Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Speaking of Kashmir, let's talk about two announcements. Both Harmonix and Activision have hinted at the return of their respective music games. My initial reaction was of course blind hysteria and to begin stuffing money under the mattress. Then I remembered that it was Activision who broke the genre in the first place with yearly Guitar Hero releases, the last of which sold fewer than 100,000 copies. Has it been long enough since the great plastic instrument crash for the market to support another one?

I have no idea but there is no doubt that Activision will eventually cock it up and that Harmonix will have the better product. And that, at the inevitable bitter end, someone will sue Activision, which will amuse me. Also, there will be no Led Zeppelin content because Jimmy Page is still alive and he hates money.

So what are we going to get? 'Sources' have said that the new Guitar Hero will have a more realistic look. No one cares because that doesn't matter. Here is the real question: is there space left for either Harmonix or Activision to change how the game itself plays, to innovate in any way? Activision ran out of ideas after adding more toms to the drum set while Harmonix went the extra mile by adding keyboards and a much more realistic (and much more difficult) guitar option. I still have that guitar, it is sitting in its box next to my speakers where it will remain until the end of days.

If there is not much left to do, interface wise, and the visual interface is at best of secondary importance, what does matter? Simple: being able to import previously purchased downloaded songs, even for a minimal upgrade fee. There are two reasons that I still own an Xbox 360: Street Fighter (which will be soon remedied by the PS4 release) and my extensive collection of Rock Band songs. Being able to move that to the new game would make it an immediate purchase for a huge number of people even if it meant dropping $250 on a whole new set of instruments.

The odds of this happening are incredibly small. Harmonix lost songs between games and some DLC has since been pulled from the marketplace. Plus forcing the game to be compatible with all of the old tracks further limits its ability to change anything. They would all need to be re-done, meaning that they would need to be paid for again, and that is not a slippery slope that I want to start down on.

Perhaps a subscription based system like Xbox Music where a reasonable monthly fee grants you access to all the music but it all goes away the minute you stop paying? Depending on the price that could actually save me money and then I wouldn't be tied to a platform. Rock Band becomes the platform. It need not be beholden to an individual console or generation, it just is.

I shouldn't be excited. I shouldn't have hope. And I don't for Guitar Hero. But Rock Band? It will be a herculean task.

But not impossible.

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