Harmonix Toys With All Our Emotions

Rock Band 3Last 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.

…oh?

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.┬áThis 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.

Dance Central SpotlightAfter 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.

AmplitudeTruth 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.

Destructoid – Harmonix survey asks what you want from a new Rock Band experience

 

Dance Central Spotlight to Launch September 2 at $9.99

Dance Central SpotlightHarmonix Studios’ next Dance Central title, Dance Central Spotlight, will debut on September 2 at a very friendly price of $9.99. This is the debut Dance Central title on the Xbox One, a series that garnered near-unanimous praise on the original Kinect.

Dance Central Spotlight will include 10 tracks and routines with more than 50 more tracks available as DLC at launch. The tracks included with the launch package are confirmed as:

  • Avicii – Wake Me Up
  • Cher Lloyd – I Wish
  • David Guetta ft. Sia – Titanium
  • Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz – Talk Dirty
  • Kid Ink ft. Chris Brown – Show Me
  • Lorde – Royals
  • OneRepublic – Counting Stars
  • Pharrell Williams – Happy
  • Rhianna – Diamonds
  • Will.I.Am ft. Justin Bieber – #thatPOWER

It’s a solid list of songs of dance/pop chart-toppers. Honestly, Harmonix has made Dance Central Spotlight attractive with both a starter set-list of recognizable hits and a ridiculously low price point of $9.99. It almost doesn’t matter how much additional tracks cost, because purchasers are already making out with a solid game and great songs to dance to with friends.

Even with the initial launch support with the additional tracks, Harmonix has also stated that any DLC purchases for previous Dance Central titles on the Xbox 360 will be transferable to Spotlight owners for free. I hope that they will also make available on-disc songs from previous games, transferring them like they did for their Rock Band franchise.

Polygon – Dance Central Spotlight launches Sept. 2 on Xbox One for $9.99

Wading through KinectMovePlus

After long salivating after the casual market that Nintendo has maintained a chokehold upon for the last four years, Sony and Microsoft finally unveiled their answer to Wii Motion at the 2010 E3… to the surprise of nobody.

Sony’s Playstation Move ad Microsoft’s Kinect (formerly Project Natal) had been teased and promo’d for the past year since their announcement at last year’s show. All the while, Nintendo furthered the gap by launching Wii Motion Plus to retail at the end of ’09.

Three different companies. Three distinctly different approaches to motion control. Continue reading