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By Evan Ackerman

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are fun games, but after you master them, you’re left with little more than a staggeringly useless talent for pushing little plastic buttons. Game developer Seven45 Studios is aiming to change all that by partnering up with instrument manufacturer First Act to create a music game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 that uses a real, playable six string guitar as a controller. Plug it into a console, and it’s a control. Plug it into an amp, and it’s a guitar.

The game is called Power Gig: Rise of the SixString. I got a brief demo at GDC yesterday, and while they wouldn’t discuss the game itself in a ton of detail, we did get a good look at the hardware. The big draw, of course, is that it’s a real guitar that you get to play with. The only difference between the controller and a normal guitar are the additional buttons on the body (to duplicate the full functionality of a game controller) and a special string dampener that pops up to keep the strings from vibrating too much when you’re playing the game, since it would confuse the sensors. Otherwise, all of the clever stuff is internal, and the guitar can sense both string movement and finger position.

Seven45 stresses that this is not an education game: it’s not designed to teach you how to play the guitar. That said, as you get comfortable with the game, you do slowly learn the fundamentals of playing the instrument, and as you crank up the difficulty, the game will demand more real world skill from you. And it’s not just about playing the guitar, either: the game is somehow adventure based, and part of the storyline includes teaching you how to tune yourself and change your own guitar strings (spare strings will be included).

There are a lot of things still to be finalized, including song content, but as far as pricing and availability goes, look for Power Gig sometime this fall at a price that will be “competitive with other game band packages.” If the gameplay stands up to similar titles as well, the choice is going to be an easy one: why get a game that includes a fake guitar and teaches you to push plastic buttons, when you could get a game that includes a real guitar and teaches you how to play it, instead.

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