CDM has received several anonymous reports about the Music Player feature of Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox 360. In short, Microsoft’s new custom music feature is so aggressive, you can elect never to hear the music written for your game.

Xbox Player is On All the Time

The Music Player plays “gamer-initiated music,” streaming from a device (portable/PC) or loaded onto the Xbox hard drive (WMA/MP3), during game play. That much isn’t new; previous Xbox consoles and games like The Sims have long had this feature. (In fact, the non-linear nature of The Sims made it a perfect match.)

What is new, according to our reports, is that the Xbox 360’s player is on all the time. Hit play and your game, any game, is forced to turn off its soundtrack and defer to yours. Lots of Xbox games didn’t support this feature, so Microsoft’s message to game developers is simple: either kill the music, or get out. Agree to mute everything in your game any time the user hits play, or you won’t be certified.

Bring Back Game Music

At a time when game composers are trying to get game developers to see game music as an art form, this is a disaster. Sure, a user who cares about music will give the score a chance before muting it. But they may find there’s nothing to hear, because the message to game developers is that music doesn’t matter. Sound effects, graphics? Integral to game play. Music? Incidental; turn it off at will. Imagine if they did this with graphics: there’s no feature in Xbox 360 for turning off ugly character designs. (And believe me, I’ve seen a few games where I wish I could!.) Giving users control where it makes sense is one thing; forcing developers to shut off the soundtracks is another.

Bottom line: why is Microsoft touting the ability to play MP3s, something I can (and do) do all day on my PC, rather than focusing on some of the great new soundtracks in today’s games? Hard-core gamers look for ways of playing game music in their main library, not the other way around. Microsoft should push developers to turn great scores on, not turn all music off.

And to developers: would we sometimes like to turn your music off? Absolutely. Give us a reason to keep it on.

  • Guest

    Or, you could look at it this way: this will encourage the game companies to actually start making better music that people will be more apt to listen to, while, at the same time, letting the user have more freedom in how they enjoy the games they play on the system.

  • admin

    I would hope so. (see yesterday's original story) And I'm not necessarily one for wall-to-wall music in games. But I'm skeptical of the game industry, and I can see why game music creators are upset: this is a clear message that game scores are secondary.

    I'd love to see scores from game houses that try to KEEP players tuned in, absolutely. And I could even see a feature like this ultimately being a good thing. But for the time being, telling developers you won't certify their games unless this is on, and touting user library playback during gaming as a major feature of the Xbox 360, does NOT send a message that games should have great scores.

    Imagine if the same were true of movies. Well, okay, I guess you'd have Pink Floyd and Wizard of Oz. So the bottom line is, would MGM still have included Somewhere over the Rainbow? Let's hope so.

    Not trying to preach, but I am getting reports that at least make me understand why those initial comments were so upset.


  • Guest

    Slow news day, huh Peter?

  • Guest

    The bottom line I still see is that the end-user gets things their way which I think is a very good thing – After paying upwards of $50 for a game and god knows how much for the game system itself – I like that they're thinking of giving me a bit more control over my stuff.

    You write: …telling developers you won't certify their games unless this is on, and touting user library playback during gaming as a major feature of the Xbox 360, does NOT send a message that games should have great scores.

    Or, perhaps they're telling developers that they're tired of the crap music (for the most part) that they've been putting in their games.

    As for movies – yeah, I'd love it if I didn't have to hear Blink 182 or whatever new pop-music flavor of the moment's music during every new movie. Though, at the same time – A bit of credit should be given to the movie industry – more often they at least give it a shot and try to put decent/original/interesting music into their product. I can't say the same thing for most games.

    Don't get me wrong – I have sympathy for the game designers and, in particular, the soundtrackers – I'm a musician myself, but as such, I recognize that there's so much crappy music that gets thrown into games, seemingly just as filler. Look at Halo as an example – there's a game where they tried to do something original with the score, but in the end came up with something that's pretty mediocre – I think if they'd had a little more pressure they might have come up with something a lot more listenable. And now, because I can't use my own soundtrack, I'm forced to turn the audio down on my TV and listen to my stereo instead – and now I'm not just missing the music but also all of the other sound.

    I sound like I’m whining, but really, I think I’m just trying to point out: Here’s a big corporation with a product that they control very tightly and for once they’re giving the user/buyer an open-ended option. This is rare. This is a good thing. We should support this.

  • Guest

    Seems like a great feature. Game music is usually annoying and I've never heard any that is interesting.

  • Guest

    The music on games is usually digital crap made by geeks no musicians. If there aren't
    human fingers on the strings and keys and hands on the sticks I don't want the noise in my head

  • Indicator

    I don't mean to preach either, but if you truly believe that most music in games is "digital crap" and "usually annoying" you clearly aren't listening to or playing very many games. Seek out some soundtracks at from the likes of Jespyr Kyd, Jack Wall, Tim Larkin, Harry Gregson-Williams, Tommy Tallarico…etc. The days of crappy game soundtracks are over – if you're actually willing to make an effort to listen to the ones that have made it so…

  • admin

    No, I think that's right. All digital music is crap. Why, I certainly wouldn't want to . . . create . . . digital . . . music . . . or name a site something like that. 😉

    Seriously, though, these guys DO absolutely craft this stuff with their bare hands; Kyd's got an amazing studio loaded with analog gear any reader here would love. I'm willing to entertain arguments, though, on why Microsoft's feature could be good for music — and for those engaging in INTELLIGENT debate, thank you. I really DO enjoy people disagreeing, if they're articulate, and we have many readers here who are. Thanks.

