but it's probably stuck that way in people's minds.

Other minor reasons I can think of:

6) Rhythm games aren't kind to completionists. Would you imagine Jirard of The Completionist attempting to "complete" any rhythm game to its fullest? Can you imagine anyone actually completing FFR for that matter? lol

7) Rhythm games are fun to play but often boring to watch. I frankly would watch someone play Paper Mario: the Origami King on Twitch rather than someone playing a rhythm game.

Last edited by bmah; 07-24-2020 at 04:25 AM..
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Old 07-24-2020, 04:53 AM   #4
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

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2) Rhythm games are often about self-improvement, with little multiplayer aspects.
yea, rhythm games really suck at being multiplayer. If I'm a great D7 player and i want to play with my friend who is new to rhythm games, there is no one chart we would both be able to play and enjoy. Either i would be bored with how easy the chart is or they would be unable to comprehend the chart with how difficult it is. Being able to different charts of the same song can help, but it can be hard to find a chart with the right difficulty of easy chart and the right difficulty of hard chart, so song selection is really limited and take some time to find. Assuming you can choose any song and the difficulty will be perfect for both of you, there is still the problem that you aren't really playing together, but more like your playing simultaneously. The skill gap makes it so you cant really compete against each other, but instead against yourselves at the same time, which doesn't work as well. I think the real solution to this is co-op charts. Most games dont have co-op charts, and not all games can make co-op charts work, but i feel when they do its multiplayer in rhythm games at its best. I think its a large part of why rock band multiplayer worked. You had multiple different charts with multiple different difficulties so each person could play a chart at their skill level in their discipline of choice (to an extent), and you were all playing as a team to pass the song. you were truly playing together and i have a hard time thinking of a multiplayer that worked better.
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Old 07-24-2020, 06:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

I don't actively look for games, but from my observation, rhythm games don't seem to be advertised and promoted as heavily as other games, and that might be a contributing factor to why rhythm games aren't as well known. How often do you see an ad that promotes rhythm games? Compare that with ads for big MMORPGs, FPSs and the like.
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Old 07-24-2020, 07:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

This is why Guitar Hero and Rock Band were so popular during their peak... they combined elements outside of the niche. Popular music, actual instruments, and local (later online) multiplayer.

They started to falter in popularity due to lack in innovation (as bmah mentioned in #4) and also because of music labels hitting players with copyright notices when trying to share/spread their gameplay on youtube and elsewhere. You can't be a professional rhythm game player these days, because you can't monetize (most) of your content.
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Old 07-24-2020, 07:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

the industry milked it and it died.

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Old 07-24-2020, 09:14 AM   #8
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

That GH milking do be unfortunate tho
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Old 07-24-2020, 09:42 AM   #9
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

what makes many games fun is being able to play with other players, whether locally or online

this is lowkey why robeats is the most popular "rhythm" type game as it contains MMO aspects like missions that require to play with others and has a very solid multiplayer engine to begin with. even though the rhythm game aspect is muddled from traits like gear and currency, its what makes it inviting to complete strangers to the rhythm game scene, as collaborative missions inside the game allow for even new players to find enjoyment in working together to get a co-op high score, or to see who can get the highest score individually

yes being on roblox does help it too but there's like 5 or 6 major rhythm games on roblox that work just fine including SDVX and Beat Saber clones, but those games dont have multiplayer and are more niche environments than what robeats offers
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Old 07-24-2020, 09:58 AM   #10
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

i will be honest though
most people have very fond memories of guitar hero and rock band

it's just that rhythm games have taken a turn towards becoming simultaneous with fitness games, since fitness is more of a hot topic now and dance has always been a thing, so why not combine both? what this does is reduce the music element and focus on the fitness element more

just dance is a great game, it's just nobody really cares too much about the actual "rhythm" aspect as much as the actual dance moves
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Old 07-24-2020, 10:04 AM   #11
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

i feel like fitness rhythm was only really prevalent when motion controls were hot cakes. after just dance 2020 and the death of the wii and eventual 360 death i dont think they're gonna have nearly as much traction as they did in say, 2011
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Old 07-24-2020, 10:58 AM   #12
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

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i feel like fitness rhythm was only really prevalent when motion controls were hot cakes. after just dance 2020 and the death of the wii and eventual 360 death i dont think they're gonna have nearly as much traction as they did in say, 2011
True, Beat Saber is mostly popular nowadays is because of it tackling the virtual reality market, and gives the community the option to play custom songs/memes on a whim, making it gaining more exposure.
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Old 07-24-2020, 11:24 AM   #13
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

main reason is probably that people "don't know if they're allowed to do that" with songs lol... maybe there is something sacredness-breaking about game logic doing weird things with music... usually the "interaction" people have with music is a very subjective or meditative thing. or it involves dancing to a single, repeating pulse. so if u have to remember what things are "duplets" or "triplets" and so on with the music it kind of cuts the thing apart into larger and larger numbers, instead of being a single piece of cloth with the listener (lol

probably this is why it is popular amongst the people it is popular with too. "weird piano/chiptune music theory liking horny deviant meme pogchamp mashup gamer nerds" is basically all the molestations of purity that a person can get away with without offending a church or the law... lol. ofc there's an even greater unity with the thing after that, if u can see how it all fits together in a single cloth again... but that just make rhythm games have a sort of "esoteric" or "occult" feeling to it, im not sure there is a way around that
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Old 07-24-2020, 11:39 AM   #14
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

I think it's really important to point out the cost factor.

