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These people mean well, they just don’t all seem to realize that what appeals to them is the same thing that is causing others to stare at the game with bewildered eyes. It isn’t because these observers are stupid American Gaijins either. They simply want to play something they find familiar and interesting, and I cannot blame them.

Unfortunately, it seems that DDR is in a “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t” situation. Keep it the way it is, and your fanbase won’t expand that much. Make it more American, however, and they just might lose a large part of the current fanbase, which may be too great a risk. I think it is a risk they should take however, by giving Konami America full reign over American DDR releases.

Actually, I thought this was already happening with the release of Extreme 2 on PS2, as well as some of the Xbox releases (someone can correct me on this if it is inaccurate). Yet there is also word of a new version called Supernova coming from Japan for a global release and featuring 200+ songs (after a hiatus of new arcade versions in Japan). Konami also released Beatmania for the first time in the US, and despite a nice controller, it seems to be a crippled and half assed version of the (apparently) supreme IIDX edition from Japan.

Just one guitar, put stars in his eyes

My point here? I have no f-ing clue what plan Konami has for the future of Bemani games. It seems that production of new versions has slowed down in recent years, American ports have been crummy, and no one is sure how to handle each series in different territories. There seems to be no unified, aggressive push for DDR like there was a while back. Instead they quietly release a new version here or there to a waiting fanbase. It is a base that is large enough to support quite a few websites and peripheral companies, but as the next generation ramps up I don’t think anyone is sure about where DDR stands. The series seems to have grown stale and complacent, while smaller competitors like In The Groove are attempting to find some market share with new modes, more songs, and a greater variety of songs (Korean hip hop, Latin American tunes, etc.). DDR is no longer the sole game in town, and it doesn’t look as if Konami is very much bothered by it.

This of course, just makes it all the easier for the folks over at Harmonix, who with one guitar, has blown this gamer – and many others – away.

Next: The second and final section of this series looks at Guitar Hero, and how Harmonix has found the perfect formula for mainstream music game success.

3 Comments

  1. Dom said on June 18, 2006:

    hey Christian, Dom here

    Interesting take on the whole DDR thing.

    The problem with raves is that newbies are far too intimidated to step up and learn during the event, and that DDR takes tons of practice to get to a usable level. In my experience, even if they were ecstatic about the rave and the game, they still don’t get much better unless they play the game on a regular basis, which not a lot of them get to do unfortunately. The ones that do, however, come back time and time again and become masters themselves.

    Think instead if the game were Street Fighter or Soul Caliber: Yes, people would love to jump in or think the game is excellent, but they are still going to get beaten by the more experienced players that have logged more hours.

    As for being a niche game, HELL yes, I couldn’t agree more. DDR is about as niche as you can get, considering to even play the game you need a nice set of pads, the game, and all the songs unlocked (or a nice chunk of quarters and no fear of practicing in front of others)

    Fecitious as it sounds, while one fun thing about DDR is playing it, another playing it for a crowd. DDR is fun alone, but the game becomes exponentially more fun and realized when you are being watched, and is truly what DDR is all about. DDR succeeds as a spectator sport in the way that no other game has, with perhaps guitar hero as a sole exception.

    Comparing DDR music and guitar hero music is, I think, a fruitless exercise.

    DDR music, a mix of crazy japanese, english, and god-knows-what is designed to do one thing and one thing only: Be fast paced, furious, weird, and good to dance to. And, let’s be serious, by dance I mean stomp. It’s excellent, fun stomping music if there is such a thing.

    A song like Break Down or Max 300, which sounds to both player and observer like a japanese trainwreck on crack, is not the kind of thing you play in your car or your iPod. It’s silly. It’s the kind of thing you play to make a DDR player do insane things on a pad and kill themselves with.

    DDR music doesn’t need to be Americanized to be good stomping music. Konami’s attempts, with a few noteable exceptions, of bringing American music to DDR have been miserable, worthless additions to the game. (Brittney spears? BRITTNEY SPEARS? You couldn’t pay me to dance to that.)

    I don’t know who Naoki and Captain Jack are, nor do I care to purchase their music or join their fan clubs.

    The fact is that most American music which might make good candidates for DDR songs are just too slow to even have good steps or be challenging.

    American music is listening music, not stomping music – which is exactly why it works so well for Guitar Hero. Guitar hero is realized best when the people watching think that the person with the guitar controller is really, actually, playing a song that they love. That stops and grabs people’s attention in the same way that seeing someone do Max300 heavy, double, stealth, backwards, blindfolded, and handcuffed does.

    If Konami wants to revive the DDR series, they need some more weirdass japanese techno-on-crack type of songs that are fun to dance to. Is it niche? You bet your ass it’s niche, but DDR is one of those games, like Katamari Damacy, that operates without the need for precedent.

  2. Christian said on June 19, 2006:

    Good comments from a real DDR player. Excellent.

    Being someone knowledgable of the fighting game community, I agree with your comparison. I also feel that one of the reasons that fighters have fallen into their own little corner of the world is due to the community. They are secluded, and far too harcore for anyone to keep pace with. Its not enough to get a port of a game; if it isn’t 100% perfect they’ll go import the game so they can play it on a stick they built themselves with Sanwa buttons and switches. That’s just silly.

    DDR is much the same way, like you said; good pads, sometimes import copies. That’s a tall order for a lot of people. The difference is, it doesn’t have to be this way. DDR does not have to be niche. The fans just want it that way, and as long as that mindset is in place, it can’t move forward.

    Also, I don’t agree with the idea that American music is not appropriate. There is tons of European and American techno that could be used. Just look at Harmonix’s own Frequency for a taste of some of it. I hear plenty of fast rock songs that could be put in the game. A lot of DDR clones are popular elsewhere in the world for their use of Latino music. There’s a whole world out there, and the fact that Konami insists on using music from a few corners of it doens’t mean that this is the way it should be.

    Also, I don’t get your point about playing DDR with a crowd. I don’t think I ever discussed it in a single player sense. Of course its better in a crowd. The point I’m trying to make with this series of articles is that there is even better things to do in front of a crowd. Unless you are a DDR fan in the first place, there isn’t that much fun watching someone stomp to the beat. Its more of an….odd curiousity more than anyhting.

    I was really nervous about doing this series of articles, for fear of pissing people off and that I may not get my point across very well. I simply believe that

    1) DDR isn’t going forward.

    2) This can be changed. An even bigger Amerian audience can be attracted to dance games, if only Konami and the fans would break out of the niche.

    3) I believe that Guitar Hero and other games are doing a better job of capturing what the genre is about than DDR does. Bemani doesn’t look to have much of a say in the future of this genre.

    Tomorrow (today?) is part 2. Maybe that will clarify things.

    You have my eternal gratiude for taking time to read this article.

    -Christian

  3. Christian said on June 19, 2006:

    Congratulations to anyone who can decipher the above post. I need to stop writing things on the ‘net when I’m half awake. Makes me look like more of a retard than I actually am.

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