Retro Monday – “Singstar”

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Title: “Singstar

Developer: SCE London

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Released: May 2004

Singstar” was a game from a now by-gone age of party games. It was one of the first games that popularized the system of using a peripheral device to sucker people in and make proprietary tech you had to buy to play. It beat “Guitar Hero” by a year, but both games are pretty much the same set up. Nintendo technically was the first in the peripheral department but as the Virtual Boy made people physically ill its best glide over it. The way “Singstar” worked was the same as “Guiter Hero”. You by the game of your choice, and the peripheral of course, and play. That all changed in to 2012 when the game was made free-to-play through the Playstation Network and the ability to use the Playstation Eye camera as a microphone was added making the peripheral mics not necessary. A far swing from how the series started in 2004.

Singstar”, when it was first released, was as close to a karaoke home game as you could get without getting an actual karaoke machine. Back then, they where the staple of pubs and pretty expensive as one-off buys go. Now karaoke bars are everywhere and really popular. I think Sony must have seen it coming. They are from the karaoke loving Japan after all.

The game used a branded microphone (two were bundled with the early issues of the series) to measure the pitch players where singing at and matched it with the pitch they were meant to be singing at and scored accordingly. The closer to the pitch you where, the more points you got. The words didn’t matter in the early games as there was no speech recognition back then. You could just hum into the mics and still score big. That was probability good because the level of inebriation needed to sing in front of others makes word difficult to see, let alone say or even sing.

As you may have guessed, me being the deep and throaty voiced hulk of a man that I am not suited for singing. But that didn’t matter because I was not the target audience. My sister was. Advertising for the game sat itself squarely for everyone but the stereotypical twichy eyed, frothing at the mouth ‘hardcore’ gamer. It aimed itself for women and it worked. Women, especially considering the game would be played only in front of only friends or passing burglars and in the comfort of their own home, bought the game by the dozen. Women like singing apparently. A least that is how it worked in my family and experience. They would do the singing, I would do the drinking. It was a copacetic agreement. The time I was made to sing I’d just get angry and my inability to sing the pop song of the time and do something else.

The first few games had song rosters that were filled with karaoke classics and party favourites. That was good as there was no DLC or online market where you cold buy more so they had to put the big guns front and centre. But after a while the well started to dry up. This is when the ‘pop songs of the time’ got involved. But it was always just additional disks you had to wait to come out and then buy so the process of getting new songs was a long process.

Then the PS3 came out with its Playstation Network. Like “Guitar Hero”, an online store was set up to sell more songs and to keep the ‘songs of the time’ list updated. You still had to get games and the peripheral mics though. It all was going well for the series.

There where many games and many iterations, like an “80’s” game and a “rock” game. The release schedule got so complicated that some games were released in some countries and not others. It always seemed popular in the EU, where most of the iterations were released.

As iterations go, there are two that stand out. One was “Singstar Dance”. As some of you may guess, it was the Singstar version of “Just Dance”. To track your dancing, players would use the Playstation Move motion controller, yet more peripherals, in the same way as players use the Wii controller. The other notable iteration was “Singstar +Guitar”. You can guess what that was copying off. They even let people use ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘Rock Band’ guitar controllers so for once, no new peripheral was needed to play. Least it was a step.

But over time, the popularity of the series dwindled in the same way Guitar Hero and Rock Band fell out of the public eye. Rock Band slowed to a stop and Guitar Hero closed shop but Singstar kept going. The freed the game through the PSN network and it worked. It has its marked and they keep it going. There is even a new iteration in development. Not bad for a game that I don’t like. Buy hey, I’m not my sister.

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