AS the recorded music industry struggles, rock bands have been trying to stay in the limelight by marketing themselves in myriad ways. A familiar group from the classic-rock era of the 1970s and 1980s is hoping to get fans to pay for play.
The REO Speedwagon game was conceived and produced by Curious Sense. It is intended to promote the band in general and its new album, “Not So Silent Night: Christmas With REO Speedwagon,” in particular.
For instance, game buyers receive coupon codes for 25 percent off the holiday album. And there is a sweepstakes for players who find the “golden ticket” hidden in the game; 20 prize packages will include real tickets to see REO Speedwagon at a concert in 2010 and to meet backstage with the band.
The downloadable interactive game features avatar versions of the five band members and a make-believe reporter for an entertainment TV show. The plot is centered on the disappearance of Kevin Cronin, the lead vocalist for REO Speedwagon.
The game will be made available on Web sites popular with casual gamers, likeBigFishGames.com, MSN Games (games.msn.com) and Yahoo Games (games.yahoo.com). It will cost computer users about $8 to play for each session, which can last as long as 10 hours; they can play the first hour free.
“We build digital experiences beyond a typical Web site, which offer long interactive times between the content and the consumer,” said Adam Blumenthal, president and chief executive at Curious Sense in Durham, N.C.
The hours spent playing games online are a far cry from the brief moments a consumer spends watching a television commercial or glancing at a banner ad. That interested Mr. Blumenthal, who worked at agencies like McKinney and R/GA before starting Curious Sense as what he calls a “product development studio.”
Also of interest is the potential revenue from the game. It costs about $80,000 to develop and market a typical online casual game, Mr. Blumenthal said, and “a good game” can be bought by 100,000 to 150,000 people.
“The games pay for themselves,” he added, “and then some.” (Revenue in this instance will be divided among the producers, the Web sites that host the game and REO Speedwagon.)
The game is intended to provide the band — and potentially, any band that wants to star in a similar game — with an alternative source of revenue, in addition to that from participation in other video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, licensing songs for commercials, selling songs on iTunes and peddling merchandise at concerts.
Such revenue is increasingly important to musicians to compensate for the falling sales of CDs and other forms of traditional recorded music.
“It’s a great concept and we’re very happy to be involved,” said Tom Consolo, a manager at Front Line Management in Los Angeles who has represented REO Speedwagon for more than 20 years.
“You have your ups and downs” as a band, so “you’re always looking to reach a broader audience,” Mr. Consolo said. “And with the advent of the Internet, you can reach around the globe.”
In fact, the game — being promoted on the group’s Web site (reospeedwagon.com) and a Curious Sense Web site (therom.com) — will be available in French, German, Japanese and Spanish as well as English.
When Mr. Blumenthal contacted him about having REO Speedwagon take part in the game, Mr. Consolo recalled, “I didn’t even know what casual games were.”
“I remember the first time I saw a pinball machine with Kiss,” he added. “This is a 21st-century version.”
“For me and the band, it’s always interesting to try new ideas out,” Mr. Consolo said, because it helps cultivate an image for the band as contemporary rather than an oldies act.
“You don’t just lay back and play your greatest hits all the time,” he added.
Mr. Consolo said he appreciated the irony that the Internet, which has been blamed for falling sales of recorded music, could generate interest in bands through online games.
(It is appropriate then that the game features a version of the REO Speedwagon song “Roll With the Changes,” along with versions of other hits like “Keep on Loving You” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”)
There is another benefit to the Internet, Mr. Consolo said, in that “kids are getting turned on to a lot of classic-rock radio artists” they may not hear on the radio — either because they do not listen to stations playing those acts or because they do not listen to radio at all.
Mr. Blumenthal recently met the band members at a concert and demonstrated what the game looked like after six months of development and production work.
“I was struck right off the bat by the dazzling good looks of my avatar,” Mr. Cronin said, laughing.
“There is a need for us to explore all kinds of different avenues to get our music out there,” Mr. Cronin said in a telephone interview. “If you just think about how it used to be, you’ll be left in the dust.”