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Rock Band
Rock Band logo.svg
Genre(s) Rhythm game
Developer(s) Harmonix Music Systems
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts Studios
First release Rock Band
November 20, 2007
Latest release Lego Rock Band
November 3, 2009

Rock Band is a series of music video games developed by Harmonix Music Systems and MTV Games, and distributed by Electronic Arts for the Nintendo DS, iPhone, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360 game systems. The series, inspired by Harmonix's previous efforts on the Guitar Hero series, allows up to four players to simulate the performance of popular rock music songs by playing with controllers modeled after musical instruments. Players can play the lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums parts to songs, as well as sing through a USB microphone. Players are scored on their ability to match scrolling musical "notes" while playing instruments, or by their ability to match the singer's pitch on vocals.

The first game in the series, Rock Band, was released in 2007 shortly after Harmonix was acquired by MTV Games, and its sequel Rock Band 2 was released in 2008. Harmonix has also regularly provided downloadable content, in the form of additional downloadable songs on a weekly basis through the game consoles' network services. To date, over 1000 songs are available between those on the game discs and through downloadable content. Harmonix has also created standalone Track Packs that either contain a selection of downloadable content, or a selection of band-specific songs. The company has also designed the Rock Band Network to allow bands and labels to publish their songs as Rock Band tracks that can be purchased by players. To date, over 13 million copies of Rock Band titles have been sold[1][2] netting more than $1 billion in total sales.[3] Over 1,000 songs are available in the franchise library, and over 60 million downloadable song purchases have been made.[2][4][5]




Pre-Rock Band

Harmonix Music Systems previously developed several music-based games, including Frequency, Amplitude, and the Karaoke Revolution series. Harmonix was approached by RedOctane to help develop Guitar Hero, a music video game similar to Konami's GuitarFreaks in that a special guitar-shaped controller was used to mimic the playing of lead guitar to several rock tracks. Guitar Hero proved to be a surprise success, and led to the development of a full sequel, Guitar Hero II, and an expansion title, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.

Main series

In 2006, both Harmonix and RedOctane were bought separately, by MTV Games and Activision respectively; MTV paid $175 million to acquire Harmonix.[6] RedOctane continued to publish the Guitar Hero series, bringing Neversoft on board for development duties. According to Harmonix Vice President of Product Development, Greg LoPiccolo, the Harmonix team had already envisioned the possibility of different instruments before they were completed with the Guitar Hero series.[7] Rock Band took twenty months and approximately US$200 million to develop. Harmonix was able to use MTV's music licensing abilities to secure the licensing rights for the music in the game. Rock Band was praised by critics and was highly successful, leading to the release of a sequel, Rock Band 2 less than a year later.

In part due to development of The Beatles: Rock Band, Harmonix announced that Rock Band 3 will break the "annual release cycle" and was not released in 2009.[8] Rock Band 3 was officially announced by Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman on March 9, 2010, to be released by the end of 2010.[9] The game will continue to be distributed by Electronics Arts after the two companies reached a continued agreement for distribution of the series, which was initially set to expire in March 2010, with the final EA-distributed title to have been Green Day: Rock Band.[10][11]

Band specific games

In October 2008, Harmonix, along with MTV Games, announced an exclusive agreement with Apple Corps, Ltd. to produce a standalone title, titled The Beatles: Rock Band, based on the Rock Band premise and featuring the music of The Beatles. The game was released on September 9, 2009, coinciding with the release of remastered collections of the Beatles' albums, and features a visual and musical history of the Beatles with United Kingdom-released versions of songs from their albums Please Please Me through Abbey Road. Harmonix stated, despite building on the Rock Band gameplay, that the game is not a Rock Band branded title, and that the songs will not be available as downloadable content for the Rock Band series.[12] The agreement had been in discussion for more than 17 months prior to the official announcement.[13] The game itself was a result of a chance meeting between Dhani Harrison, George Harrison's son, and Van Toffler, president of MTV, shortly after Harmonix's acquisition. Dhani was able bridge the shareholders of Apple Corps with Harmonix, leading to the game's development; as such, Dhani has since been hired as an employee of Harmonix, working on improving their instrument controllers.[14]

