A Plea For The Future of ‘Rock Band’ Song Libraries

Published 2 years ago by , Updated July 23rd, 2012 at 3:32 pm,

The Future of Rock Band Song Libraries

I couldn’t have been more pleased by yesterday’s announcement of the release date and, especially, the price for Harmonix’s Rock Band Blitz. When it arrives in late August, Blitz will feature the most substantial single batch of new Rock Band content since the release of Rock Band 3 nearly two years ago — and at just $15 for more than twenty songs, that content is cheap (normally, a single track from the Rock Band Music Store costs $2, plus another $1 for players who want Pro bass and guitar tracks).

Like a lot of Rock Band fans, I have purchased literally hundreds of DLC songs for the game. I’ve exported the contents of the first two Rock Band games, in addition to LEGO Rock Band, to my Xbox 360’s hard drive. It’s no overstatement to say that I’ve invested more time and money in Rock Band than in any other game, and I don’t regret it one bit — but I’m starting to worry about what will happen to my Rock Band library when the next-generation consoles arrive.

When Rock Band made its much heralded debut in the Fall of 2007, the very notion that it would be the beneficiary of weekly DLC for years to come bordered on the unbelievable. No developer had ever tried such a thing before, so who knew how it would pan out? Yet here we are, nearly five years later, and the total number of songs available for the game has surged to a staggering 3,827!

Rock Band Blitz Newest Songs

In 2007, there was no cloud save support on consoles. For that matter, most console hard drives were nowhere near the size they are today (I can’t help but wonder how many 20GB Xbox 360 hard drives were dedicated almost exclusively to Rock Band DLC). At its inception, the Rock Band DLC model — like all DLC models — relied on users downloading content to their console’s hard drive, from which it could then be accessed in-game. It still functions that way (and it’s still a pain to transfer all those licences for users who have to replace an Xbox 360). But this isn’t 2007, and in my opinion, it’s time for a change.

We live in a world that is more about access to content than it is about storing content locally, particularly where entertainment is concerned. I listen to music and comedy on Spotify, watch shows on Netflix and Hulu Plus, and stream podcasts from iTunes. All of those services, and many more like them, are available to me no matter where I am. I can access them from my phone, or my PC, or my game consoles. Sony’s $380 million purchase of games service Gaikai only underlines the growing importance of streaming content.

Harmonix does a fantastic job of engaging the Rock Band community, and players who register at the Rock Band website can view and track all kinds of things there: Rock Band 3 career progress and goals, custom setlists, even pictures of their in-game bands. So, why not include access to a player’s Rock Band library as part of the package?

Rock Band Blitz Library Access

To date, Rock Band iterations have appeared on home consoles, handhelds, even mobile phones and tablets, and each of them have required their own library of songs. That was simply the practical approach, and it probably didn’t hurt Harmonix’s bottom-line any, either — but it makes less and less sense for consumers as time goes on. Rock Band Blitz, which requires no plastic instruments to play, could conceivably be ported (in one form or another) to iOS and Android, or 3DS and Vita. How much more likely would you be to buy one of those versions if it allowed access to your entire library of Rock Band songs? Mark me down for “much.”

Then there are the next-gen consoles to consider. There is no telling, at this point, how thoroughly the next Xbox and PlayStation will support backwards compatibility — if they do at all. For that matter, there is no hard and fast guarantee that Harmonix will develop next-gen Rock Band games. That said, it’s nearly inconceivable that the developer would turn its back on half a decade of goodwill from Rock Band fans (to say nothing of the revenue that weekly DLC generates). The question is, how will Harmonix help those Rock Band fans, and their attendant song libraries, transition to the next generation? I contend that, for consumers, access to those libraries — from any Rock Band game, on any platform — is the only elegant solution, and the best way to guarantee that fans continue to support Rock Band for years to come.

Ranters, do you agree? Disagree? Have a better idea? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter @HakenGaken.

TAGS: Harmonix, PS3, PS4, Rock Band, Rock Band Blitz, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • Dark Reality

    Here is the problem: DLC isn’t tied to your Rockband.com account, it’s tied to your Xbox gamertag, or the PlayStation or Wii equivalent. Also there’s a financial tie to the console you bought the game on. For example, I have 953 songs… Microsoft has made a good little pile of money off of me (about a third of what I spent). So for me to take my collection to another platform… the platform owner is going to want their cut. I mean, if there’s an Android version of Rockband Blitz, and Google jumps in feet first and the entire Rockband library is ported to Google Play, Google is going to want their 30%. Since Harmonix doesn’t have a content delivery service, they’re relying on the platform owner to provide that. And Google isn’t going to add 953 songs (this includes the Rockband 3 disc, exports, DLC, and RBN) to my account without compensation. At a straight conversion of $2 a song times 953 songs times 30%, that’s $571.80 that Google will want in fees. Would I pay that? Hell to the no. Even if Google agreed to a lesser amount, it would have to be pretty low (a 1% fee would be just under $20 and I’m not sure that’s even fair) for people with large libraries to consider it.

    Another problem: Most of my Rockband DLC is in my name. A lot of it is in my wife’s. On our Xbox it’s not a problem, but we would both want Blitz on Android. Does this mean she would have to re-buy a bunch of songs, and I wouldn’t? That wouldn’t be fair at all. Now, if we could get Rockband Blitz for Android through Amazon, where we share an account, currently Amazon’s digital services (including Appstore for Android) allow multiple devices to share content, even concurrently. So that might be a solution.

    As for next-gen Rockband, I believe the Xbox Gamertag and PlayStation accounts will port forward to the next generation of each, including purchase history. To do otherwise just doesn’t make sense. I think at the very least Harmonix will use a form of my Rockband Arcade idea (a downloadable game that lets you play all your songs — kind of like Blitz in that regard, but with instruments) so you would be able to play your songs. Or they may just port Rockband 3 to the new systems (hopefully, minus story mode and plus the competitive modes from Rockband 2). All that assuming they don’t continue the franchise.