Music game developer Harmonix is all set to revisit the Rock Band series, officially unveiling today a new downloadable title entitled Rock Band Blitz for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, out this summer. It will be the series' first appearance since the abysmal performance of Rock Band 3 – which managed to ship just 1.4m units compared to series-high Rock Band 2 accumulating 4 million units sold globally (VGChartz.com) – entering a music games market sector which is but a shadow of its former self, its decline having claimed the scalp of Activision's milked Guitar Hero.
With the dance game genre largely taking over the popularity of music games in recent years, Harmonix's decision to opt for the downloadable market might be an intelligent one, removing many of the over-heads typically associated with developing a full game, while still appealing to the mass market through digital streams. What's a little more alarming is the developer's decision to remove support for the series' staple instrument peripherals.
In a radical departure for the Rock Band brand – a brand built on the 'full band experience' lest we forget - the developer has instead opted to use only a console's controller (a set-up preferred by the developer in its pre-Rock Band days, for the likes of Frequency and Amplitude), essentially turning its back on the set of replica instruments that has allowed them to make a name for themselves, and no doubt a significant portion of its profits. Consumers have every right to feel aggrieved with the move, especially those who paid top-dollar for the keyboard peripheral and only have a portion of Rock Band 3 and downloadable tracks to use it on. The multiplayer has also been entirely removed from the game, with only a single player mode to call its own. So much for 'Rock Band'.