Following on the success of The Beatles: Rock Band, Green Day: Rock Band was announced at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards for release in 2010, and will include the band's songs (including "American Idiot"), avatars of the band's members and venues specific for the group.[15] The track list will be fully exportable to other Rock Band games.[16]


On June 2, 2008, Harmonix announced that it had begun codeveloping a Japanese version of Rock Band with Q Entertainment for exclusive release in Japan on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360. According to Harmonix, Rock Band: Japan will be "the first US-originated rock music game to be heavily localized for the Japanese market".[17] A release date has not yet been announced. While the game mechanics are expected to remain the same as Rock Band, the game will be localized and its soundtrack will include songs by popular Japanese artists,[18] such as X Japan.[19]

Lego Rock Band features Lego-style avatars with full customization along with a family-friendly soundtrack.

Harmonix and MTV Games have worked with TT Fusion and Traveller's Tales, developers of the various Lego-themed video game titles such as Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to create Lego Rock Band.[20] The game's announcement was preceded by industry rumors of the title's existence,[21] including mention in a slide in Harmonix' Dan Teasdale's presentation at the 2009 Game Developers Conference.[22] The game includes songs that are "suitable for younger audiences."[20] The game also includes the "fun, customization and humor of the Lego videogame franchise" by allowing players to create their own Lego-style avatars. The game, which was released on November 3, 2009 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii consoles, supports all existing Rock Band instruments.[20] The game is able to utilize selected existing downloadable content for the other Rock Band games that have been deemed acceptable for the game's audience, except on the Nintendo Wii. There is also a Nintendo DS version co-developed with Backbone Entertainment, with gameplay similar to the Unplugged title.[20]

Portable games

Rock Band Unplugged was developed by Backbone Entertainment and was released for the PlayStation Portable in North America on June 9, 2009[23] and will be in Europe by the end of 2009. The game uses the PSP's Wi-Fi capabilities to provide an online store for additional downloadable content from music providers.[24] The game is played similarly to Harmonix' previous games Frequency and Amplitude, with the player using the face buttons on the PSP to match notes; after completing a length of a phrase on a given instrument, that instrument will then play by itself for a while, allowing the player to switch to another instrument.[25]

A mobile phone version of Rock Band is also being developed by EA Mobile to work with various phones; the game was released to Verizon users on September 16, 2009. The game features many of the same modes as the main Rock Band series, including the ability to play with other users through the software. The game will offer the ability to play any of the four instruments on 25 songs selected from the existing Rock Band library.[26] A version simply titled Rock Band for the iPhone and iPod Touch was also released in October 2009, with gameplay described as similar to Tap Tap Revenge and allowing up to four people to play together with Bluetooth connections.[27]

Future games

Janie Hendrix, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, revealed that she has let Jimi Hendrix's works to be used for a Rock Band game to be released later in 2010;[28][29] Harmonix later clarified that this content is not for dedicated standalone game.[30]

Several bands have stated they are seeking to or are working with Harmonix to develop band-specific content for the series. The band Pearl Jam is working with Harmonix and MTV Games along with Rhapsody on a Rock Band-related project to be released in 2010, allowing for users to vote for their favorite live versions of the band's music. It is unknown at this time if the content will be released as a band-branded game, track pack, a collection of downloadable songs or content in a future Rock Band installment.[31] The band U2, after declining an option to place themselves in a Rock Band game in 2008, are reconsidering their stance after seeing the success of The Beatles: Rock Band, according to bassist Adam Clayton.[32] Similarly, Queen are in behind-the-scenes talks about a possible title for their group within Rock Band, according to Brian May.[33] Roger Daltrey of The Who has stated that a Rock Band-title based on his group's music will be available in 2010.[34]

Other aspects

Image Metrics, a 3D facial animation company, has provided the pre-rendered introductions to both Rock Band and Rock Band 2.[35]


The Rock Band games are score-based music video games that combine elements of two of Harmonix' previous efforts: Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution, allowing up to four players to play on lead and bass guitar, drums, and vocals. Players use these instruments to play scrolling musical "notes" on-screen in time with music.

