Hit TV shows seldom make for hit video games. "American Idol" has already been translated into the medium, and the game flopped.
So why does game publisher Konami think it can succeed with its own version of TV's top reality show?
It's the interaction. It's the judges. It's the songs. This winter's "Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol" for PlayStation 2 will support all three, allowing gamers to sing into a microphone and get their crooning rated by two of the show's judges.
Konami announced Wednesday (August 23) that its "Idol" will include video game versions of Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. "For anyone who wants to know what it's like to audition in front of me, now you're going to find out," Cowell said, according to a Konami press release.
Paula Abdul won't appear, though she'll be there in spirit. A cover of her song "Straight Up" will be among the 40 tracks players can sing to in the game. Also included will be covers of Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway," Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud," Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings," Bo Bice's "The Real Thing" and the Clay Aiken staple "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." Rounding out the track list are covers of songs such as Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" and the William Hung favorite, Ricky Martin's "She Bangs."
"Karaoke Revolution" games require players to sing along to cover versions of popular songs. The games typically depict a lone singer performing onstage. The crowd cheers, and lights and pyro flash, when the player's singing is at the right pitch. The effects stop and the boos rain when the singing clangs.
The previous game tied to the series, Codemasters' simply titled 2003 "American Idol," didn't get players singing at all. Instead, gamers had to manipulate a PS2 controller to get onscreen singers to belt it out as best they could.
Konami's "Idol" game will bring players through the series' signature stages, from audition venues to the finals. They can rise through the ranks of a solo-singing campaign or play with friends in sing-offs and duets. According to Konami, the game will also include video footage of performances from the past five seasons' winners.
The game supports Sony's EyeToy camera, which allows players to create a three-dimensional model of their head and get themselves onto the virtual big screen of "Idol" venues. Conceivably, players could also jerry-rig models of the show's actual contestants. Officially, none of them — from Clarkson to Hicks — are said to be included in the game as playable characters.
Also up in the air is the inclusion of the judges' voices, as Konami is promising only likenesses and artificially intelligent critiques that will pick apart players' performances.
While recognized for the successful "Metal Gear" and "Castlevania" series, Konami has also garnered a reputation in the last several years for being a leading maker of music games. The company's "Dance Dance Revolution" series has had multiple smashes around the world. The guitar-as-controller "Guitar Freaks" was a hit in Japan, and while still not released in the U.S., proved inspiration for last year's similar American hit "Guitar Hero." The company's karaoke games have largely gone unchallenged in the U.S. in recent years, though Sony is preparing to bring its European success "SingStar" to the U.S. this fall. Sony's game will use actual licensed songs and videos instead of Konami's cover-music material.
Efforts to make games from top TV shows have seen some notorious flops, like 2001's "Survivor" and this year's "24." But companies are still trying. "Law and Order" PC games have found fans, and Ubisoft has announced a "Lost" game for release next year (see "GameFile: 'Spore,' 'Lost' The Video Game, 'New Super Mario Brothers' & More"). But with the pedigree of the successful "Karaoke Revolution" series behind it, Konami has reason to expect that its version of the TV hit will become a game hit as well.