Harmonix recently announced that their crowdfunding for a PC port of Rock Band 4 had failed. Despite raising more than half of the $1.5 million dollars that was asked for, it seems that there wasn’t much call for plastic guitar twanging on home computers and the main problem was that in reality, only $201,000 of that money was from backers, the rest being covered by investors. That’s old news now though, but we thought we would have a look into why there wasn’t a major interest from the PC elite in a Rock Band game.
First of all, I’m a huge fan of the series, being one of those people who managed to scrimp and save and pick up the bloody expensive full band kit when the first in the series of games was released. So excited was I that an alternative to Guitar Hero was coming out and offered a soundtrack more suited to my tastes, along with the promise of big name metal bands fronting the soon to be weekly DLC… The same thing went for Rock Band 2 and 3, although over the course of time, the soundtracks gradually got far too eclectic for my liking, introducing a lot of different genres including teeny pop and too many indie tracks that were, frankly, boring to play on the guitar and bass. This also started to show in the DLC releases in the months after RB3 was released.
While I’m all for the idea that Harmonix wanted a more diverse selection to draw the crowds, Rock Band 4’s set list was a mishmash of B-Sides, too many missed opportunities for better songs from the bands that signed up and to be honest, the majority of the downloadable tracks at the minute are patchy in quality at best. The main draw for me would have been moving my 350+ DLC tracks from previous games onto my PS4, but unfortunately, after reading reviews and looking at screenshots and Youtube videos, I saw nothing new that made me want to invest another large whack of money on the Rock Band 4.
I still have a PS3 and all the gear, but it’s just not enough to bring out a high definition version of the older game to make people buy it all again. This goes majorly for the PC version too… It doesn’t offer anything in the way of innovation from previous years to merit a purchase on PC. Sorry, Harmonix, but that’s an absolute truth.
The second, and most major issue, is the idea of a party game on personal computer. Consoles were perfect for the genre, getting a few mates or family members around to jam it out in full band mode, complete with beers and bad singing in full flow in front of the 40″. While it’s entirely possible to hook a modern PC up to an HD television these days, I’m not sure how many people actually do this for local multiplayer. Most of us are assigned to a desk with limited space and just about enough room to sling a guitar over our shoulders, never mind fit a drum kit, mic stand and four people with absolutely no musical talent whatsoever (especially the bassist (wink)) in that sad, tiny play area. While it’s entirely viable for people with a full room to muck about in, most PC gamers are content to sit in our cramped corners, with our backs to the world in virtual happiness. There’s definitely a market, but sadly, it’s not a huge one.
The final problem for me is the fact that there’s nothing new to play with. Harmonix forgot the biggest element of bringing out another guitar game, and that was to update it’s peripherals to match a new generation of gaming. While Guitar Hero decided to change the layout of it’s fret keys, Harmonix and Mad Catz decided that the bland, Strat model that they’ve been using for almost the last nine years was good enough and gave the model a bit of an update. I can’t comment on the quality of the guitar for current gen, but I always felt that the original models were a bit flimsy and the buttons loose compared to the robust, chunkier GH guitars, which I won’t praise too much, as they were a bitch to get to grips with at first. Where are the flashy peripherals to go with the game this time? Nowhere to be seen. PC gamers are more likely to pick up a copy of Rocksmith and teach themselves to play a real guitar, given their limited space and tendency towards playing alone (at least offline). If Harmonix had updated their tracks in Rock Band to allow you play along using your real axe, then there might have been some more interest, but sadly, Rock Band is most likely to stay put on consoles, which is rightfully where it belongs.
It’s sad for me, as a fan of the series, that it’s finally come to the point where even my interest has waned. Maybe Harmonix should take the sales figures, crowdfunding failure and the many news features written online and go back to the drawing board to recreate the genre again from reading about our point of views. Hopefully they won’t take this all as a dig, as it’s not meant to be, but unless you offer the PC crowd something that they can use to it’s full potential, then you’re not going to gain much love for the product. Console gamers on the other hand, need something fresher than an update and certainly more tracks that are worthy of the genre, rock.
Whew, managed to get that out without one jibe about One bloody Direction being on the DLC… What? I’m still typing? Bugger…