Harmonix and Hasbro are bringing the party this fall with the release of DropMix, a music-themed mobile game where players collect physical cards to play against each other. The cards, each representing a music sample from a variety of different artists and genres, are read by the DropMix board, which connects to devices. Players have the option to turn up the music by connecting their mobile devices to a Bluetooth speaker.

The game will feature multiple modes, but the main one is called Clash, and it involves players replacing each other’s cards on the board to be the first to reach 15 points. As each card is put down and replaced, a new song is created and modified, meaning that a rock guitar can potentially be combined with a hip hop beat, and both may be brought together with vocals from a pop song. DropMix will feature music from Afrojack, Bruno Mars, The Chainsmokers, Ed Sheeran, Fall Out Boy, The Jackson 5, Meghan Trainor and Sam Hunt, just to name a few. The potential combinations are endless as players create decks based on their music tastes and discover new ways to appreciate their favorite genres.

DropMix is pioneering a new path for mobile gaming by requiring both an external device and physical cards to play, but Harmonix has experience with the transformative power of music on gaming and being social, having created the Rock Band series and others. The DropMix starter pack will cost $99.99 when it launches in the fall for both iOS and Android, and it will include the DropMix board, 60 cards and four themed playlist decks. Hasbro plans to release themed playlist packs ($14.99) and discover packs ($4.99) for players to collect. The DropMix app, which connects devices with the board, will be a free download.

Jonathan Mintz, creative lead for DropMix at Harmonix, sat down with [a]listdaily to throw down some beats and talk about the unique game that will let players bring the party virtually anywhere.

Jonathan Mintz, creative lead for DropMix at Harmonix,
Jonathan Mintz, creative lead for DropMix at Harmonix

How would you describe DropMix?

DropMix is a fast-paced music making game that runs on an iOS or Android device and allows you to mix music with your friends with no skill required. It allows you to create your own playlists, with music and samples that you love, and use them to dominate the mix and show off for your friends.

What inspired the creation of a music-themed collectible card game?

A big part of it is that I’ve always been a music collector and a card collector. So, at Harmonix, we’re always looking at new ways to create music-based gameplay. That was part of my inspiration on the game design side of it—thinking of ways to combine these two things that I’m really into with the idea of, “what if a card could make music?”

We developed some technology that allowed us to do that in software. Then, working with Hasbro, we were able to build them into physical cards, which takes things to a whole other level. You’re magically able to pick up a card, put it down on this board, and hear music come to life. Then you can combine it with lots of different music, mix music on the fly, and create an original mix just by playing the game.

How did the partnership with Hasbro come together?

We had developed a software version of this concept, and we’ve been in touch with Hasbro for a while, looking for opportunities to partner on. We approached them with this game concept, and in working with them, we developed the software idea into this super fun, original, physical play pattern that takes advantage of Bluetooth and a wireless card sensing technology that they had been looking at. We put those pieces together to create this whole new magical experience that brought the whole thing to life.

Why go with a physical card format instead of sticking with a digital card collection game?

At Harmonix, a lot of what we’re about is making music with your friends. When people have Rock Band parties, they all get together and they’re in a band cooperating to make music. While it’s cool to make this as a digital experience, we thought that was a way to bring this concept out to the world and make the most magic for the most people. It would be incredibly fun to hold the physical card in your hand and bring it to life. I’m still one of the people who goes out and buys records. There’s a lot of joy for me in discovering new music and being able to pick it up and hold it. DropMix brings that feeling of excitement in a whole new way. Not only can I hold the music that I love, but I can also transform it and create a whole new sound with it, which is fun.

TheJackson5_IWantYouBack_loopWhat audience demographic would you say DropMix is geared toward?

The people that we are trying to reach out toward certainly start with music fans, although the game is accessible to anybody, whether you have any music skill or not. I’d say probably people in their twenties—folks who are in the music festival crowd, but anybody who is into music can pick it up and play. Obviously, it’s for people who are fans of some of the artists in the game. It’s great to discover different parts of music that you might not have heard before by mixing up the different samples from the artists you love.

