“I wanna Rock!!” (again)

Role-playing survival game is willing to take risks

For this week, the big release is Rock Band 2 which has already got the fans rocking for those that got a copy early. This release is just the game, the big momma edition with the new drums, mic, and guitar won’t be out for another month which is good as there is no way I can rationalize (aka afford) getting it while I still have all of RB1’s equipment taking up space in my den. There is also a super drum set which I choose to pretend that it doesn’t exist so I won’t be sad that I can’t afford it. This entry isn’t about whether or not Rockband 2 is going to be good or not, but just how big of a money maker Harmonix has tapped with it.

From previews and early impressions, the biggest feature is that the world tour option that was just multi player only, is now how the single player mode will work. Other then that there are a bunch of interface improvements and more ways to practice. Supposedly Harmonix has gone back to the drawing board and have redesigned all the instruments which will increase your Rock out Quotient (or RoQ). Other then the instruments you’ll want to rock out to all the new songs (Finally The Guess Who). Now I have a few concerns about the Rock Band IP I want to get into then back to more praise for Harmonix.

What Harmonix has stumbled on is the formula that made Madden into the success it is today, releasing incremental updates but keep the same basic game structure. This worries me however, as how long will they keep this up and more importantly how long til the fans stop coming? Rock Band like Madden isn’t really made to shake up the game play with each iteration, and I wonder just how many more will we see? I can’t help but feel if Rock Band keeps on going with yearly or every other year updates it will reach the point that we’re just paying for new songs and a few graphical updates, which if you haven’t figured out is similar to Madden now. Eventually they will run out of decent music and may have to go to the bottom of the barrel. I just want to say that I will stop buying Rock Band games when they feature an all country rock edition. While I do trust Harmonix a lot more then EA, I hope that the success and perhaps becoming the only game in town at some point won’t go to their heads. With that out of the way here’s why I think Rock Band is going to do just fine.

The first sign that Harmonix knows what it’s doing is with the recent functionality to export all of Rock Band 1’s soundtrack for $5 so that it will work on Rock Band 2 and according to the update all future Rock Band titles. This means that as they improve the game with future iterations your old songs won’t be left in the dust, and I’ll bet any amount of money that a similar option will become available for Rock Band 2 once we’re close to the release of a Rock Band 3. Then there are the songs, one thing about music is just how different each song is from one another, yes your playing the guitar across all the songs. Yet there is a difference when playing a song like “Tom Sawyer” compared to “Who Are you”. Which is why it stings less to buy Rock Band iterations just for the music compared to other games with yearly iterations (*cough Dynasty Warriors). They are also not segmenting the audience as new songs available for download will work on both RB titles, hopefully this trend will continue into the future. I could go on about the universal appeal that is music but I’ll save you from that philosophical rant.

In conclusion I wish Harmonix the best of luck, they are lucky to not only be working on a genre that they love, but it is also bringing them massive success. Now if anyone from Harmonix is listening… Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Eric Clapton, ELO, TDN, and Jim Croce, make it happen guys.