Rock Band titles' gameplay and on-screen interface use a combination of elements from Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution.[36] Rock Band has up to three tracks of vertically scrolling colored music notes, one section each for lead guitar, drums, and bass.[36] The colored notes on-screen correspond to buttons on the guitar and drum peripherals.[36] For lead and bass guitar, players play their notes by holding down colored fret buttons on the guitar peripheral and pushing the controller's strum bar; for drums, players must strike the matching colored drumhead, or step on the pedal to simulate playing bass drum notes. Along the top of the screen is the vocals display, which scrolls horizontally, similar to Karaoke Revolution. The lyrics display beneath green bars, which represent the pitch of the individual vocal elements.[36] When singing vocals, the player must sing in relative pitch to the original vocals. A pitch indicator displays the singer's accuracy relative to the original pitch. The Beatles: Rock Band features three-part harmonies using three separate microphones.[37] If any part is not being played, its interface does not appear on-screen. The remainder of the screen is used to display the band's virtual characters as they perform in concert.

A screenshot of a full band playing Metallica's "Enter Sandman" in Rock Band: each instrument is represented by a different interface: lead guitar (left), drums (middle), bass guitar (right), vocals (top).

During cooperative play as a band, all players earn points towards a common score, though score multipliers and "Overdrive" (an accumulated bonus that is the equivalent of Guitar Hero's "Star Power") are tracked separately for each player.[36] The bass guitar player's multiplier can reach as high as 6x (compared to a 4x multiplier for the other players) and achieve "Bass Groove".[38] Overdrive is collected during select portions of a song by successfully playing all white notes within that section (guitar and bass players can also use the guitar controller's whammy bar to extract Overdrive from white sustained notes).[39] Once the Energy Meter is filled halfway, players can deploy their Overdrive, resulting in the "Band Meter" (which tracks how well each player is doing) changing more dramatically. This allows players to strategically use Overdrive to raise the Band Meter and pass portions of a song they otherwise might have failed. Overdrive can be used to activate score multipliers, which vary based on a player's note streak. In solo play, deploying Overdrive doubles the player's score multiplier. However, in band play, activating Overdrive instead increases the score multiplier of the entire band by two. Additionally, players can deploy Overdrive independently of each other (Guitar Hero games until World Tour require players in Co-Operative mode to deploy Star Power simultaneously), as well as collect additional Overdrive while it is deployed and draining.[39]

Each band member can choose the difficulty at which they play (spanning Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert, a "Super Easy" difficulty is also present in Lego Rock Band for younger players). If a player does not play well enough and falls to the bottom of the Band Meter, they will fail out of the song and their instrument will be muted from the audio mix. However, any active player can activate their Overdrive to bring failed players back into the song,[36] "saving" the band member. However, a band member can only be saved twice; after the third failure, they cannot be brought back for that song. Failed players continuously drag the band's Band Meter down until they are saved. If the player is not saved before the Band Meter reaches the bottom, the band fails the song. Special portions of songs are labeled as "Unison Phrases," which reward the band with a score and Overdrive bonus if each player can play their parts perfectly during the phrase. Select songs end with a special "Big Rock Ending," which gives the players a chance to improvise and earn extra points. If each player successfully plays the final notes of the song following the freestyle portion of the "Big Rock Ending," the band earns all of the "Big Rock Ending" points. Otherwise, the bonus is lost.

As the song progresses, the screen shows a meter with the current accumulated score for the game, as well as the number of "stars" earned so far based on their score and the progress towards the next star indicated by a partially filled ring. Players can earn up to five stars, with the chance of getting 5 "gold stars" by getting a very high score with all players on the Expert difficulty. The performance's star rating will influence the monetary reward for the song within the various game modes.

Instrument peripherals

Rock Band features instrument controllers designed for the game. However, Harmonix and other companies have attempted to provide compatibility between competing instrument controllers and music games, allowing Rock Band to be playable without use of specific controllers.


