I have noticed a trend with video games lately; there has been much more emphasis placed on the music over the decades. So much so in fact that the game-play for two current franchises is secondary to the music.
In the 1980′s video game music was memorable but, in many instances, seemed to be more of an afterthought that had limited exposure. For instance, "Frogger" played one song – yep, that’s it, one song; if memory serves me correctly, this song was only played at the beginning of a new life and paused the game-play until it was finished. "Bump’n'Jump" on the other hand featured music throughout – at least on the Atari 2600 version – but still featured just one song. This doesn’t mean that the music isn’t memorable as I still get each of thes games’ soundtracks stuck in my head, but the scores were not extremely complex.
Later, as storage capacity and processing power improved, games evolved into using "actual music". By this I mean games like the "Twisted Metal" and "Grand Theft Auto" series have had songs by notable artists such as Rob Zombie, Therapy?, INXS, and others. However, at least in the "Twisted Metal" games, this still felt a little like it was tacked on because without really incorporating it into the game.
"Quake" was the first game that I ever played that had a score written specifically for the game by a professional musician. In this case, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails composed an excellent score consisting of 10 tracks that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone album, by really shines when played during the game; the soundtrack sets the atmosphere as well as the graphics and sound effects. Likewise, the soundtrack for "Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor" – composed by Andrew Boyd and Robb Mills – helps to set the atmosphere. The thirty-three tracks on the CD that accompanies the deluxe version of the game, like the soundtrack for "Quake" can also be listened to as an album, but many of the tracks are very short; this makes sense though if they are to only be used in limited areas of the game. I mention this because it shows that composers are taking into consideration that their audience is playing the game, not listening to a concert, and writing accordingly. That, in my opinion is a great step forward.
Moving on to the newest generation of games, we see a bizarre twist. Games in the "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" are entirely based around the music with almost everything else being secondary. Sure, you can customize the appearance of your character in "Rock Band" but that is not the focus of the game, and really, neither is playing the imitation instruments; the music is the whole reason to play. I would imagine that sales would plummet dramatically if it was announce that a new iteration would feature music written by obscure artists.