How will you convince a mobile audience to pick up the DropMix board?

We found that Rock Band instruments transformed the console experience from sitting on the couch with a controller to a different sort of party atmosphere around the console. One of the things that we’ve long wanted to do was to be able to take that party anywhere. So, this is a little bit more portable of an experience. Anywhere where you have your board and your phone, and maybe a Bluetooth speaker, you’ll be able to break out a party and mix music. We’ve had testers come in who were excited about being able to take it out and play it by the pool in the summertime, bring it to parties, and things like that. What we’re psyched about is that it’s this whole new way to play. If you’re trying to play a game with your friends, it’s tough to do that around the single device. But because the DropMix app keeps track of all the gameplay action and all the music mixing on the fly, you don’t really need to worry about it. You just connect it to the board and go, focusing on the game and music.

How many genres will there be at launch?

At launch, we’re trying to go pretty broad. There’s a core mix of genres in the starter pack that’s mostly focused around rock, pop, hip hop, and some electronic. But there’s also a little bit of extra flavor in there, with a few Latin and country cards to mix things up and go along with the playlists and discover packs. One of our goals is to bring in music from all across the spectrum because we’ve done experiences that have been focused on specific styles—Rock Band being one, and Dance Central focuses on party dance music. But here, one of the great things is discovering combinations that don’t seem like they should work, but surprisingly come to life when you put the cards together. So, we really want to broaden the music library as much as we can to discover what’s out there and let people experiment for themselves.

So, DropMix will become a platform for music discovery?

Absolutely. At Harmonix, one of the things that we love is empowering people to create and discover music. The studio was founded with this goal of giving the joy of music making to everybody, and this is a whole new frontier for that because it gives us a creative output. But we also work with our music partners all the time to not only find out about new acts that are up-and-coming, but also classic acts that people might not have heard of.

I’m psyched that we have cards from Run DMC and A Tribe Called Quest—people who were doing sampling and mixing back in the ‘80s and ‘90s—so there might be a whole generation out there that will play this game that haven’t heard about those artists before, but they’re grabbing cards from them. Grab a Run DMC beat and drop a Carly Rae Jepsen vocal on top of that—it’s super surprising and fun, and hopefully it will introduce people to music that they haven’t heard before. Hearing surprising combinations can be transformative, whether you’re a big music fan or whether you think you like a genre or not, this can change your perception of that.

EdSheeran_Sing_leadDo you think Harmonix’s reputation with console games will help with the popularity and discoverability of DropMix?

I certainly hope so. This is kind of a new frontier for mobile gaming because it has a connected accessory, but it’s also trying to create a new kind of social play that’s a little more like a console experience. So, we’re hoping that people who are familiar with our other games and our reputation for bringing the party to your living room will be interested in this as a result. We see this as a new way to make music with friends.

Is there any chance of DropMix coming to consoles or PC?

It’s definitely something that we’re looking at in the future. Harmonix is very much a multi-platform studio, so working with Hasbro, we have an eye on that. But for this fall, we’re focused on the iOS and Android releases.

What would you say is the key to standing out in both the saturated mobile and collectible card game markets right now?

I think what’s distinct about this game is the approachability of it and the magic of mixing music. We really tried to make a card game that anybody can get into, but even more than that, if you just walk up to it and start putting down cards to mix music, there’s a joy and a magic that comes from that. That’s something that we hope that players will be as excited about as we are and will want to go out there to discover new music, collect new cards, and explore the content that way.

For a more core gamer audience that will want to customize their playlists, find the perfect sound, and the perfect play style, that will be available for them as well. But because it is physical, you’re not just posting a deck list or playlist and sharing with friends; you can actually show it off, play it live, and have that fun of making music in real-time.