  • Indicator
  • Indicator

    You want fingers on strings, hands on sticks and keys? How about voices, horns, violins, guitars, as well as synths and samplers?

    Jack Wall, with a symphony orchestra, working on "game music"

    Halo 2 Soundtrack, including songs by Hoobastank and Incubus:

    Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – Soundtrack by Amon Tobin

    So, please…continue to TRY to pigeonhole game music…

  • Guest

    If the music was all great, we'll leave it on – but frankly, most are just shabby promo deals from record labels to push certain artists – why are all 'extreme' games filled with ALL FILLER songs from neue-metal bands that are crap? Because some record label gave them money to put it in there without any regard to the quality of the songs. The control has always been there, I can always turn off the sound and crank up my stereo, MS is just hoping you won't even bother with a stereo.

    But if the soundtrack is fun and decent like most of GTA's – we're cool with not bringing our own but if you're talking filler metal crap – we are definitely cranking on our tunes!

  • Indicator

    I can't agree more. I rarely play games that use popular/licensed music for the soundtrack. Or if they give me the option, I'll gladly take the more "vanilla" flavored filler soundtrack over the licensed part (I think SSX3 did this).

    Though "extreme" games are certainly popular, they are by no means the alpha and omega of gaming, and there are plenty of 100% original scores that don't fall into the Neu-Metal genre or anywhere near it. Those games are worth checking out, the developers are worth supporting, and the music is worth making the effort to listen to!

  • Guest

    Thank GOD!!!! As a parent one of the most annoying things about kids' constant gaming is the damn "music." A single game may be played in my house for 12 hrs/day, for weeks on end. No music, no matter how good, deserves that much airtime.


  • admin

    I feel your pain, but it won't mute the music; it'll just replace it with their playlist. (Hopefully you've inspired their musical tastes, but if not, you'd better get them headphones. Or soundproof the den and lock them in.)

  • Guest

    I'd assumed that if one could replace the soundtrack with one's own music, one could also opt to turn it off entirely.

  • Guest

    truly the most obnoxious feature of games is the incessant fake music.

    especially when each start up goes back to the beginning of a certain track.

    i hope this is true and i look forward to using/abusing this feature.


  • chock

    You've always been able to turn music off in games. It's in the TRCs for all consoles. A game can't be released unless you can mute the music completely. If you don't like your repetitive kid's games, or the nu-metal or hiphop in generic racer x, or just want to listen to your own music from CD, you've got the option and always have had it.

    The problem with MS' decision here is double edged; Firstly, you can even do it on games that involve music as a gameplay element – Rez, Singstar, Donkey Konga and all dancing games would be rendered unplayable, were they to be available on the 360. Games that rely on music to create atmosphere (like film scores) will be handicapped. Resident Evil with a Britney background? HalfLife 2 with a 50 Cent score?

    Secondly it shows a lack of appreciation for soundtrack design. If the platform provider has such a low opinion of game music, so will publishers, then the devs… think music is poor now? wait until no money is spent on them at all, and the consequent knock on effect for sound effect and ambience design.

    Still, look on the brightside, they'll be crap, but they'll be in surround with 320 hardware accelerated channels. Excellent! 😉

  • Guest

    I think people are forgetting the main point here.. If Microsoft looks at game music as though it were an afterthought, something that can be erased, then the industry wont be encouraged to produce better music.

  • Guest

    GTA isn't game music, it's a licensed group of songs. It doesn't take tons of skill to pick a bunch of 80's or rap tunes. Well done game music is as much part of a game as the plot or the textures. However, if all you ever play are sports or driving games I can see how you'd have a narrow point of view.

  • Guest

    Considering the state of pop music today it doesn't surprise me that most end users can't see the value of good music. After all, when people think someone like 50 cent has talent you know the world of music has gone to the dogs.

  • Guest

    I have a question. How the hell is MS going to deal with games that use interactive and/or scripted music? How the hell is that supposed to work with user soundtracks? Dumbest move ever.

  • Guest

    …..I'd like to hear something from MS about this officially. This sort of 'feature' will only work with certain types of games. This sounds like someone in Marketing has opened their mouth without consulting the dev teams or thinking of the consequences

  • wezelboy

    Anytime you give the gamer more control over their gaming environment with less hassle it is a good thing.

    Almost all games provide a way to mute the soundtrack- bemani games being a notable exception. MS is mearly providing the gamer with a simple way to replace the soundtrack with their own without having to go fiddle in some options menu. What's wrong with that?

    Forcing developers to integrate with the media player could actually open up possibilities for game scores where scores become more about the game than about the music and the process becomes more about dynamic design than static composition.

    Even bemani games would benefit from tighter integration. What if you could play DDR to songs on your playlist? (There are already ways to do this, but they aren't as effortless as a console gamer would like) That would be awesome!

    Even as someone who cherishes an excellent music experience in a game, I really cannot see anything wrong with this.


  • Guest

    I don't see what the big deal is. Without this feature, you could just mute your TV and play cds or mp3s from your cd player or computer. All microsoft is doing is trying to give people to option of using the 360 to play music instead of having to use some other device.

  • After logging over 500 hours on Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball 1, there would have been no way in hell I could have tolerated even 2 hours with the choices of music they supplied with the game. If I am going to make my playing experience pleasurable, then I will want to put my own music in.

    I am not saying destroy all game soundtracks. One of my favourite soundtracks of all time is Langrisser 1 and 2. But if I had to count the number of games that had a noteworthy soundtrack, I might be hard press to use all my fingers. So, yea, when DOAXvB 2 comes out, I am sure to have my special season mix ready again!