Rock Band 3 is a fantastic game, made even stronger by its massive library of DLC. Many of the existing downloadable songs, say Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," or almost anything from the first Cars album, would really benefit from the addition of keyboard parts and harmony vocals. Additionally, players who spend $150 to $280 on one of the Pro Guitar controllers would probably appreciate the opportunity to play those instruments on some old favorites ("Don't Fear the Reaper," I'm looking at you). Fear not, Rock Band fans. Harmonix has a plan, though it is a bit less elegant, and more expensive, then we might have hoped.
For starters, upgrading existing Rock Band songs is going to cost $2 to $3 each. Yes, that is the price of downloading the songs all over again, and that is basically what players will have to do, but it is slightly more complicated than that.
Upgrading a previously downloaded track to its Rock Band 3 version will cost $2, and adds keyboards (standard and pro) and harmony vocals to the original song. To further add Pro Guitar and Bass support is another $1. If, for some obscure reason, gamers would like to add just Pro Guitar and Bass, while skipping harmony vocals and keyboards, that option will also be available for a buck.
In short, three versions of each track will be available for download: a Rock Band 3 version, a Pro Guitar/Bass upgrade for the Rock Band 3 version, and a Pro Guitar/Bass upgrade for the existing Rock Band 2 version. No date has been given for the availability of song upgrades, nor has Harmonix indicated how it intends to approach the catalog of 2,157 songs available for the Rock Band games as of today.
It's a complicated solution to a complicated problem, and a bit disheartening for long time Rock Band supporters. At the very least, it would seem that upgrading to the Rock Band 3 version of a previously downloaded song shouldn't cost as much as buying the song all over again.
For those players who look at the situation and resolve to stick with either Rock Band 2 or the original Rock Band rather than deal with the song-upgrade situation, the news is even worse. Going forward (and, in fact, apparently since the October 26, 2010, release of Rock Band 3), Rock Band DLC will no longer be compatible with the original games.
According to a Harmonix rep, "...the new authoring standards, inclusion of new instruments, new lighting / venue cues, etc." in Rock Band 3 break compatibility with the older games. The lone ray of light is that Rock Band Network content will continue to work with the original games, so Jonathan Coulton fans, at least, should be placated.
Speaking as an avid Rock Band fan with a significant library of DLC, the only upside I see is that many of the songs I've downloaded wouldn't really benefit from keyboard or harmony vocal support, though that doesn't take much sting out of having to re-purchase the songs that would. Furthermore, it's flat out disappointing to see Harmonix abandon DLC support for the older Rock Band games. Constantly refreshed DLC has kept those games fresh for years -- I'll be sad to see them go.
Ranters, what do you think about the upgrade paths for Rock Band DLC? What do you think about the end of DLC support for the original games?
Rock Band 3 is available now on Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. A demo is currently available for Xbox 360 and PS3.