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Measuring the Value of [game] Music

The following article was written by developer, blogger and general game industry guru Andy Moore originally posted over at his blog and replicated here with permission. If you like this, I highly recommend you subscribe to his RSS Feed

A lot of folks, especially in the Flash gaming market, will say that everyone just ignores and mutes the music in the games they play.

A simple question: How do you know this?

I (very) briefly touched on this subject in my previous SteamBirds: By The Numbers article (andthe Survival follow-up), but after some tweeting with IndieLoopGarden, I decided this could use its own post.

Opinions are cool and all

Look, I get that you personally like muting the music. I understand that perhaps you have ideas about people playing in the workplace, without headphones. Maybe the distracting music is a danger to you missing your bus stop. Maybe you’ve had some friends tell you that they mute games too.

But who are you to speak for “most people?

Whenever I hear these opinions, I get it. The people that dislike music in games usually do so for good reason in their personal lives, and I probably can’t sway them otherwise. They are loud, too; they complain vocally about it.  Just because you don’t see people stomping around complaining that there should be more music in a game doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it.

I remember way-back-when on the FlashGameLicense forums – I was asking around for a musician to help with one of my early games. I got into a debate on the forum – everyone was telling me to buy some shitty $50-100 pre-canned music, since no player listens anyway. I started to wonder: if you only put in shitty music, maybe that’s why people hate it?

Since my budget was forcing me that way anyway, I decided to test things out.

Metrics are Better

I’ve been using Playtomic in pretty much all of my games, and it records just about everythingsomeone can do in-game. One of the metrics I decided to watch was how frequently the mute button was pressed.

One of my key metrics is “percentage of players that have hit mute at least once in their play cycle.” This way, someone that pounds the mute button on and off again doesn’t throw my stats off. Sure, there are some problems with  my data collection:

  • Longer content games have a high chance of a mute button being pressed than shorter form games
  • People that briefly toggle music off and on again (say, for a phone call) get counted against me
  • Speaker volumes can be turned down without touching my stats
  • Laptops can be muted without touching my stats
  • I don’t account for mute button size or placement (some are in option menus, some are big on the menu menu, etc)
  • Some of my games have very small sample sizes, some have very large

But I believe I am (still to this day!) the only person collecting any data on music at all. I would love for someone else to jump on this train and collect more data!

Results speak for themselves

Percentage of players that have hit mute at least once in their play cycle:

  • 85%: My earlier, cheaper, and short-form games using pre-canned music costing no more than $100
  • 60%: I ordered a $200 track from a rapid-production-music house
  • 30%: Some awesome music from Roger Levy
  • 11%: RevShare project with custom tracks
  • 6%: The talented DannyB on a big RevShare

The stats got so low (6%?!?!?) that I thought perhaps my metrics were broken. They weren’t, I double checked everything.

Yes, people will “all mute your music,” if by all you mean 85%, and by music you mean the shittiest music you can get.

There are music fans out there. If you make your game sound really good, you might even run the chance of getting a few evangelists on your side.

Prove me wrong. Run your own stats, hopefully more properly done and more scientific than mine. Let me know what you come up with.

Looking for Music?

Want to step up the quality in your game? The best possible way to find good music is to get out there and meet people. Find a musician that is aligned with your values. If you can share a pint with them, you greatly increase your chances of a happy working relationship.

If you can’t make it out to GDC or other conferences, look up people in game-making-community forums, or check out websites like IndieLoopGarden. There’s solutions out there, and none of them have to be ultra-expensive.

(or you can always hire me, haha)


VG music as a standalone product

It is my utmost privilege and honour to welcome you to the first in hopefully a long line of blog posts about games, written by musicians.

This blog aims to whisk away any formal pretense stuffing up the rest of the website, letting you hear directly from (and interact with) some of the people behind the site who are involved with the indie game development scene.  

We will also delight in flagging up other useful news, info and resources both relating to music and games.

First and foremost  we are game and music fans. Sometimes this blog will  simply act as a space for us to get all excited about new developments in both industries and share that excitement with other like-minded folks.

So anyway, without further ado, here's my first post! I hope you will join me and my colleagues in the comments section afterwards for tea and biscuits :)  -Vince


VG music as a standalone product

In the UK music industry at least, I believe there is a stigma around video game music that does not exist around music for film and television. 

On March 12, 2007 Koji Kondo (Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda) received a G.A.N.G Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding work as a composer. His work has reached, and continues to reach millions, right across the globe. He has adapted his art for countless different mediums. For gamers, few living musicians are as widely regarded as having such a ‘legendary’ status.

In October 2011, I joined a packed auditorium in London's Hammersmith Apollo to attend a highly anticipated orchestral concert. Tickets were sold out literally days after they were released and perhaps for the first time in classical concert history since Video Games Live, there was not a single grey head in the house. They had come to see the Zelda 25th anniversary concert. When special guest Koji Kondo walked onto the stage and played 'Grandma's theme' from Windwaker on the piano the crowd went crazy!

Tell this story to most people and they will probably reply 'Koji- who?'. Walk into HMV and browse soundtracks section. Will you find a copy of the latest Super Mario game OST? Unlikely. Yet these are international, multi-million  selling games with a huge and loyal fan base, in many cases eclipsing that of the television and movie soundtracks that line the shelves instead. In spite of their large following, creators of game music remain largely unacknowledged in mainstream popular culture.

Is this because game music does not play as big a role as a movie soundtrack? I don't think so. For one thing there maybe music playing for the majority of a gaming experience which lasts for significantly more hours than a movie. Is it because the music is not as high quality? Again, I think not. Although game music started with humble bleeps and bloops modern AAA games now boast music scores comparable to Hollywood movies. Take franchises such as COD, Final Fantasy or Halo for example. Furthermore 8-bit music and retro music has since taken off as a musical scene in its own right (just ask Disasterpeace).

Are people simply less willing to listen to game music as a standalone album? I don't think so. Speaking from personal experience, if the music is good, I will become even more emotionally attached to it because of the length of time I spend listening to it. Of course not everyone is the same but I'm definitely not alone. The comments below are from a thread called "How huge are you on game music?" posted just earlier this month. 



I have an iPod that is filled almost exclusively with video game/movie soundtracks, so yea music is important.

MangetsuMidian said:

 Pretty much 90% of my computer HDD is animu/vidya music.

Lukewarmice said:

 Not only doi listen to it...I actually buy it which is more then most people do anymore.

Gadrastus said:

You want to know? I have the soundtrack for pretty much every game I have ever played. 


In Japan, game music has been available to buy in stores since the early days. Ok admittedly more and more record shops are getting shut down and its often very simple to buy soundtracks online. So I'm not arguing that the record shops should start lining their shelves with copies of Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi  (Southpeak Interactive, 2009). Only that perhaps culturally we have tended to neglect the value of video game music as a standalone product. Maybe because of its primitive 8BIT beginnings or maybe as part of a wider tendency for commentators (as well as developers) to think of video games as a one dimensional medium with inherently limited potential, bound to strict formal structures. With more and more people growing up with games, I wonder what the future holds.

What do you think? What's your favourite soundtrack? Do you have game music albums on your mp3 player? IS game music important to you? What are the attitudes toward game music in your country?



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