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Harmonix, EA, MTV Reveal  Rock Band

Harmonix, EA, MTV Reveal Rock Band

April 2, 2007 | By David Jenkins, Brandon Boyer

April 2, 2007 | By David Jenkins, Brandon Boyer
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Representatives from Guitar Hero creators Harmonix have unveiled details of the first game to be developed by the studio since their acquisition by MTV, in the form of new rhythm action game Rock Band.

As previously announced the game will be published by MTV Games, and distributed and marketed by Electronic Arts, with the title due to be released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this Christmas. Although no images of the game or its peripherals have yet been released, it appears to be an extension of the basic Guitar Hero concept, with players able to play drum, bass/lead guitar or vocals in a virtual rock band.

The Electronic Arts press release suggests that peripherals for all three activities will be made available, specifically mentioning a microphone. "Deep online connectivity" is also promised for the title, with the promotional website for the game already encouraging community input.

In addition, the game will involve a high level of co-operation with major record labels and music publishers, with EMI Music Publishing and Warner/Chappell Music both allowing access to their back catalogs.

Record labels including EMI Music, Hollywood Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group's Universal Music Enterprises and Warner Music Group's Rhino Entertainment have all agreed to supply master recordings by their artists for use in the game, versus the Wavegroup-produced cover versions used for the first two Guitar Hero iterations.

"Harmonix was founded to create new ways for everyone to experience the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from playing music. Our work on Guitar Hero was an instrumental step toward that goal," stated Alex Rigopulos, co-founder and CEO of Harmonix. "But Rock Band is Harmonix's most ambitious project to date, and it will take music gameplay to an entirely new level. MTV has given us the freedom and the resources to really swing for the fences and make the game we've always wanted to make."

[UPDATE 9:15am] In a conference call with the press, Rigopulos and EA's Dave DeMartini expanded on the plans for the release of Rock Band. In general, Rigopulos stressed that Rock Band was seen not just as a game, as with Guitar Hero, but with the connected nature of current consoles offering the ability to add downloadable content and the collective of music industry publishers, the package could become itself a platform, and a "new way for people to experience music that they love."

Rigopulos confirmed that in addition to the music packaged with the retail unit, Harmonix had "very big plans" for an online library that would bring in various sub-genres of rock from classic to modern, and punk to southern.

Asked, given the exhibitionist nature of the Guitar Hero franchise witnessed by the number of community-produced videos of play, if Rock Band would integrate any user-created content, perhaps leveraging EA's recent acquisition of karaoke-community site SingShot, both Rigopulos and DeMartini said that while specifics couldn't be announced at this time, the online community was of "critical importance."

"We actually view the online community aspects of the game to be a huge dimension of the experience," said Rigopulos, "and that's something we're going to be devoting a lot of attention to in the development process."

Asked by consumer blog Joystiq if the company had announced marketing partners for the manufacturing of the peripherals themselves, in particular if the company's relationship with Red Octane would continue, Rigopulos said that new hardware partnerships had been made over the prior year and that from here on out, it would be Harmonix itself that would take the reigns for their own branded peripherals.

Finally, asked by consumer site GWN if the company had any plans to support other consoles, particularly Nintendo's Wii, the team said that while no specific plans had yet been made, Harmonix was "absolutely" looking to bring Rock Band to every "platform of significance," and would be tailoring the experience -- taking the Wii's remote into consideration, for example -- based on each platform's strengths and weaknesses.


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