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Music label seeks realism in iTunes guitar app

Universal becomes first major label to design its own simulated guitar-playing video game, Six String, debuting Wednesday on iTunes App Store.

Up to now, rocking out with guitar-playing simulators has typically been about pushing buttons or bars.

Universal Music Group, the largest of the four top record companies, is trying to inject more realism into the experience with a new music app designed for the iPhone and iPod. The game is called Six String and is expected to debut Wednesday at the iTunes App store.

The game, which will sell for $4.99, is similar to the biggie guitar-simulation games: Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Players are directed to the proper strings with a scrolling series of dots and arrows, according to Amanda Marks, vice president & general manager of Universal Music Distribution.

But instead of requiring players to just push buttons, Six String will ask players to pluck and strum, as well as change chords.

Music-themed video games have been huge hits for companies such as Activision and MTV. While all the major recording companies sell music rights for these games, Universal is believed to be the first of the majors to try developing its own game.

"We have done a lot of different applications," Marks told CNET, "many of which were marketing companions for artists albums. We were looking for a platform in which we could broadly include all of our label's content, something that could be an evergreen franchise."

A screen shot of Six String Universal Music Group

One of the benefits of this for players is that they have been playing along with unknown songs or poor cover versions of their favorite tunes. The music offered with Six String will come from the real studio masters, according to Marks.

The game comes with six tracks, such as Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name;" Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down A Dream;" and Fall Out Boy's "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs," but players can add songs from the in-app store for 99 cents each.

Only 20 songs will be available initially, but Marks said more songs will be added just as soon as they are prepared. Universal is trying to use its music library and knowledge to do away with the middleman.