Japanese developer Konami developed a long line of arcade based music games. Everything from Guitar Freaks to Drum Mania just about every instrument one could imagine Konami turned it into a music game. But these never really caught on over here in the west beyond the arcades and definitely not in the console market where the money really is.
Enter developer Harmonix who with the help of publisher Red Octane and Activision created the Guitar Hero franchise. Originally released on the PS2 with its pack in guitar controller it was a smash hit, Konami were really kicking themselves because they missed out on this lucrative opportunity. Things for Harmonix and company really took off when the sequel was released last year on the PS2 and Xbox 360. Harmonix was raking in the dough gamers were purchasing just about every copy of Guitar Hero II they could find. It was all peaches and cream but then, the divorce happened.
Developer Harmonix was bought out by music juggernaut MTV to head its MTV games division and split from now Guitar Hero owner Activision. Activision brought in their Neversoft developers (Tony Hawk series) to make the inevitable Guitar Hero III. So what does Harmonix do with probably the biggest force in music and the biggest publisher in EA supporting them? What else? Make the next big console music game. A little game called Rock Band.
So you’ve already established that you’ve released of what is arguable one of the biggest franchises on the market today. How do you top that? Guitar Hero was pretty much a single player experience, so focus on creating a band experience. Let me make this clear right now Rock Band is THE multiplayer game to have. You now have 4 instruments, lead guitar, bass, vocals and the drum set. At $169.99 it can be tough for some gamers to swallow but that includes a wireless Fender lead guitar, USB hub, 58 initial songs, the actual game and more. The music spans 5 decades and has artists from Aerosmith, KISS, Iron Maiden, The Killers and plenty more. It sure helps to have a music giant like MTV backing your game because they have unprecedented access to the master version of all these songs, so for the most part say goodbye to those awful cover tracks. So after the initial sticker stock wears off it becomes quite clear that the price is just perfect.
PS3 owners got a bit shafted though. The PS3 version of Rock Band is not compatible with any of the PS2 Guitar Hero 2 guitars, which means unless you can find an individual Stratocaster guitar on eBay it’s hard to have a 4 player band. Xbox 360 owners on the other hand are spared this and are able to use their Guitar Hero 2 guitars in Rock Band.
This probably has to do with the b*tching going on between Harmonix and Activision who don’t like each other very much now. Don’t fret (pun intended) EA has stated that individual instruments are going to be on sale in the next month or so. There’s been some issues with the instruments themselves but EA has manned up and sent out replacements for those affected for free.