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Monday, November 19, 2012

As the Wii U Launches, What's the Next Great Format for Music?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 5:06 AM

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When I buy a new videogame console--and this is as true now, for better or worse, as it was when I was nine--playing videogames is suddenly an event. All the dumb trappings of spending $200 on a box that sits under my TV have some unnameable appeal; the unboxing, the trying angrily to find an HDMI cable lying around, the navigating of the menu, the new-console smell of leeching plastic and bubbling static-cling scratch-guards, the trying to get extended family members to play Wii Sports without fighting each other.

For those next few days franchises I've been playing my entire life feel new and exciting, even when I'm just replaying old levels.

Moving from a Walkman to a Discman to something called an Iomega HipZip to buying music on iTunes, I've felt that same jolt of newness with music I've loved my whole life. Listening to a CD after a few years with a hissing cassette means discovering instruments and harmonies you've never heard, and putting an album you care about into a new piece of equipment creates something new, if only for a moment. It's an excuse to come back to albums you've worn out, literally in a boombox or figuratively after a breakup, without that old baggage.

Both industries will survive the end of format roulette, even if the new models--in-app purchases for games, subscription services for music--prove unsustainable. And I'll find plenty of other excuses to listen to Magical Mystery Tour or play Super Mario World with new ears and eyes.

But after all the time we've spent, over the last decade, fetishizing the vinyl music used to come on and the sleeves it used to come in, I think it's worth coming back to the things we used to play it on, and how they made us experience our favorite albums.

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