It has been an ongoing debate ever since the very first piece of licensed popular music found its way into a video game: should we rely more on original compositions, or should we be turning to the music industry to supply the necessary "oomph?"
For the longest time, I was on the original composition side and in many ways, I still am. Even though we only recently achieved a level of technology that allows for excellent unique creations, I still have great memories of older games, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night . Look what Konami did with so little! It was an amazing arrangement of emotional and engrossing tracks and given that, one can only imagine what composers could create for modern-day video games. I still hold to this but at the same time, and with the advent of the portable music explosion ('cough' iPod 'cough'), I find myself desiring licensed music in games. Now, before you rip into me like a monkey on a cupcake, just ask yourself this question: how many times have you been locked in an epic battle in some intense action title, thinking to yourself, "holy sh**, this would be awesome with 'insert music title here' playing in the background!" It's why we have the option of customized soundtracks in some games, and why many PC owners turn off the sound on their games and pump some of their favorite tunes.
I mean, a game like the upcoming Bayonetta , loaded down with attitude and panache, could really benefit from some bad-ass hard rock and metal tracks. Of course, I have complete faith in Platinum Games and I'm sure we'll get some fitting music that will accompany our butt-kicking, but even so… If there's one thing I've found to be true in this new generation, it's that sound plays a more important role than ever before. Granted, it may be more difficult to appeal to a wide variety of gamers if game designers decide to stick with a certain genre throughout an entire adventure. However, who's saying they need to do that? There's plenty of diversity in any music store you'll walk into, and there's likely something to fit any particular situation in a video game. And while I know I'm thinking of music I like in this scenario and I'm certain I'd hate the idea of being forced to listen to hip-hop throughout any game, I still think licensed music is great (to some extent). Let's face it: our awesome GTA experiences wouldn't be quite so memorable without the popular music on the radio.
I know sports games utilize licensed tracks almost exclusively but we don't hear it as much in other genres, and it may only be a matter of time… I would only ask that it not infringe on the creative talents of original composers for the industry. Yeah, I want my cake and I wanna eat it, too. So what? 😉