I have fond memories of that brief moment in time when cheap plastic instruments ruled the world. A large part of me wants to relive those halcyon days. A smaller part of me believes it might be time to bring it back.
Yesterday I found myself in my garage for some reason. I've recently moved house and you know how it is: you pack everything you own into boxes and you only unpack 50% of it. The rest gathers dust, and rots in cardboard until you muster up the motivation to bung all your crap into the car boot and head to the local dump. Yesterday while pottering around I saw it — protruding from the mess of books I'll never read and crockery I'll never unpack — the long neck of a fake Stratocaster, the original Rock Band guitar. I could almost hear the clackity-clack of the buttons. I looked closer; saw those shitty drums, another guitar, a presumably unfixable tangle of cables I was too scared to look at. I saw all of that and immediately, a rush of blood to the brain.
I need to play Rock Band.
I think I was primed for this moment. Earlier that afternoon I had been at the climbing gym. The music played at my gym is almost always, without fail, a constant drone of PULSATING TRANCE MUSIC FOR ALL OF TIME. Today for some reason it was different: classic rock was blaring from the speakers. In between climbs I lay back on the mat as 'More Than A Feeling' played; my all time favourite Rock Band track. In my mind's eye I could see the Rock Band tab flitting past my TV screen, my fingers started twitching. I imagined myself playing through it, my wife on the sticks, a buddy on bass while my brother in-law caterwauls on the mic.
I'd had a vision.
It turned out I wasn't alone. When I arrived in the office this morning Luke Hopewell, Editor of Gizmodo Australia, made a beeline for my desk. "DO YOU HAVE A GUITAR HERO GUITAR? I NEED A GUITAR HERO GUITAR RIGHT NOW." Luke had gone to Spawn Point, Sydney's brand new gaming bar, on the Saturday and he played a ton of Guitar Hero there. He subsequently spent a good chunk of his Sunday trawling eBay for a copy of Guitar Hero. He'd gotten the bug again.
Obviously this is all anecdotal. Obviously the market and publishers will decide when it's time to revive Rock Band/Guitar Hero, but hear me out here.
Imagine if you will a digital version of Rock Band on your PlayStation 4. Imagine lean, nicely designed, wireless instruments. Imagine easy, cheap access to a store and the ability to build your own library. Imagine the option to buy 70 tracks for $70 dollars. Imagine a package like that. That library already exists. Harmonix has the back catalogue. It is ready to go. Imagine you just buy the instruments and you get $50 of credit to buy whatever tracks you want as part of the package?
Imagine a subscription service. Imagine a Spotify style Rock Band service that gives consumers access to the entire back catalogue for $10 a month. Imagine that.
Imagine it all packaged in a slick, modern user interface for current-gen consoles that reflects what we expect from video games as services in 2014.
I imagine all of these things and I wonder why the hell it doesn't already exist.
Rock Band and Guitar Hero went out of fashion because Activision flooded the market. Period. But I think enough time has passed for a well-meaning company like Harmonix to swoop in and reinvent the service that is rhythm gaming. We don't need new instruments. We don't need the game to be reinvented in any specific way. In fact, I'd argue that a newly revived Rock Band should completely bin Keyboards. It was an unnecessary addition and it never really felt as tactile as the four piece set-up did.
Keep it simple and focus on making the service as streamlined and accessible as humanly possible. Use all the lessons learned in previous iterations of Rock Band and create a digital only experience that caters to each users own specific music tastes. This seems like a no-brainer to me.
Rock Band, in a sense, was a little ahead of its time. Back when Harmonix was debuting services like the Rock Band Store, there was still a healthy amount of cynicism surrounding digital purchases, particularly on console. Nowadays we live in an age where micro-transactions are the norm. The world is ready for a brand new Rock Band that works for them. That works specifically for them as an individual.
It's time to get the band back together.