Posted Thu Mar 5, 2015 at 07:26 AM PST by Brian Hoss
The 'Rock Band' platform looking to become a platform again.
The rumors are true. 'Rock Band 4' is coming, and it's coming in 2015. The first thing that fans and potential fans will want to know is that Harmonix has been working on this concept for years, trying to figure what 'Rock Band 4' should be and how best to address the franchise's legacy along with all the existing DLC and instruments owned by fans.
What's clear right off is that 'Rock Band 4' is a back to basics approach for the series. A fun, competitive, party, game that makes the user feel like they can play music without it really being some kind of tutorial. The keyboard is MIA, as are any kind of real instruments. Recapturing the core fun of the series is the goal, but it also looks like the fun of World Tour will return.
Just as important. Although this is 'Rock Band 4,' fans shouldn't expect a 'Rock Band 5.' The cycle of purchasing a new game and the availability of new instruments is being replaced with one ongoing platform, just like 'Rock Band' was pitched as years ago. Let's face it. These days, the idea of purchasing add-on content and microtransactions is a lot more familiar while numbered installments can draw ire.
This move is all about focus, and that focus means the PS4 and Xbox One. There are no plans for the PC or Wii U. Considering the DLC nature of 'Rock Band,' the PS4 and Xbox One make sense.
But what will make fans more comfortable loading up on songs? Well, for one thing, Harmonix is doing everything it can to ensure that the old Xbox 360 and PS3 era DLC transfer forward, at least between console families (360 to Xbox One, PS3 to PS4). A huge set of DLC will be available to transfer on day one, but many songs will also be ready to transfer as they become available in 'RB4.' There will still be some songs, as much as 5% of the total i estimated right now, where Harmonix expects not to be able to get the licensing. Hopefully, new deals will be longer in nature.
And then there are the instruments. There will be new instruments produced by Mad Catz (wireless guitar, wireless drum, and mic), and fans can even preorder the creepy exclusive Penny-Arcade themed guitar in person at Harmonix's booth (#4224) at PAX East.
But what about all those existing instruments? Harmonix is working with Mad Catz, Sony, and Microsoft on the problem. As some might suspect, there is a little bit more hope on the PlayStation side of things due to how those USB devices were created in the first place.
From Daniel Sussman, Harmonix Product Manager (via Polygon), "The Sony instruments were wireless via a USB dongle; that's pretty straightforward. Things are complicated on the Xbox side, and I'm not prepared to talk specifics yet until I understand them a little better, frankly. There's a first-party component, and a technical component being managed by Harmonix and Mad Catz that is still very much in play."
In the end, there is hope for at least limited backwards compatibility, but with so many plastic instruments on their last legs after years of use, many fans will be in the market for new hardware. And this is something that is going to affect how 'Rock Band 4' is sold.
One of the series' business problems involved having to manage the inventory and service for all of those instruments and bundles. To cut down on those issues (and hopefully because of backwards compatibility), instrument stock is going to be handled differently. Harmonix is going to open up pre-ordering well ahead of release with different options like a guitar only bundle or the guitar, drum kit and mic, and the preorders are going to affect how much stock of instruments is produced and available. If it's only the hardcore fans that are ready to buy in on day one then they may be the only ones who will have new instruments at launch. Harmonix has set up a preorder alert system that can found here.
All-in-all this a big day for 'Rock Band' fans. The question then is, can Activision be far behind?
You can find the latest info on 'Rock Band 4' linked from our Video Game Release Schedule.
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