Microsoft is touting its upcoming game console, the Xbox 360, as a game console with media-sync extras. Microsoft won’t let the Xbox compete with Media Center PC platform; there’s no TV tuner, for instance, so apparently you’re supposed to spend another couple of grand on a Media Center PC. But the new game system will synchronize with your music devices, including the iPod.
iPod sync?! You heard that right. While Microsoft isn’t supporting AAC, you will be able to sync music from your iPod. (They claim they’re not touching AAC because of FairPlay encryption, though it doesn’t look like they’re supporting DRM-free AAC/MP4, either.) See Engadget/Joystiq’s Ballmer interview for more. As has been widely reported, this will allow you to use your own music in your games.
Death of soundtracks? So why would anyone be unhappy about Microsoft’s decision? I’ve talked to at least one leading game composer (won’t mention his name here) who mutes the sound playing games with lousy soundtracks; who wouldn’t? I have some fond memories of playing Bungie’s Marathon (you know, that other game, before Halo), and listening to Destroy All Monsters.
The problem here is, of course, that feature hasn’t been built into a system before. According to an anonymous tip received by CDM (see comments on yesterday’s comparison of console sound), Microsoft will force all game developers to allow any part of a game to be overidden by user soundtracks. That raises a lot of questions, and is an issue we’ll want to watch carefully. Could this encourage game developers to spend less on their soundtrack, or eliminate parts of the soundtrack entirely? Is this a judgment by Microsoft that soundtracks don’t matter? Or is it really not a big deal after all, given that a lot of major soundtracks have been for cross-platform games, and developers are likely to try to come up with scores that will keep you from having to turn on your own music?
Let us know what you think, as a gamer or composer (or both). Me? I’ll be busy playing the new Zelda and waiting for Revolution.