AC/DC Video Game Coming To Wal-Mart


September 30, 2008

Robert Levine of The New York Times reports that just as Wal-Mart solidifies its power as a music industry hitmaker with an exclusive album from the rock band AC/DC, the chain is getting its first major exclusive video game to go with it.

MTV plans to announce on Tuesday that it has made a deal with the band and its label, Columbia Records, to create an AC/DC version of the channel’s popular Rock Band video game that will be sold in the United States only at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and the Wal-Mart Web site (

The release of the video game AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack will give MTV a prominent role in the partnership between the rock group and the retailer to promote AC/DC’s forthcoming album, “Black Ice.” Wal-Mart will create a special area in each of its stores to display the new album and the new game, as well as the band’s other CDs, DVDs and T-shirts and other licensed clothing. Although this is Wal-Mart’s first significant exclusive video game, the chain has emerged as a force in the music business because of the promotional muscle it has put behind recent albums from the Eagles and Journey, which were available only in its stores. Such a partnership is especially important for AC/DC, since the band does not sell its music on Apple’s iTunes store.

“If you want to be a physical band, you better make an alliance with a strong physical retailer,” said Steve Barnett, chairman of Columbia Records. “It’s a great way to sell the new album, the catalog, the game, merchandise and DVDs.” MTV and Wal-Mart are exploring the idea of setting up temporary shops to sell the game and the album in Manhattan and Los Angeles, where the retailer has no stores.

AC/DC Live: Rock Band could help MTV’s Rock Band franchise make further headway against Activision’s more popular “Guitar Hero” titles. Both products allow gamers to play along with music on instrument-shaped controllers.

Although Activision released Guitar Hero: Aerosmith in August and plans a title based on Metallica, this is the first version of Rock Band based on a specific group. Over the last few years AC/DC has sold more CDs than any band except the Beatles, which suggests that the group appeals to teenagers as well as to older fans.

“They rock hard, and that still works for our audience,” said Van Toffler, the president of the MTV Networks’ Music and Logo Group. “It comes down to getting really great marketing, because Wal-Mart is so meaningful in terms of sales if they get behind something.”

Both Columbia and the band will make money on the game, which contains the songs from the popular DVD “AC/DC Live at Donnington.” The game, which will be available for all consoles in early November, will cost less than most new games, about $40 instead of about $60. That makes it an attractive product to Wal-Mart, which believes that lower prices drive demand.

“We think people love music as much as ever, but it translates differently at retail,” said Greg Hall, Wal-Mart’s vice president for content and services, who runs its video game sales. “Music games are a key platform for us, so as the AC/DC release got closer, we talked about how to bring it to life in games.”

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