Verizon aims for Star Power with Guitar Hero III

The holidays were good to Guitar Hero addicts who also happen to be Verizon Wireless customers. The wireless service provider, along with mobile entertainment company Hands-On Mobile, last week announced the exclusive availability of Activision’s Guitar Hero III mobile game for Verizon customers.

The game, available on any Get It Now-capable Verizon handset, features four guitars and three venues, requiring players to hit number keys in sync with colored notes that appear on a scrolling fret board. GHIII will cost subscribers about $5 for monthly access or $12 for unlimited use. At launch, the mobile game included 15 tracks from the Guitar Hero console series, with the ability to purchase more songs made available each month.

Let’s be honest, the small screen of a mobile handset looks nothing like a plastic guitar equipped with notes and a strum key. However, for a device you can play practically anywhere, users will most likely be forgiving. GHIII-ready Verizon handsets vary in keyboard usability and screen size and quality, so the game does as well, but all come equipped with three fret keys (rather than the five on the console), a rock meter, multiplier and, of course, Star Power.

Admittedly, I can’t even pass the easy setting for the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Suck My Kiss” on the console (although I did complete a song on the LG Chocolate without hearing the eminent boos!), so I enlisted two seasoned GHIII pros to test the Verizon service out. Both were impressed with the display and audio quality, but had trouble with the small frets and crowded keyboard. As to be expected, the graphics were also not “stunning” as Verizon has claimed, and the download speed is somewhat slow. A claim Verizon was dead on with, however, was that the game is addictive – a trait GHIII gamer have come to accept and appreciate.

The $12 price point for only 15 songs may turn away some avid gamers, but I suspect a large GHIII customer segment – the young users who don’t pay their own cell phone bills – won’t mind the fees. After all, despite the understandably slow download speed, the game is as easy to access as a new ringtone.

It is no wonder that Verizon wants to get in on a part of the industry that multiple analysts have touted as the next billion dollar market. It isn’t the first, however. Tap Tap Revolution, a mobile adaptation of the popular Dance Dance Revolution, is already available to Apple’s iPhone users as a native app downloadable using or iBrickr. Users keep their taps in sync with the song playing by tapping the touchscreen to beat when the lights hit a bottom line. New songs can be downloaded over the phone’s Wi-Fi connection.

So, now that we can dance and rock out on our phones, I am confident more games are to come. Perhaps Madden for your mobile? I say bring it on. This is what opposable thumbs and dexterity are really for, right?

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