Interviews// We Sing Rock!

Posted 21 Oct 2011 14:33 by
We Sing has become one of the premier party games on Nintendoís Wii, and its success is partly down to two things - the ease, accessibility and sheer fun of the karaoke title, and the surprising lack of competition in the space.

As the Wii enters its twilight days in favour of a new console, the future is also uncertain for a series that has made its bread and butter on the Ďblue oceaní audience that Nintendo built. I had a chat with Senior Producer Kevin Leathers as Nordic Games prepares to launch We Sing Rock.

SPOnG: What was your process behind picking the songs that went into the game?

Kevin Leathers: A lot of argument! Thatís the main one [laughs]. Itís a case of we look at what we want from the game. For the Rock one we looked at all the different genres of rock music - obviously there isnít one single genre there. We also looked at the different decades as well, from the 1960s onwards.

We took a huge list of what we thought was interesting, got down from about 300 songs to 100... still yelling at each other at this stage... Once we get it down to a reasonable amount, we send it off to the music labels and we take it from there, basically.

SPOnG: Did you have any particular problems with getting the songs you wanted?

Kevin Leathers: Not a huge amount, no. You encounter a few issues sometimes with licensing and the complexities of it. But generally, things have run pretty smoothly.

SPOnG: Were there any choices of yours that didnít make the cut?

Kevin Leathers: No, I got most of the songs I wanted in there. I had to argue a lot for 30 Seconds to Mars. Iím not sure why, but I had to fight for that one to stay in there. But thereís quite a few songs on there that I quite enjoy. Iím happy.

SPOnG: 30 Seconds to Mars? Is that your favourite band then?

Kevin Leathers: Yeah, 30 Seconds to Mars, My Chemical Romance... things like that are right up my street personally.

SPOnG: It seems that you guys have tapped into a market that no other developer really seems to have capitalised on with the Wii...

Kevin Leathers: I think itís because of the fact that... well, the first game had four players at the same time, and weíve listened to what people want from previous versions and try to incorporate that into future releases as well. People said they wanted genre-specific titles and not general compilations, for example, so we went in that direction.

We tried artist-specific games with We Sing Robbie Williams, and weíve just tried to experiment as much as possible. I think thatís what has made us last this long in the market. Weíre on the seventh version of the game now, so we seem to be doing really well.

SPOnG: Are you surprised that there isnít much in the way of competition in this space? It seems like the perfect kind of game genre for the Wii audience.

Kevin Leathers: There was a fair amount of competition when we first started, with We Sing and We Sing Encore. There was U-Sing and similar sort of products. They seem to have fallen to the wayside these days. I think they were probably too worried about trying to do too much with what they had. I donít think they were expecting millions and millions of sales, so have probably decided not to carry on because of that.

We seem to have hit a stride with We Sing though, and it still seems to be going quite well for us. Weíre very proud of it - especially with UK Hits, that came out a few weeks ago. Our games seem to have gone down a storm.

SPOnG: Would you say then, that We Sing is kind of like the Ďofficialí karaoke game for the Wii platform?

Kevin Leathers: [Laughs] I want to say Ďyesí! I think weíve become Ďtheí singing game on the Wii, to be fair. Hopefully weíll keep that momentum going for as long as possible, really.

SPOnG: What other kinds of genres are you looking into at the moment for the future? Is that something you can talk about?

Kevin Leathers: Unfortunately I canít go into any great detail at the moment. We did announce We Sing Pop at E3 this year, which was planned for a Christmas release but has since shifted. That will be our next game, however there are more in the pipeline as well. But I canít tell you any more about that, sorry.

SPOnG: We Sing has made a home on Nintendoís Wii. Are you thinking of looking to other consoles at all?

Kevin Leathers: Again, I canít mention anything about that at the moment.

SPOnG: Is it something that would be at least interesting to move towards, from your perspective, given that Sony arguably kick-started karaoke console games with SingStar on the PlayStation?

Kevin Leathers: Itís always something weíre looking into. Weíre not discounting anything, whether it be in features or platforms. Itís more about seeing where the market is available and if it will work. You could do a karaoke game on the 3DS for example, but thereís not really a market for that. Itís a handheld as well, so it wouldnít really make sense. If thereís a gap in the market, weíll think about going for it.

SPOnG: You guys have found success in We Sing, but thereís been a bit of a decline in the last year or two for music-based games in general. Whatís your take on the state of that side of the market?

Kevin Leathers: I think when people talk about music games, itís very easy to speak too broadly. Youíve got different areas of music game - instrument-based ones like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, dancing ones like Just Dance, music karaoke, and of course you have the button-bashing rhythm games.

Itís hard to say. Obviously Guitar Hero and Rock Band have reached quite a saturation point, where you have too many versions for people to keep up with. I personally think dancing games have a real problem with that as well. With singing games, however, I always see it as an evergreen sort of thing. There are always points where youíre at a party and if youíve had too much to drink you just feel the need to just start wailing at the top of your lungs because your favourite songís playing on the stereo.

Thereís very much a natural party feeling there - everyone knows what you do with a singing game, you pick up a mic and start blaring as loud as you can into it. I think itís that kind of accessibility - as long as it remains fun, easy to get into and has nice and simple gameplay, people will always want to play it. I think thatís what some people forget - it has to be fun at the end of the day. You can have a competitive element, but if itís not fun nobodyís going to want to play it in the long-term.

SPOnG: Nintendoís working on the Wii U system at the moment. Have you had a chance to look at it yet?

Kevin Leathers: I canít go into too much detail regarding the Wii U at the moment, obviously. Itís very hush hush at Nintendo. But like I said, weíre always looking for new things, and the Wii U does have some unique features to it. The tablet, for example, could be an interesting thing to use. We are looking into it, and hopefully weíll be able to speak about it more at a later date.

SPOnG: Do you think the tablet in the Wii U controller would be something that could push the karaoke genre forward? Japanese karaoke bars have those little touchscreen pads, where you can search directly for music and select tracks. Would that be something that would interest you?

Kevin Leathers: Potentially, yeah. The tablet seems to be a quite nifty piece of kit. But thereís potential not just in the tablet, but a lot of the other Wii U features too, that offers a springboard to shake up the karaoke genre as a whole. It will be interesting to see what Nintendo come up with regarding that, and how developers can work with it. Thatís what weíll be looking at, for sure.

SPOnG: Thank you for your time.

Kevin Leathers: No worries, thanks.

We Sing Rock will be released on the Wii on the 30th October.

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