The Fender Stratocaster Controller, which features 10 frets, a whammy bar, and an effects switch. The first generation model is pictured.

The guitar controller for Rock Band, modeled after a Fender Stratocaster, is used for lead guitar and bass guitar gameplay. It has several features akin to Guitar Hero's controller, as it features five colored fret buttons on the neck of the guitar (which correspond to on-screen notes), a strum bar, and a whammy bar. To use the guitar controller, players must hold the fret button that corresponds to the scrolling colored note on-screen while simultaneously pushing the strum bar. In addition, five smaller fret buttons are located further down on the neck. These buttons can be used to play all notes in guitar solos (denoted by the note track turning blue) as hammer-ons and pull-offs, without the need to strum.[36] The whammy bar can be used to distort the sound of held notes. A special effects switch can be used to toggle between five different guitar effects during solos and Overdrive periods (ranging from wah-wah, flange, chorus, echo, distortion, doubler, slap back echo, medium echo, and long echo). Overdrive for guitarists can be deployed by holding the controller in a vertical position or pressing the "Select/Back" button. The controller is offered in both wired and wireless versions. Rock Band games allow players to apply a "Lefty Flip" setting, supporting left-handed guitar players. The second version of the controller, distributed with Rock Band 2, introduced quieter fret buttons, a more reliable strum bar, and optical sensor/microphone to help the player calibrate the video and audio output from their television/stereo system's setup.

Drum kit

The first generation Rock Band drum controller, featuring four pads and a bass pedal.

The drum set for Rock Band features four rubber drum pads and a bass pedal. The pads have colored rings around the edges that correspond to the notes on-screen. These pads represent a snare drum (red), toms (blue), cymbals (green), and hi-hat (yellow). The pedal represents the bass drum (orange), with on-screen notes represented as orange horizontal lines across the drum highway. To use the drum controller, players must strike the pads with drum sticks and press the bass pedal to match the scrolling notes on-screen. Drummers can improvise in special "freestyle drum fill" sections of songs, indicated by the columns for each note turning a solid color. The four pads will commonly change functionality to represent other drums, depending on the requirements of a song. The default pad order can be reversed using the "Lefty Flip" option in the game. The legs of the drum peripheral can adjust in height or be detached if the player wishes to place it on a table-top.[40] The drum controller also features standard controller buttons in the middle of the peripheral for navigating in-game menus. Overdrive for drummers can be deployed by hitting the crash cymbal (green note for right-handed configuration) that appears directly after a freestyle drum fill. The second version of the controller, distributed with Rock Band 2, introduced quieter, "velocity sensitive" drum pads, a reinforced bass pedal, wireless capabilities, and compatibility with separately-sold cymbals. ION Audio has also produced a premium drum kit that includes cymbals and can be upgraded with a drum brain to be used as an electronic drum kit.


The microphone is a standard USB microphone. Players can use most other USB microphones, while Xbox 360 users can substitute their console's headset, if they wish. For the most part, singers are judged on how closely they match the relative pitch of the song's vocalist. During "talking parts" that do not judge pitch, a phoneme detector will pick up individual vowels and consonants of the spoken lyrics.[36][41] Some sections without vocals will display circle notes, allowing for the microphone to be used as a tambourine and cowbell by tapping it or making vocal cues. Overdrive for singers can be deployed by singing in freestyle vocal sections of songs, denoted by yellow artwork in the background of the vocals interface.

On January 4, 2008, video game peripherals manufacturer Mad Catz announced it had reached an agreement with MTV and Harmonix to produce peripherals for Rock Band.[42] Other peripheral companies have developed their own guitar controllers, such as Nyko's Wireless Frontman, that work across both Rock Band and Guitar Hero titles.[43]

Game modes

An on-the-spot group plays Rock Band 2 during the 2008 Penny Arcade Expo.
A year later, another group plays The Beatles: Rock Band at PAX 2009.

