Real musicians won't mind those piddly guitar games much longer. Guitar Hero and Rock Band used to come with pint-sized, lightweight plastic guitars that looked and felt like the toys they really are. But all of that is changing, to investors' unbridled delight.

The left hand ...
Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) MTV Games and Activision-Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) have acquired some muscle thanks to the big-money successes of their respective guitar games. Guitar Hero III alone collected more than $1 billion in worldwide sales on its way to 14.5 million units sold. The pricier full-band kits for Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour are also selling like hotcakes.

It makes sense that more realistic gear is finding its way into these games. Logitech (NASDAQ:LOGI) sells a $250 Guitar Hero axe that looks like a real Fender Strat, with some colorful buttons in place of the strings. Privately held gaming gear supplier dreamGEAR has a game-agnostic copy of the BC Rich WarBeast for $130, for those in more of a heavy metal mood.

... and the right hand ...
While the toys are starting to look and feel like the real thing, actual guitars are moving into cyberspace, too. Gibson put a truckload of digital features in its Dark Fire, which otherwise is a pretty classic Les Paul. This one comes with a FireWire port so you can hook it up to your Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) PC or your Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Macintosh, and a digital self-tuning system. It's the first guitar I've seen that makes you worry about firmware updates, which means there's a full-fledged computer on board.

"Real" guitar players occasionally sneer at the gamers, telling them to "learn to play a real instrument." But it won't be long until you can simply plug your new six-string into your Sony (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox and rock away in some ultra-expert note-by-note mode. Meanwhile, the kids can start noodling on their game controllers to pick up real guitar skills by and by. This is already happening with the drum kits -- the guitars will soon be there. In fact, small Minneapolis start-up Zivix is already bridging the gap. The company has developed a guitar game that works with a wireless electric guitar, using fingertip sensors to control a more realistic experience.

... make beautiful music together
This convergence will do two important things: expand the marketable audience for those silly games to hardcore rockers way too cool for plastic guitars, and get little gamers taking their first stabs at musicianship. That's a self-reinforcing virtuous cycle that will make billions of dollars for the game makers, guitar shops, and forward-thinking investors alike.

Let there be rock:

Logitech is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Dell and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple and Activision Blizzard are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. He is as addicted to his own plastic guitars as he is to that faithful old Washburn 12-string. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.