Disc swapping: Music games are a fantastic choice for parties. But nothing grinds a party to a halt faster than having to swap discs all the time. I'm probably an extreme example, but there are five Guitar Hero discs in our game drawer. When one guest wants to play Metallica, another likes Aerosmith, and then you hear "Say, do you have Cult of Personality?" it's a huge problem. This is one of the biggest problems with disc based content.
High initial cost: No matter how you look at it, music games are expensive. Paying the full retail price for what is in essence only new content, and not new gameplay, is troublesome. Typically, content discs have less songs than the "main" games. The song list is smaller for GH Metallica than it is for GH World Tour, for instance, and World Tour had major gameplay additions, too!
All or nothing: Often, there are only a few songs on a disc you are really interested in. Having to pay for the whole kit and kaboodle when you just want a handful of tunes turns you off. If those songs were available a la carte, you might be more willing to buy, but with disc based content, it's all or nothing. Many people choose nothing.
Incompatibility with other DLC: This is largely a problem unique to the Guitar Hero franchise. There have been a relatively small amount of songs released as DLC for several GH titles. With the exception of the Death Magnetic pack, none of this DLC will work in other GH games. That means if I want to play "Higher Ground", I have to play it on the GH2 engine. (That song didn't make it onto Smash Hits, incidentally.) Harmonix's method of total compatibility of DLC between games is far better. Recent news indicates this problem may be addressed in Guitar Hero 5.
Oversaturation: There is an absolute overload of music games in stores right now. An incredible amount of shelf space is taken up by games that feature what is almost the exact same gameplay. This cannot be good for the game industry as a whole. If you walk into a typical retail store, you will find dozens of music game discs, bundles, standalone instruments, and track packs. It's confusing enough to a veteran gamer, and it has to be even worse for the casual fan these games often appeal to. It might even drive potential buyers away.
Next week, we'll take a look at downloadable content. How do the pros and cons stack up? Is DLC the way to go, or does disc based content come out ahead? Most importantly, what are your thoughts about the issue?