Most non-touch screen rhythm games require some sort of outside controller. Guitar Hero and Rockband controllers were relatively inexpensive and very easy to find at a local game store, as well as those flimsy soft DDR pads. Everything else was/is basically non-existent unless you specifically look for them online

Something like a IIDX or Soundvoltex controller is going to not only cost hundreds of dollars, but it also requires knowing where/how to get these things. You need to 1) have a good enough computer and 2) be able to set your computer up properly to play the game. Then there are shipping and customs fees on heavy equipment. Beat Saber requires a VR setup. Unfortunately this is just not accessible to some people, or they are not interested quite enough to make an actual investment into it.

Of course there are many free rhythm games as well, of course FFR, osu! and Love Live would be some examples. But for a large portion of rhythm games, you need to either be able to afford/find a controller or live close to an arcade that has that game. This leaves the pool of players smaller
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Old 07-24-2020, 02:13 PM   #15
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

"I think it's really important to point out the cost factor."

a marxist analysis of dance dance revolution
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Old 07-24-2020, 03:23 PM   #16
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

*dragonforce intensifies*
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Old 07-24-2020, 03:26 PM   #17
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"I think it's really important to point out the cost factor."

a marxist analysis of dance dance revolution
dance dance revolution is public property, komrade, no need pay to play

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Old 07-24-2020, 04:32 PM   #18
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*dragonforce intensifies*
I'm curious, did dragonforce become popular because of guitar hero or is it the other way around?
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Old 07-24-2020, 04:37 PM   #19
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Default Re: Rhythm Games, A Long-running Niche: A video essay?

In my opinion, it was much more of a late 2000's craze, peaking with Dance Dance Revolution 8th/SuperNOVA, and around the same time Guitar Hero 2 came out and made it mainstream. It was accessible because bars, arcades, movie theaters, and more all carried DDR machines because they sucked up quarters like nobody's business.

But there are multiple problems with the arcade games in general - it cost a lot of money to get good at them. Just learning how to get from Beginner to the very beginning of Heavy mode in DDR would take around $200 and probably 15-30 hours of game play time. On top of that, there are physical restrictions to it as well, since people only have so much stamina to work with, and songs get very draining which only allows people who are trying to get good at the game an hour or so a day they can play before exhaustion sets in.

There's a social stigma too - there's no way around it, but if you're good at rhythm games, most people think you're a dork. I've never once seen someone playing DDR and thought "Wow, that guy looks cool" from an outside perspective. It's a hobby that isn't exactly one you want to brag about on your tinder bio.

Another fact is that the games are simply hard, and that immediately turns people away from them. The coordination required for them even on Light difficulties are very hard, and a lot of people without any understanding of music will find it difficult to figure out how a beat works and how to follow it. Everyone who sees someone playing a difficult expert level song will immediately think "That's too hard for me, I'm just not going to even try". So even the skill floor to the games are incredibly high. There's no easy way to learn them without lots and lots of failure.

Guitar Hero managed to break a lot of this for a couple years, back when they were churning them out like it was the end of the world. It played music and songs that people recognized, it was "cool" because you were playing a guitar and not jumping around on a pad with arrows like a dork, and they laid out the song list to start people out with slow, easy songs instead of just throwing you a 300 song list and saying "go". It was magical, and there had never been an american release game that was so popular in the genre.

Unfortunately, the magic faded out around the time World Tour came around. The games were getting significantly harder, and they weren't bringing anything truly fresh to the table. You could play drums and sing in WT, but at that point people were burning out on it because they kept releasing too many of them, not to mention the peripherals for it were quite pricy and took up a lot of space. Additionally, because they were being released around the same time as the next gen consoles were, people were a lot less inclined to keep purchasing new guitars that adapted to their new consoles. It became expensive, and they just weren't fun anymore. There was a dedicated fanbase that were top tier, but most people had played them and enjoyed it at up to an intermediate level and just simply moved on to another genre.

Other games have a much better "pick up and put down" accessibility to them. Nearly all FPS are played in rounds, all which last around 20 minutes. MOBAs are by far the most dominate because of their competitive nature. MMO's are a niche now, as they faded out similarly due to dedication required to stay relevant, as well as WoW still being far and out the most played, a game that is over 16 years old.

Rhythm games just don't have the competitive and multiplayer appeal that all other genres do. It's entirely a single player experience, and it's all about what your personal best and what you can do to improve. You'll almost never find a rival who is equal skill to you, as unless you're top tier, one of you will surpass the other quickly.
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Old 07-24-2020, 10:03 PM   #20
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