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Rockstar Switching Horses, From Amazon to iTunes

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Rockstar Games, makers of the extremely popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, are picking up and moving a very lucrative music partnership from Amazon (s amzn) to iTunes, which offers players of GTA IV the opportunity to purchase tracks used in the game’s soundtrack.

The reason for the switch? Apple’s (a AAPL) decision to finally go DRM-free. Rockstar had apparently always wanted to go with the big fish (how could you not, when they command more than 90 percent of the digital music distribution market?), but also wanted users not to be tied down with the music they purchased using it.

The switch will come alongside Rockstar’s upcoming downloadable expansion for GTA IV, which will also introduce a major addition to the game’s existing soundtrack. This is a perfect example of why Apple’s decision to move to a DRM-free music library was the right decision, from the consumer’s standpoint, yes, but also as a sound business decision. Formerly wary prospective partners will now embrace iTunes with open arms.

For us as iTunes customers, this sets a precedent that other companies will hopefully follow, which would lead to more choice, and innovative content purchasing models. With GTA IV, you purchase the music via the in-game “Zit” service, and you can then download the track outside of the game through Amazon’s MP3 store (soon to be iTunes). Video games are an obvious partner, since the interactivity is already there, but movie and television soundtracks could soon follow. I’d also like to see the reverse implemented, whereby you can use any of the tracks from your existing iTunes library in-game.

3 Responses to “Rockstar Switching Horses, From Amazon to iTunes”

  1. I am sure Rockstar is doing this because they are not happy with the returns from amazon. By that I mean that they think more people will buy music from iTunes than Amazon and thus their associate commission should be much higher.

    Otherwise they will move from iTunes to where ever they can earn more, either through an up front fee (like Amazon paying them to link to them and only them) and so on. The fact of the matter is Apple charges 99 cents, but Amazon and others charge less than 99 cents and thus have less to share.

    But I don’t think the driving force is that iTunes went DRM free, although that was necessary certainly.

  2. “I’d also like to see the reverse implemented, whereby you can use any of the tracks from your existing iTunes library in-game.”

    In GTA IV for the PC you can actually do just that. Well not exactly. There’s a radio station called “Independent FM” (or something like that) where the game pulls music from a directory that’s designated and uses it in game. So whenever you steal a car, you just change the radio station over and any music in that directory will be played.

    Sadly it doesn’t work like that for the PS3. I’m not sure about the 360, but I imagine the same holds true.