Rockstar Games and Amazon.com make sweet music together.
by YVG Staff
When Elvis Costello penned the lyric "radio is a sound salvation" in his seminal 1978 hit "Radio, Radio," he was actually attacking the airwaves. Thirty years later, though, a video game radio might very well offer salvation to a music industry struggling to make ends meet.
In a partnership bound to shake, rattle and roll both the music biz and interactive entertainment, Rockstar Games and Amazon have teamed up to create an ambitious new model for digital music distribution. Built exclusively for the upcoming video game blockbuster Grand Theft Auto IV, it allows players to buy real-world MP3s of tracks heard over the game's numerous radio stations in a very seamless manner. (Initially, this service will only be available in the U.S.)
Advertised throughout Liberty City, the cheekily-named "ZiT" technology is built into the game's mobile phone interface system. As players cruise around the world listening to the in-game radio, they can at any point 'mark' a song by opening their phone and dialing the number ZIT-555-0100. Gamers will then receive a text message with the song and artist names, and if they're registered at the forthcoming Rockstar Games Social Club community site, they'll find an e-mail waiting in their inbox with a direct link to a custom playlist on Amazon.com. All songs tagged "ZiT" will be stored here, available for preview and purchase at Amazon's going rate of $.89-$.99 per track. Best of all, those MP3s are free of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) limitations imposed on files downloaded through Apple's iTunes store and thus can be imported into any computer or digital device with no constraints.
Needless to say, record execs are thrilled at the prospect of using GTA IV's radio to reach millions of ears and, in turn, wallets.
"Music has long played an integral part of the game playing experience," said Ronn Werre, EVP, EMI Music's Sales, Licensing and Synchronization unit. "We think giving players the ability to identify and buy their favorite tracks from Grand Theft Auto IV's popular radio stations is a great new music discovery tool for fans and an innovative new revenue stream for artists."
The recent success of downloadable music in other games gives credence to ZiT's ambitious dreams. In a mere three months, owners of MTV Games' hit music game Rock Band have downloaded over 6 million songs. At roughly $2 apiece, that's a hefty source of post-launch revenue.
None of those tracks, however, are accessible outside the game, and that's where GTA IV's model really takes off. Rockstar has boldly proclaimed that GTA IV's soundtrack is "the biggest in the history of entertainment," and with over 150 tracks, we're not prone to argue. In addition to high-profile tunes from popular artists, the developers are aiming for music geeks by handpicking rare, hard-to-find songs such as Electrick Funk's 12-inch treasure "On A Journey" and Elton John's "Street Kids" off his relatively unheralded Rock of the Westies. Some artists have even contributed brand new songs written exclusively for the game, including "Vagabond (Liberty City Mix)" by the Greenskeepers and "War is Necessary" from iconic rapper Nas.
As the April 29th street date approaches, look for more tracks to be revealed. In the meantime, be sure to check out the latest GTA IV trailers right here on Yahoo! Games.
Posted: 27 Mar 2008