Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why I Did Not Take the Plunge for Rock Band 3

   I was a late comer to the music game genre. I had played Frequency and Amplitude a few times before, but I was not exactly an early adopter when Guitar Hero came out. As a matter of fact, at one point, I was in a Target store with some extra money. I had to choose between Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. I left the store a proud owner of Dance Dance Revolution. I played Dance Dance Revolution for a couple of weeks, but ultimately, my dance pad ended up a dust collector in the corner.
   When Rock Band showed up on the scene; perhaps it was already there, I was not impressed. Off the bat, it seemed an instant incompatibility with me. I have no rhythm. I also live in a small apartment. I hardly had room to have these plastic instruments set up everywhere. Also, where would I store them when I was not using them? Not in my house.
   As it would be, I happened to have quite a few friends whom were into the music game genre. On a trip to Reno, I had the pleasure of starring in a Rock Band with my good friends. By this time in late 2009, it was Rock Band 2, of course. Even though I was terrible, I had a load of fun. I went home with the thought that I must buy this game.
   As luck would have it, Best Buy was having sales on certain inventory products to clear room for Christmas products. The Rock Band 2 set was on sale for about $100. I convinced my wife that we had to buy it. Of course I would play it, I assured her. However, I do not think even I was convinced at the time.
   We got it home, set up, turned on, and I was instantly hooked. Of course I played the guitar. The thing with Rock Band was it was one of those games that kept giving. The version we bought had a couple more than 100 songs. They were not all unlocked at first, so the longer you played on the tour, the more songs you had to play. Another draw to the game is how rewarding it feels to move up in skill or to beat a song you could not even play the day before. Even though it essentially amounts to nothing, you really feel accomplished when you are good at playing the game.
   As time went on, I never gave up my Rock Band guitar antics. I knew Rock Band 3 would definitely be coming. I had a feeling that it would boast more realistic instruments. I would be one of the first in line to buy it on opening day.
   Eventually, the October 26, 2010 release date was announced for Rock Band 3. As I had predicted, the game would have a more realistic guitar, which was actually a working mini-electric guitar. I knew the $150 price tag for the instrument was a steep plunge, but I was willing to take it. I was also interested in the new keyboard peripheral, even if not necessarily to be played by myself. The bottom line was that I had to have this game come release date.
   As time wore on; as it does between announcement and release, the news about Rock Band 3 kept dimming my view of the game. I was not very happy when I found out the full specifications of the guitar. I also learned; much to my dismay, that Fender would later be releasing an actual electric guitar that could be used with Rock Band 3 at a later date for $100 more than the first. Now it seemed that I would be shelling out approximately $300-$400 just to update to the new game. I was no longer excited, but I was going still going to do it.
   One thing I felt Harmonix and Viacom were doing correctly was allowing players to keep all of the downloadable content they had previously purchased for use with Rock Band 3. Being a purchaser of Rock Band DLC, I was very happy to know I would have a large library of music for Rock Band 3 from day one. However, the news concerning the DLC also became less and less good as time wore on. Not only would you have to pay extra for the pro-mode for previously released content, all new content would also have a premium for the pro-mode. This meant that the new guitar peripheral would be essentially useless unless you were willing to pay upwards of $3-$4 per song on Rock Band Network. I still feel this is outrageous.
   Then the news took a turn for the worst. Soon after the release of Rock Band 3, Harmonix and Viacom would drop support for Rock Band 2 on all new DLC. This meant that I would no longer have the choice to continue to purchase new music for my Rock Band library unless I was willing to upgrade my software. Frankly, this was the end of my career as a Rock Band musician. I retired my guitar and put it in the closet to collect dust with the Dance Dance Revolution pad.
   Point of the story is; these companies did a lot to build up this franchise then practically killed it by letting down the fans. We all understand that sometimes better costs more. Those of us that are able are generally willing to pay more for better. However, these people saw an opportunity to milk something good for more than what it was worth. It comes as no surprise that a company such as Viacom would do this; however, it does come as a surprise that they believed it would work. To release a sequel should be treated as an honor. Of course you hope to make better profits on the successor than the predecessor. However, not many people are willing to shell out $300-$400 for a new game then an extra $10 for a couple of songs. If you release a sequel, it is one thing to say there are optional hardware upgrades that will cost extra money. It is plain unacceptable to raise the price across the board even for the little things.
   As the story goes, Harmonix was actually sold today for a very small price; much less than the price of one of those fancy new guitar peripherals. I have always heard a lot about these music graduates that went on to make great video games such as Frequency, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. It is unfortunate that the only mistake they ever really made was signing on with a big name publisher. Much more unfortunate for them, they did it twice. However, these guys are ones to keep an eye on. Wherever the future of the music game genre goes, you can be sure that the creators of Rock Band will be in the center.

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