The primary mode of play in both games is a "Band World Tour" mode (renamed "Tour" for Rock Band 2); in the first Rock Band, this was limited to a band of two or more players playing locally, but Rock Band 2 expanded this to any number of players, locally or online. After choosing a band name and hometown city, the band members can create their own rock characters, as well as a band logo. Once setup is complete, the band can begin playing concerts in small venues in their hometown until they unlock vans, tour buses and private jets, which unlock more cities and different continents. Unlocking and completing new gigs unlocks additional songs for play across all game modes. Successful performances also earn the band fans (used as a metric of measuring the band's popularity), stars (which accumulate based on the success of each individual song performed), and in-game cash (which each player can spend at the "Rock Shop").[44] Most cities and larger venues require the band to achieve a certain number of fans and stars before they are unlocked. In the process, bands can loop through cities multiple times, eventually playing larger venues in cities they have already visited.[44] In-game venues are inspired by real-life venues and often display local art styles from each of the represented cities.[44]

Players complete unique sets of activities at each venue. Performances consist of single songs, multiple song sets, "make your own" setlists, and mystery setlists.[45] Players are also faced with decisions that Harmonix refers to as "risk-versus-reward."[45] Bands need to choose which sized venue they perform at carefully, as a poor performance at a larger venue poses a greater threat of the band losing fans.[45] For certain performances, bands are faced with an optional challenge that requires the band to average a certain amount of stars for their gig in order to reap the rewards.[45] Bands can also choose to perform a benefit concert (earning no in-game money but gaining more fans) or "sell-out" (earning more in-game money but losing fans).[45] Additionally, for certain gigs, bands can compete for band managers, roadies, security personnel, and sound guys, as well as a recording deal with a record label.[45] The "Endless Setlist" allows players to experience an all-day concert atmosphere, as the setlist requires playing the entire game disc's setlist from beginning to end.[46]

Rock Band 2 introduced two new modes. "Challenges" allow a band to play through pre-determined setlists, arranged via difficulty, to earn in-game money. These "Challenges" include those based on songs on-disc, as well as through additional songs from the first Rock Band or from downloadable content. A "Battle of the Bands" mode consists of limited-time online tournaments updated on a daily basis. Each specific "Battle of the Band" challenge will have a number of songs and may have specific requirements or limitations; for example, a challenge may require a vocalist, or that the band cannot use Overdrive for the challenge. The goal in these challenges is to achieve the best "score", which may be the numerical score, the number of stars earned, or the longest streak of consecutive notes played correctly. This score is tracked on global leaderboards, and allow the players to compare their performance to their friends and others. "Battle of the Bands" challenges utilize both on-disc content and other songs the players may have available.

The first Rock Band features a more traditional "Career" mode for a single player on either lead guitar, drums, or vocals, dividing the on-disk songs into nine tiers arranged by difficulty of the song for that instrument. Each subsequent tier would only be unlocked after completing the songs in the previous tier. The player would earn in-game money based on their performance. This was removed in Rock Band 2 for the improved "Tour" mode.

"Quickplay" mode allows up to four players to play any song that has been unlocked. Single players may play head-to-head with another player on the same instrument either through "Score Battles" (both playing at the same time to earn the highest score) or "Tug of War" (each trading off sections of a song, trying to outplay the other). Also included are "Tutorial Mode", which allows players to learn how to play each instrument, and "Practice Mode" which allows players to practice songs for each instrument. A more complete "Drum Trainer" mode was added to Rock Band 2 to help players learn basic drum patterns and drum fills at various speeds.


Players can create and customize their own in-game character, complete with adjustable hair, body physique, clothing, tattoos, onstage movements, and instruments. (The PlayStation 2 versions and the Wii version of the original Rock Band do not have this feature.) Using cash earned within the game, the player may purchase items at the in-game "Rock Shop," with which they can customize their rock star. The game features an art maker where players can combine different clip art elements to create custom face paint, tattoos, clothing designs, instrument artwork, and band logos. Bands themselves can create their own logo, and in Rock Band 2, players can assign any generated character to "stand in" for parts that are not presently being played.

With the release of Rock Band 2, players are able to use the official Rock Band website to create physical merchandise of their characters and band, including posters, t-shirts, as well as six-inch tall figurines.


