Harmonix announces ‘Rock Band 4’

Image Credit: Engadget and Harmonix

For about two and a half years now, I’ve been learning guitar and have gotten pretty good, learning my deep library of songs, practicing scales and solos and much less often performing for friends and family. Yet there’s still part of me that wants to be a fake rock star again.

Yes, college and high school would not have been the same were it not for the crazy fad that was rhythm gaming and plastic instruments in the form of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. And I was good, thank you very much.

Now you can break those old instruments out of the crawlspace, because Harmonix has announced the return of their flagship franchise in the form of Rock Band 4, set to arrive on Playstation 4 and XBox One later this year.

According to Engadget, all your previously purchased DLC songs and those on previous games, upwards of 2000 in their library, will be transferable to Rock Band 4, Harmonix is making a strong push to make old instruments backwards compatible (despite new-gen consoles considering that a no-no), and there will be new instruments made to go along with the game.

But is there still a market for this sort of game? Could it reasonably make a comeback? The industry took a nosedive around the launch of Rock Band 3 in 2010. Harmonix was pushing new instruments like an expensive MIDI keyboard and Pro Instruments in order to actually rival games like Rocksmith and serve as a teaching tool, arguably alienating both casual party gamers and those serious gamers who valued the core gameplay aspects of the original Rock Band.

Back at the start of the month however, Harmonix released a handful of new downloadable songs, the game’s first in over two years, as well as a survey asking fans what they would most value in a sequel.

Via Engadget, Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos explained that this Rock Band 4 title would be more a way to bring back their core group of hardcore fans, focusing more strictly on gameplay, and potentially doing away with the Pro Modes and the Rock Band Network, both of which are expensive ventures that didn’t produce. In just focusing on songs and the core gameplay via DLC, Harmonix may be able to keep a steadier business model and not have the entire genre fall off a cliff.

“A relatively smaller number of Rock Band enthusiasts — give them a great experience — and we can certainly have a very sustainable business that way with a fraction of the audience who was playing before,” Rigopulos said via Engadget.

What’s unclear at this point is what new gameplay features will make an appearance in the new game, and perhaps most importantly, what tracklist it’ll have.

In my book, Rock Band 4 will need a big get in the form of songs; it’s about time Zeppelin made an appearance in one of these games. But it will also need an increased attention to the Tour Mode, as well as challenges and achievements that can be met for obsessive players like yours truly. Further, finding more songs that incorporate the triple-vocals harmonies features and return the game to its party game roots will be invaluable.

More on Rock Band 4 is expected in June at the annual E3 convention. Until then, I’ll be practicing on my fake guitar and drums.

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