The Stardew Valley: Festival of Seasons is an official concert tour that will travel the world to play the music from the game. Not only have the pre-sales been successful, but they’ve needed to add extra dates in order to support the demand, which just goes to show just how important the music in a game can be.
Stardew Valley has had the music nailed down since the moment that it launched, and for me personally, it became a huge reason to keep coming back. It’s soothing, simple, ambient, and fitting for the environment that the game sets out for itself. Not just that, but it fits perfectly with the overall vibe of the game to the point where you don’t have to be actively farming to still evoke those same emotions.
The Festival of Seasons tour is one of those things that I would have dreamed of when I first started playing and thought, “there’s no way that could happen.” Even when I initially heard about it, I’d figured that it was some kind of joke, or at the very most a knock-off of the music being played by some small group. Much to my surprise it was both legitimate and successful, and should really serve as a lesson for all game developers to really put that extra focus into their music.
This isn’t to say that no games on the market have an iconic soundtrack or really put work into their music. From Final Fantasy to Halo to Legend of Zelda, games are often highly recognized for their music after they’ve released. In some cases there’s some tension between developers and composers, *cough* Doom Eternal *cough cough* but overall games can really make a name for themselves by having a soundtrack that ties the whole thing together.
The difference is, the music for Stardew Valley is entirely synonymous with the game overall. If you bring it up and start talking about the good things about the game, you’re bound to bring up the music at one point or another. A lot of games will have a great soundtrack behind them, but they become almost secondary to the rest of the experience rather than being supplementary.
Think of when you walk out of your house in Stardew to start your morning. It’s the summertime, and as soon as you open the door, you’re greeted with not only the sights of nature implying that it’s warm out, but the music is absolutely bumping. It’s getting you in the mood to get to work, but it’s not so much that it’s overpowering the rest of the game. The same goes for winter when you open the front door to some reflective, quiet, and almost melancholic music. It builds the world around you and subconsciously puts you in the mood to do what needs to be done that day.
This in no way applies only to larger game developers either, the likes of Bethesda come to mind with the absolute banger known as Starfield. The music in that game was stellar (pun very much intended) and evoked the feelings of curiosity and wonder that the idea of space travel gives people, and that was entirely the point. No chord was struck without the utmost intention being put behind it, and it shows in the overall gameplay where you’re always backed by a score that makes you feel ready to blast off on some new adventure.
Even small, quick-to-beat indie games like Venba can make an already emotional experience something magical by just making sure that the music in the game fits perfectly to what is being portrayed. In Venba, the most you’re doing is cooking and reading lines of dialogue, but when the story is based around the cultural tensions that this immigrant Indian family is facing, you can feel more locked into the story when the music playing in the background is accurate to the cultural environment you’re being placed in.
Stardew Valley was by no means a “large” game at the time of it’s release. It was developed by a single person who taught themself how to design the game and the music by himself, but it worked so well at what it was supposed to that it became a huge success almost immediately. Eric Barone (ConcernedApe) didn’t have a massive orchestra playing the music for the game when it launched, but now, here we are, filling concert halls to hear his art on a new stage.
The feeling of each moment of playing the game is captured brilliantly in every note, to the point where I can be listening to the soundtrack while getting work done but know exactly what season or event each song is from. To me, that’s always the sign of a great score: being able to picture a scene through the music without having to actually see it.
This also isn’t the first time that a concert like this is taking place. There’s actually a planned Genshin Concert to celebrate Genshin Impact’s third year of being released, but even that’s only taking place in New York City. On a larger scale, there have been concerts where an orchestra will play along to the Lord of the Rings movies while playing the movie live in front of you, but even that has the extra sensory engagement. There’s something to be said about such large demand for a concert of nothing but music from Stardew Valley.
It goes to show just how much that effort can really be worth if you’re willing to direct it properly. Barone managed to create something iconic that’s touched the hearts of millions of people, to the point where there’s going to be a tour solely to appreciate what he’s created. A tour with concert halls in major cities selling out tickets just to listen to the sounds of the seasons.
It’s not to say that the music in a game is going to be the most important thing, over things like the story and the art style. However, if the music doesn’t whisk the player into the world that’s being created and give them a reason to want to stay, there’s always going to be a certain disconnect. Stardew Valley managed to hit the nail on the head from the very beginning, and is now being shown the recognition that it deserves, all around the world, one stage at a time.