Seven45 Studios talks Power Gig details, we go hands-on with its six string guitar peripheral

We'll just come right out and say it: Guitar Hero and Rock Band should watch their back, 'cause there's a better-than-decent chance that Power Gig will be all the rage this holiday season. Seven45 Studios is a heretofore unheard of upstart with roots in First Act, and unlike the vast majority of game developers, these guys actually have a direct hand in the production of the software and hardware associated with this package. They'll be designing the Power Gig video game series (Rise of the SixString is only the first installment) as well as the guitars, drums and microphones in-house, and given the First Act roots, you know you'll be getting instruments of higher quality than what's on the market today. Oh, and yes, we didn't misspeak when we pluralized "guitars" and mentioned those other two devices.

We had a sit down with the team today at GDC, and besides coming away impressed with the alpha build of the game and the prototype axes we saw, we also learned quite a bit more about their plans than what was revealed in this morning's press release. Just to be exceptionally clear, Seven45 Studios will not only sell their upcoming title as a standalone product, but it will sell a "band bundle" that includes the game, a guitar (plus a strap, picks and an extra set of strings), a drum set and a microphone, the latter two of which are still very early in production and weren't available for us to test. The beat matching setup that gamers have grown used to in Rock Band and Guitar Hero is still there, but most everything else is new; a "chording" addition will allow users to strum actual power chords that match the chords used in the song, giving newbies the ability to actually learn songs as they play the game if they want to. In other words, if users strum the same chords required to succeed in the game but through an amp, they'll be playing the actual song; if you'd rather not learn, you need not have any clue how to play a guitar to enjoy the game. Speaking of which, the bundled guitar (along with extra guitars that are still being sorted in terms of size, material and color) doubles as a legitimate six string by simply depressing the dampening pad beneath the neck, and while it won't match the crisp tone emitted from your Les Paul Custom, the prototype we heard here in San Francisco sounded just fine for a beginner's instrument. We also learned that existing Rock Band and Guitar Hero guitars will work with the Power Gig titles, and Seven45's guitars will work with existing music band games -- not bad!

More after the break...

The crew went on to explain how the gameplay will be different than what's out there already; users won't focus so much on customizing their characters, but will instead follow them through a rock journey (of sorts), the ultimate of which would involve a singer, a drummer and a guitarist. To that end, you can't have two guitar players and a drummer, or two singers and an axe slinger. We're sure that'll aggravate some gamers, but we were assured that the layout was cemented due to the impact on the storyline. Another huge boon here is that artists who have strayed away from existing music titles due to the lack of genuineness are apparently talking to Seven 45; they told us that their first title would have "a comparable amount of tracks" (when looking at GH / RB titles), and that the playlists "wouldn't be rehashes of what's already out there." Evidently some bands are more eager to get their music onto a game that utilizes a real guitar, and that bodes well for those who are growing tired of what's being pumped out today.

Not only will Power Gig use final masters exclusively (read: no covers), but the team is already planning a robust DLC lineup to give obsessed players the ability to download even more content. The game we were shown today was only around 30 percent complete, but we were still duly satisfied with how everything looked; we also saw a half dozen prototype guitars in various colors, and there was even a full-size guitar / controller that the team hopes will entice those who are looking for something larger than the 3/4-size peripheral that'll ship in the bundle. Put simply, there's no set plan on how many guitars will be sold, but it's safe to say that at least one full-size version will be offered. Oh, and as for you Wii gamers? You're on their radar, though no time table was given for a Wii launch.

Finally, we were able to glean that the band bundle would sell for "about the same amount" as bundles already on shelves. They understand that they're playing the underdog role here, and they have no intentions of pricing themselves out of the market. What's truly amazing about this is that you get a legitimate guitar (and in our estimation, a far superior game) for essentially the same price. Got a kid who you know will be barking for both a band game and a guitar for Christmas? Go ahead and toss this atop that must-have list. The launch bundle will be out and about in North America "this fall," with other nations to get localized versions shortly thereafter. Better still, we were promised a look at a much fresher build of the game and much more developed guitars at E3, but till then, feel free to have a look at the prototype axe we were allowed to photograph.