Last week was a pretty busy week for Harmonix Studios. The design team best known for their development of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises launched three new tracks for Rock Band 3 last week, nearly two years since their last DLC update.
While the tracks themselves were from established and popular bands (Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Avenged Sevenfold) they weren’t exactly long absent tracks or chart burners. The timing of the release begged the question, why? Harmonix had ceremoniously pulled the curtain on their weekly DLC outings for Rock Band back in 2013, with the highly appropriate American Pie as their plastic instrument swan song.
So why after two years are they suddenly dipping their toes in the water?
Easy answer, new consoles are out and there is a gap in the plastic instrument music space. This theory holds water as Harmonix issued a voluntary survey to its mailing subscribers and the public asking about what they want to see in a new Rock Band. Topics ranged from importance of DLC, bundling of instruments, to online play and a career mode. There’s not much tea leaf reading required on this one. Harmonix wants to make a new one, they just need to find the right opportunity.
After making some fairly well received motion controlled games in their Dance Central series and to a lesser extent, last year’s Fantasia, Harmonix is probably itching to get back into what they do best. Creating note charts for popular music.
Harmonix is in an interesting situation where they have such a overwhelmingly positive relationship with both Sony and Microsoft. With Microsoft, they designed the aforementioned and critically acclaimed Dance Central games and with Sony they are set to bring back their cult favorite Amplitude thanks to a short Kickstarter campaign (even though that game got delayed until Summer). Rock Band proved to be a huge financial boon to publisher Electronic Arts but quickly fizzled out thank to saturation in its competition.
Truth be told, those plastic instruments were a chore to maintain and took up a ton of space in any den. Between Rock Band and Guitar Hero I have six guitars, two drum sets and two microphones all occupying space in my closet. And I never purchased any additional guitars after the original Rock Band.
But Rock Band was my jam. Something about playing Boston online at 3 AM with my headphones on was surreal. Forming a band out of strangers, getting your friends over to play the random assortment of downloaded tracks in my library, Rock Band was a pure experience that has never been replicated. Where Guitar Hero excelled in competitive music gaming, Rock Band brought individuals together in a performance.
And honestly, that is what music is all about.