They’re flat and round and full of video game sound—the last decade has seen a revival of soundtracks being released on vinyl, opening the market to collectors everywhere. Although the practice is far from new, with albums dating back to the 1970s, there has been a significant rise in popularity for the platform in the last decade.
The most recent franchise taking its music to the turn table is Rocket League, an eSports phenomenon that attracts both casual and hardcore fans. The game’s developer, Psyonix has just announced the Rocket League: Vinyl Collection, a 3xLP, 180-gram album housing both Volumes 1 and 2 of the Rocket League Official Soundtrack. In June, Hello Games unveiled a worldwide music tour by band, 65daysofstatic for the No Man’s Sky soundtrack, also released on vinyl.
More and more, developers are using video game soundtracks to promote their brands with behind the scenes looks and celebrating a game’s legacy through live concerts. These days, developers and publishers announce the release of a soundtrack with as much fan fare as the game, itself. That usually includes digital and physical CDs, however, although more and more and turning to the classic, grooved medium.
So, why vinyl? It’s not just for hipsters anymore. Assuming the LP was produced from an analog master and not digital, gaming audiophiles prefer the true, warm sound of a record over a CD. It also comes down to rarity. In recent years, several publishers have offered special limited vinyl collector’s editions of game soundtracks like The Last of Us, Minecraft, Bioshock 2 and Hotline Miami, limited to anywhere between 500 to 5000 copies. The Machinarium vinyl soundtrack, for example, included five pressings, the first pressing limited to 555 printings and all first pressings signed and numbered.
Vinyl, itself, is also considered more rare, and is therefore more collectible by fans. As the music industry transitions to a digital age, any physical copy will start to become more collectible in nature. According to an April report by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 2015 digital music revenue surpassed those from all physical music formats for the first time. This is largely attributed to the growing popularity of streaming music services like Pandora and Apple Music. What this means for consumers is the growing desire to own something they can hold and show their friends.
Releasing a physical, vinyl soundtrack may not appeal to all fans of a franchise, but it will certainly appeal to the most loyal. So long as the practice does not become so popular as to saturate the marketplace, limited edition vinyl soundtracks are an effective way to ensure a physical legacy for a brand.