Sure, Rock Band is a great party game, but its appeal goes deeper than just having a good time with friends. With a decent group, Rock Band actually captures the rush of playing music in front of a large, adoring crowd. The fast-paced note-matching gameplay helps, of course, but game mechanics aren’t why Rock Band took the world by storm. It all comes down to the fantasy that Rock Band fulfills.
According to Steve Janiak, CEO of Rock Band creator Harmonix, that’s by design, and he hopes that the upcoming Rock Band 4 will be the most immersive game in the series yet. As Janiak told Gaming Insiders, “For Rock Band, the feeling of playing live music, of really being on stage with the lights and the crowd and the sound enveloping you, that’s the experience we’re trying to deliver with Rock Band 4.“
Meanwhile, virtual reality headsets, which aim to make video games and other multimedia experiences more immersive, are becoming increasingly common. With major companies like Sony, Valve, and Facebook (via Oculus) trying to bring virtual reality into living rooms around the world, it seems like Rock Band‘s brand of virtual rock-stardom could become more convincing than ever before.
Janiak agrees. When Gaming Insiders asked Janiak about Rock Band 4’s virtual reality support, he said, “[Rock Band] could be even more incredible and immersive in the context of VR, and we’re excited about the possibilities.” After all, he says, “Harmonix prides itself on being at the forefront of new technologies…. VR is an intriguing frontier, and a great opportunity to fundamentally reinvent how people connect to music.”
In fact, Harmonix is already playing with virtual reality: last September, the company announced Harmonix Music VR, which uses Harmonix’s proprietary Music Analysis Engine to create virtual worlds based on users’ personal music selections. The app is being developed for Samsung’s Gear VR, which uses the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone to power portable, interactive virtual reality applications.
Janiak didn’t confirm whether or not Rock Band 4 would be virtual reality-compliant when it ships this fall, but even if the game doesn’t support VR out of the box, that doesn’t mean it won’t be coming further down the line. The new Rock Band is being designed with longevity in mind. Instead of annual sequels, Harmonix plans on updating the core Rock Band 4 title regularly, adding content and features digitally alongside music-based DLC.
Even without virtual reality support, Rock Band 4 looks like a return to form for the studio. While the upcoming game will stick to the tired-and-true plastic instruments players have become accustomed to, the game will run in full 1080p HD at 60 frames per second, and will sport “more realistic lighting, character models, and animation,” as well as enhanced online capabilities.
Rock Band 4 is in development for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Harmonix hopes to release the game this October.