The new game Def Jam Rapstar from Konami and 4mm Games isn’t just a hip hop karaoke game or a challenging performance simulator like Rock Band 3. It’s a social media platform for building connections, promoting yourself, speaking your mind and maybe (just maybe) becoming an actual rap star.
We were given a behind-close-doors tour of the game by representatives from Konami, 4mm Games and Def Jam Enterprises, and we learned most of the details about the core music game play and the social media “metagame” that’s attached.
The Music Game
The game itself is similar to other karaoke games; you pick up a microphone and rap along with the track you’ve selected, and the game grades you on lyrical accuracy, timing and other musical factors.
Songs are presented with their music videos, profanity-free, though you’re free to use the harsh language from the original recordings if you want — it won’t affect your score.
You can even play in Duet mode, bringing your friends in to perform different parts in a song with multiple performers. Konami will offer new songs for download weekly, starting on day one.
There are several other modes, but the most unique and exciting is the Freestyle mode. We’ll talk about that alongside the game’s social media features.
The Ambitious Social Features
The social features of the game are tied primarily to the Freestyle mode, which you can use to rap on top of original beats and samples provided by Konami. As you lay down your audio track, the game uses your game console’s camera (the PlayStation Eye, the Xbox Live Vision Camera, and probably Microsoft Kinect) to record your performance on video.
You can edit the video afterwards, throwing in special effects and graphics, then post it to Def Jam Rapstar’s online community.
Links to videos and other updates are sharable on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, but it’s not just about socializing. A whole game is built around a system of rap “battles” between users who upload video challenges to one another. Winners of battles (and MCs who accomplish other objectives) gain badges similar to the Xbox 360’s achievements.
All the profiles, news feeds and videos from Rapstar’s community are viewable by anyone on the web whether they have a game console or a copy of the game or not.
You can join crews, find followers and fans, or even strike up rivalries — either by challenging someone to battles frequently, or by getting kicked out of your crew. That last one will make you a rival to everyone in the old crew.
There are even roles for people who don’t rap. Promoters have their own metagame; they gain badges for using social media to spread the word about their favorite artists.
Becoming a Real Rap Star
Konami, 4mm and Def Jam Enterprises see the game as a breeding ground for new talent, and they’ve designed the Freestyle mode and the online tools with artists’ self-promotion and expression in mind.
They’ll cherry pick the finest talent — rappers who stir up vast armies of fans with superior lyricism, timing and pitch — and put them in professional production studios to create featured content for the network.
That would seem to fit with the hip hop ethos of coming from nowhere to conquer the whole world.
The game will launch on the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 with at least 40 songs and videos from artists like Dr. Dre, 2 Pac, 50 Cent, Ice Cube and more this October 5 in North America and November 2 in Europe.
Despite the bungled launch and short hiatus, Twitter Places is back in action. The feature has huge implications for the geo-location space and the location-sharing movement.
Places is a big improvement on Twitter’s previous geo-location offering, which was never widely adopted or embraced by the majority of users. Whereas before users had to adjust their settings and agree to posting every single tweet with their geo-coordinates, now Twitterers are presented with an elegant way to attach a place to their tweet, one tweet at a time.
Right now Places is a Twitter web and mobile experience only, but soon developers will integrate the Places API into their applications and services. Only then will we see Twitter Places reach its full potential. If Twitter can fix the issues crippling the service, then Places has the power to turn location-sharing into a mainstream behavior and significantly boost interest in applications likeFoursquare — not to mention the monetization potential of location-based ads.
1. Location-Sharing to Become Mainstream
As trendy and hip as Foursquare may be, it’s still only reaching a small subset of the online population. WhileFacebook — due to its size and reach — is the most mainstream of the social networks, Twitter might have the best chance at making location-sharing a common behavior.
Twitter is still the primary purveyor of real-time information and news, and location needs real-time visibility to thrive. Location-sharing amongst friends is certainly well suited for Facebook’s purposes, but the value of location supersedes knowing where your friends are.
Just two years ago, Twitter and its 140 character updates seemed silly, if not absurd. Now everyone from all walks of life including athletes, politicians, celebrities and media are tweeting. Location-sharing — via applications that use geo-location to tie locations to places for the purpose of letting users broadcast where they are — is prime for a breakout moment. Twitter can help take it there.
The tweet has proved to be a powerful and revolutionary way to communicate and spread information. Add location, in the form of places, to these messages and we could see a surge of interest.
Places add context to tweets, which means that breaking news — whether it be related to a natural disaster, event, conference or other situation unfolding in real-time — flowing out in the form of tweets can be localized for further value. It’s this context that will finally help location-sharing holdouts understand why location matters and how they could benefit.
2. Boost Interest in Geo-location Apps
Given that Places integrates with both services, users of Foursquare and Gowalla have double the incentive to continue updating their friends on their whereabouts. Checkins from either service are tied to places on Twitter, which means those updates get sucked into the Twitter Place feeds/streams.
Checkins will also have broader reach on Twitter via the Twitter Place page, which means more exposure for Foursquare and Gowalla. More exposure will translate into more users who checkin more often, and so on, and so forth.
Plus, as location-sharing becomes more accepted, users will begin to appreciate the added values that Gowalla and Foursquare bring to the table. Saving money — whether that be at Starbucks, Domino’s or Sports Authority — is something that never gets old.
3. Promoted Places
With Places, Twitter has an opportunity to serve up highly targeted advertisements in the form of Promoted Tweets.
Ads could appear atop the Places tweet stream — a.k.a. search results for tweets at a particular place — and engage Twitter users with specific messages about a locale. Obviously this a feature that brands like Starbucks — an early Promoted Tweets user and Foursquare early adopter — could use for store-specific promotions or messages. Perhaps there’s even a “Promoted Places” product brewing that will function similarly to the new Promoted Trends feature.
“Promoted Places” may just be a projection at this point, but we are quite certain that Twitter’s current fixation on advertising revenue will extend to Places.