is no longer a game, or even a series of games. It's a platform, it's a phenomenon, and it's a household name. There are parties, nights at bars, and even professional competitions and "Battle of the (fake) Band" shows.
MTV Games and developer Harmonix have made a few announcements recently of their plans for 2010 and beyond. The next standalone game, was announced in December, following the announcement that they had surpassed 1000 songs available for download. Today, the Rock Band Network launched into public beta, allowing any band with their own music and some computer know-how to get their songs into millions of houses, for fans to play themselves.
We thought that meant this was the perfect time to chat with someone involved with the game. When it comes to people to talk to, Senior Vice President of MTV Games Paul DeGooyer will have the most information of anyone. So much so, that he had to check himself a few times during our conversation. Read on to see what's to come, some features to expect in , and some hints at and beyond. With new features already planned, and the statement that is "of course not going to be our only game this year," we may be closer to a new, full sequel than expected.
Newsarama: A lot of people were surprised with Green Day as the next dedicated game. How do you sell something like that to skeptics, to people who would say "Green Day isn't exactly at the same level as The Beatles"?
Paul DeGooyer: That's a good question. We actually had quite a bit of demand for Green Day. has a very robust forum community, and the discussion got going about what bands they'd like to see in these individual games; 'Green Day! Green Day!' ACDC, Beatles, ya know. So we've been able to satisfy a good amount of the constituency by doing Green Day. The other thing is their music really lends itself to this on a couple of different fronts.
First, the music is tremendously fun to play.
Secondly, the albums take this amazing trajectory that preserves their initial punk epic but then expands into topics well beyond that. So from a creative standpoint it suited, we thought, a stand-alone game.
It's of course not going to be our only game this year.
The other thing to note is that unlike which is kind of a walled garden game where you have to have that disc to play, the game has full interaction with the platform. We released a good portion of the new album on download already. The Green Day disc will have full exportability so you can either play the Green Day songs within its own software environment, or you can play those songs in the Rock Band software environment.
Nrama: Are we looking at any new features, similar to Harmony being added in The Beatles?
DeGooyer: There's a couple little things, I don't know what we've announced yet. Harmony IS going to be in it, and basically, it takes into its purview all of the Rock Band platform.
Nrama: Some people feel that rhythm games have already done everything they wanted them to do. How does MTV and Harmonix plan to keep things fresh?
DeGooyer: I think content is one piece of it. As you know, we have been evolving with every release. Something like a standalone game like Green Day that has full expandability and full interoperability with the platform, incorporating all of the changes to that point, we think that's pretty attractive.
There's obviously places we could go next, as far as adding other instrumentation, and for a company like MTV that deals with the entire breadth of popular music, there's probably other games entirely that we could do. We feel like Harmonix are the absolute best in the business in expressing music in game form. There's probably things we could do beyond Rock Band that could be very interesting and very powerful.
Nrama: So there is a desire to focus on other instruments or other types of music?
DeGooyer: Well, I don't know about other types of music but other types of experience with music. There's other ways to engage with music other than playing guitar or drums. That's one way to think about it.
So we want to continue the evolution on all fronts. The one thing for us is that rhythm games are taken seriously as a way of experiencing music. This isn't just a fad, no matter how much plastic instruments are foisted on consumers and pushed out at retail by a variety of companies. This is beyond that, there is a core constituency that is buying new songs every week that has chosen Rock Band as a way to get into songs that they love, and we think that this is a way to experience music that people should consider as legitimate as buying a CD down the line.
Nrama: With such an efficient platform for new content delivery, is there a POINT from a business standpoint for you guys to develop a full "Rock Band 3" sequel?
DeGooyer: You mean do we need to? Well the short answer is, as efficient as digital distribution is, there are still things that are much more efficiently delivered as a disc. In terms of major upgrades, I mean. That said, we haven't announce any formal plans for a sequel game... yet.
Nrama: Do you have a wishlist of features that you'd like to see if a full sequel is developed? Anything that didn't get into Rock Band 2 that would be a dream come true for you?
DeGooyer: Well, I think that if I were to tell you what my wishlist was, I'd be giving away too much. I'd like to think that most if not all of it ends up in the... in whatever's next for us.
Nrama: Activision has taken a very different route on their band-specific titles, using their basic template then having a band's songs plus their "hand picked favorite songs." What do you feel the advantage is of just sticking to the one band?
DeGooyer: Well, you know, in the case of the Beatles and again Green Day, tying into my earlier comment on the creative approach of the Green Day songs, you know; if you look at the Beatles game, it's not just a way to fool around with their music. It's a completely immersive, powerful, and some would say even emotional experience for them. Cause there really aren't external factors that make you think "OK, this is a commercial proposition I'm in." Everybody knows that Carl Perkins influenced an era of the Beatles. Everyone kinda knows that Pet Sounds was part of the competition that lead to the masterpiece of Sgt. Pepper's. So we didn't need to refer to those external songs, we wanted to tell the Beatles' story the way THEY wanted it to be told. So it is a very different approach.
Furthermore, we didn't think we needed the crutch of other artists' songs to broaden the appeal of a Beatles game.
Nrama: A lot of our readers asked about more band-specific games. Rather than going down a list, let me ask this; if Green Day is successful, do you plan to do more contemporary band-specific titles?
DeGooyer: More recent bands than Beatles?
DeGooyer: Well, the phenomenon you mentioned earlier of Digital Distribution being really robust and efficient. Right now, a disc is the best way to deliver these features and immersive environments. It's not out of the question in the future for us to do more of these games, but I can tell you from what I see, from where I sit in this organization, the digital aspect is giving us the ability to get much closer to an artist's vision and get it to market more quickly, even timing to some of the artist's timings and imperatives. So I'm not saying we do it, but especially with current artists having new albums or tours, having Rock Band be a piece of that, going the digital route might be the way to go.
Nrama: You said you guys do pay pretty close attention to the forums, as well?
DeGooyer: Yeah, the Rock Band forums are pretty critical to us. We don't necessarily pay attention to "trolls" on other forums. But there's a very good, very smart community that guides us.
Nrama: More bands seem to be drifting toward the independent market, rather than being with major labels. I know you've got the Rock Band Network () to let them create their own "Rock Band" files for their songs, but will MTV and Harmonix be working with any "official" third parties to help bridge the gap?
DeGooyer: Well it's starting to happen naturally. The point with Rock Band Network is that it's another tool that's open to the artists you're referring to, and it's something that was very much on our minds when we put it together. We're already seeing partners like <a href=http://www.reverbnation.com/>Reverb Nation</a> and <a href=http://www.tunecore.com/>TuneCore</a> and <a href=http://www.ourstage.com/>OurStage</a> and others picking up on offering services to get music into Rock Band via Rock Band Network and to our community.
The store will launch in some period of weeks after the program comes out of closed beta (). We already have a queue of songs ready from just the closed Beta, so we'll be coming with an offering when we open the store of hundreds of songs in just the first couple of weeks. So it's definitely picking up steam here.
Nrama: Anything else our readers should specifically be looking forward to, or you'd like to leave them with?
DeGooyer: We love the interest and support, so come over to the <a href=http://www.rockband.com/forums/index.php>Rock Band forums</a> and let us know how we're doing!