In case you haven't noticed, we're big fans of karaoke here at Dealspwn.com. There's little more enjoyable than thoroughly embarrassing ourselves by tipsily belting out awful versions of classic songs from the diaphragm, and videogames have long been on hand to scratch our itch; from SingStar and Lips to the likes of We Sing and even Rock Band.
But there's a problem. Every time a new karaoke game comes out, we find ourselves gravitating to three or four songs in the track list, restricted by the 20-40 tunes on the disc. There's always filler material, there's always bumf that literally no-one likes to sing, while themed sequels and track packs leave fans of other decades or genres sitting glumly on the sofa and wishing that they'd gone to that other party instead.
SingOn aims to change all that. We've seen so many games trying to become "services" over the last few years, usually with disastrous results, but for Karaoke games this new startup makes perfect sense. It's effectively a free client that grants players access to a continually-updated streaming roster of hundreds of songs throughout numerous genres, on their own terms. Whether charging a couple of quid for a night, a few Pounds for weekend access or spending the price of a regular game for a year's unfettered use, SingOn is all about letting us choose exactly when and exactly what we want to sing.
The passionate developers describe SingOn as the "next generation of Karaoke games," and though it's rolling out on PS3 first, PlayStation Network is just the very first step in a plan for global domination across multiple platforms.
SingOn's selection is impressive, accessible via a clean and helpful client that lets you browse by decade, genre, pre-selected 'best-of' presets or slick alphabetical text searches. Wanting to test the variety as much as possible, I queued up The Committments' Mustang Sally, followed it up by some classic Deep Purple (The Stranger and Highway Star), then selected The Lion King's Hakuna Matata; ending things with some classic Queen (who else?). There's everything from current pop and hip-hop to cheesy 90s anthems, from Jazz to obscure Finnish folk -- a concession to SingOn Inc.'s country of origin -- meaning that we can sing what we're in the mood for rather than making do with the on-disc selection.
Once songs are queued a playlist, which functions much like a traditional pub jukebox or karaoke machine except without the coin slot, you'll then start belting out the track as loudly and obnoxiously as possible. Just me, then? Right. A crisp and uncluttered interface shows the progress of the lyrics, while the relative height of each word illustrates the relative pitch you ought to be hitting. On-screen score and star rating are on hand for competitive players, but hardcore score attack is absolutely not what SingOn is trying to achieve.
Instead, it's designed to allow anyone to get involved without punishing those who lack natural musical ability [YOU, Jon. YOU. -Ed]. An Auto-Tune mode modulates the pitch of your voice, making you sound much more competent, while pitch thresholds are purposefully generous and vague. Long-term appeal will stem from the love of singing for the sake of it (and the accompanying embarrassment factor) as opposed to strict vocal perfection.
Oh, and you can make your voice sound like a robot, should you want to. My rendition of Hakuna Matata sounded like a T-Pain cover.
We're all about providing balanced previews and useful feedback, so it's worth noting that a couple of potential hiccups are plain to see in build we tested. The current lack of two-player duets is rather worrying, especially when it comes to classics like Bohemian Rhapsody, though this feature is right at the top of the to-do list. Visualisations are also a little bland; though slick and intuitive, SingOn can feel just a little soulless and workmanlike, especially without licensed videos.
The client-and-service-based structure will allow SingOn to continually add features and new tracks throughout its lifespan, though, and more excitingly means that it isn't bound by platform. All last and current-gen consoles have been targeted for release sooner or later -- anything with USB microphone support will work -- while the likes of Amazon Fire TV is also in the frame thanks to its integrated remote mic. Looking ahead, SingOn Inc. is excited about the possibility of integrating directly into smart TVs, cutting out the middle man between you and your music.
SingOn is set to launch next Wednesday for free on PSN (with ten totally gratis songs!), and we're already doing our vocal warmups in preparation for our full review. Until then, stay tuned for our interview with producer Tommi Halonen.