Heatwave Interactive unveiling hip-hop online role-playing game with T.I.

tiWe all want to live the lifestyle of musicians. Parties, concerts, groupies.

That’s the idea behind Platinum Life, a new kind of online role-playing game from Heatwave Interactive, which has teamed up to make the game with hip hop artist T.I., who has sold millions of records.

“The game is about the aspiration to live the life of T.I.,” said Anthony Castoro, chief executive of Heatwave.

In the online game, you play the role of an up-and-coming artist. You select a manager, who advises you to get more street cred. That gives you the chance to undertake missions, as if you were playing a conventional game. You can earn cred by doing crowd-pleasing antics at Madison Square Garden. You can develop trademark dance moves and essentially battle for the favor of the audience. Other missions involve bailing out the boyfriend of one of your backup singers so she can get on with the show. You start at dive bars and try to become a superstar.

“It sounds weird,” Castoro acknowledges. “But it plays great.”

heatwave-2It may take a few years to get the massively multiplayer online game done. Castoro says the title will likely take advantage of the emerging “free to play” business model, where gamers can start playing for free but have to pay for things such as fan collectibles, songs, or clothing.

If the idea pans out, it could become the vehicle for many more music games. It could also unlock a new genre in music games that goes beyond the rhythm games such as Guitar Hero and the violent gang-related games with hip hop themes. The music industry likes it because it is a way to get people to pay for music. If a consumer buys an iTunes song, the music label gets no more than 99 cents. But if you integrate that music into a game, there is potential for much more revenue related to the track.

Austin-based Heatwave been working on the idea since last year and even before it raised a major round of funding, Castoro said. (The company raised $7.5 million from Syndicated Communications Venture Partners in April). Over time, the company will raise more money. Heatwave was founded in 2007 by Castoro, a former developer at Electronic Arts and Sony Online Entertainment, and veteran entrepreneur Donn Clendenon.

Much of the development time so far has been focused on interviewing musicians and record label executives about the music lifestyle. They learned that much of the stress comes from operating on extremely tight schedules. The game can accentuate that to make the play more fun. About 20 people are working in preproduction on the game and more will be added when full-scale work begins. In the meantime, Heatwave has other projects in the works, including an unannounced social networking game that should debut in the fourth quarter.

Platinum Life is certainly an innovative approach to music games. The question is, will video game fans go for it?