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Total Control and Setting Standards
Posted on Monday, July 14 2008 @ 12:24:13 Eastern

Well, like a lot of the fretwork freaks out there (Nick), I think I nearly orgasmed when I saw the new setlist for Rock Band 2 today, over 80 songs strong, and almost every single song alone can be a make or break deal for a game like Guitar Hero in the past, it is that strong, ranging from Bob Dylan to AC/DC to even a new single by Guns N' Roses, yes, you read that right.

With this newfound strength is the added bonus, namely twenty songs that will be, as of this writing, free right after the game is launched, which means the game will bolster 100 songs, yes 100 songs, right from the get go. But to add even more to the pile up, Harmonix is making all of the first Rock Band compatible with number two. So not only is all of the downloadable content available at your disposal, but so is the original setlist from Rock Band, and the peripherals that go with it.

Essentially, for $60.00 or more, you can buy the game alone and play it right away, without shelling out for the new, likely better and improved peripherals that will make the game better, i'm sure.

This, to me, is a marriage of something that I have suspected will happen for a while now; total, freeform downloadable control from the market in video games. The players can be radical completionists and purchase the game and the nifty bells and whistles that can accompany it, or they can just get the game alone. Or, as it is the case now, they may buy the game in pieces, the drum kit on it's own later on to replace a broken one you may have, or a new guitar to bolster your bands prowess. Harmonix and MTV have done something that is both experimental and risky, full customization of their product for the consumer by utilizing current technology and tactics.

When compared to the other music and rhythm games out there, such as Guitar Hero, it almost pales in comparison. Guitar Hero, World Tour has a more limited compatibility with the previous titles, with only downloaded content going into World Tour, leaving behind the other features, including the guitar itself. Guitar Hero, which many can site for the major boom of the music game industry, is starting to show its age, ever since Neversoft and Activision took over the franchise, it has been playing catchup with the original creators. True, Guitar Hero 3 was a hit, but GH Aerosmith and On Tour are both seen as minor quick buck cashins by most fans of the game, pointless supplements that could of easily been content for download. With only GH Metallica coming soon (which admittingly, I am looking forward to as a metalhead) the old franchise is now taking it's cue from Rock Band, but I doubt it will be successful.

What Rock Band is doing is perhaps the wisest of all things. The numbers for downloadable content, which range in the near 20 million mark, is just a sign of the power of this new customization aspect that Rock Band is subliminally promoting. They are also taking a cue from their core gamer base, and making sure everything is compatible with their games, right down to the GH II guitar for the 360. This will easily generate more revenue for Harmonix, since many fans will likely just purchase the game itself, take what they can and continue the pattern now, and with over 500 songs by the end of this year (if my math is right, including the Rock Band 2 songs) , I don't see how Guitar Hero can compete.

And maybe this is a start of something new as well for the gaming industry. Many people were concerned about the sudden flood of music games and the non-standardization of the plastic guitars, drums and microphones, but at the same time it is clear that the niche audience these games cater too is starting to notice this as well. What Rock Band is doing is essentially making all of their equipment standardized, instead of releasing new equipment every year and making it only compatible with the game it comes out on, like Guitar Hero is planning to do with their previous guitars. The use of the downloadable content is also liberating, now creating a vast library of choices for every gamer to either customize with or even leave alone, something that is glossed over with most games, like Halo and Elder Scrolls.

This total control is something that many gamers clamor for, and it is no doubt going to be a major feature for future games, and not just Rock Band. I wouldn't be surprised if episodic, cheap content for Mario, Zelda, Halo and the like begin to pour out of the woodworks, so to speak. Maybe more mini-games for Mario Party, more quests for Mass Effect, more cities and cars for GTA will come pouring in online, and be devoured like popcorn by the consumers. While Rock Band is easily setting the standards for how to make a successful musical rhythm game, it may also be setting the standards for the future of downloadable content for games; especially those prone to a sequel or two that is likely to come out.
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