Rock Band and Rock Band 2 featured soundtracks containing 58 and 84 songs, respectively, spanning many genres of rock music from the 1960s to 2000s, and including licensed music from both well-known artists, as well as independent groups. The majority of songs for Rock Band are master recordings, with a handful of cover versions, while all of Rock Band 2's songs are master recordings. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 players are able, for a fee, to export most of the songs in Rock Band onto their console's hard drive to play in Rock Band 2 and future Rock Band games. A similar feature is available for songs from Lego Rock Band.[47]

Music libraries for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Rock Band and Rock Band 2 can be expanded through the purchase of downloadable songs, track packs, and the forthcoming Rock Band Network. Similar functionality is available for the Wii version of Rock Band 2.

Downloadable songs

Harmonix aims to provide a wide range of music to players through additional content, stating that Rock Band is a music platform for discovering music.[48] The developer releases new songs, compatible with both games, through regular weekly downloadable content, with over 1,000 songs, including 14 complete albums, available from over 250 different artists presently available.[3] These have included various singles, artist packs featuring three or more songs from the artists, and full albums. Downloadable songs are usable in Rock Band and Rock Band 2. A portion of the downloadable song catalog are also usable in Lego Rock Band, based on their appropriateness for the game's family-friendly content rating. While The Beatles: Rock Band also supports downloadable content, the game does not share such content with the other Rock Band games, nor can use content from the other Rock Band games.

The standard price for individual song downloads is $1.99 (160 Microsoft Points/200 Wii points) per song, while some songs are worth $0.99 (80 Microsoft Points/100 Wii Points), and some even for free. Downloads are available through PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and the Wii's online service. Song packs and certain singles are available at discounted prices. The price for downloadable albums varies, according to how many songs are on the album.[49] The music can be purchased either directly from the console's online store, or through the Rock Band games directly via its own "Music Store", which allows users to preview the music prior to purchase. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of both games support downloading; the Wii version of Rock Band 2 also has this feature, and Harmonix has re-released existing downloaded content on the Wii over time. Wii users are only able to purchase songs through the game's Music Store, and not through the Wii Shop Channel.

As of December 1, 2009, Harmonix states that there are over 1,000 songs available for Rock Band 2 through on-disc songs, imported track packs, and downloadable content.[5][50] Over 60 million downloadable song purchases have been made through the Rock Band music store service through October 2009.[5][51]

Track packs

Harmonix has created a series of Track Packs that contain up to twenty songs previously featured as downloadable content that can be played as a standalone title with reduced features (such as no character customization and limited game modes). These titles were initially intended for users of Rock Band on platforms that lacked network capabilities, specifically the PlayStation 2 and the Wii. However, the second Track Pack was made available for all four console systems, and allows users on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to download these songs for use in the main games. A third Track Pack provides all the tracks from AC/DC's Live at Donington album in a similar manner to the second Track Pack, including exporting them to the main games. More recent Track Packs have been genre-specific such as classic rock, country, and metal. Some Track Packs have included songs not yet available through downloadable content, though Harmonix has released the exclusive tracks from the Country Track Pack and the Metal Track Pack in Music Store for purchase.

Rock Band Network

The Rock Band Network is a system created by Harmonix and Microsoft to allow artists and labels to author their own songs into Rock Band tracks using special software provided by Harmonix. These songs are peer-reviewed for content before being put on the Network, and users will be able to browse through the available songs by several means. The Network will augment the songs added by Harmonix as downloadable content for the game. The Network became publicly available to Xbox 360 players on March 4, 2010, with songs coming to the Network Store for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and certain selections coming to the Wii.[52]

Cultural impact

Like Guitar Hero, Rock Band has influenced the music culture. Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy, the founders of Harmonix, were together named in Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of 2008 for their creation of Rock Band. In the article, guitarist Steven Van Zandt claims, "in the history of rock 'n' roll, Rock Band may just turn out to be up there with the rise of FM radio, CDs or MTV."[53] Both were awarded the 2009 Game Developers Choice Pioneer Award for their influence on music video games culminating with Rock Band,[54] and the 2010 USA Network's "Character Approved" Award for New Media in 2010 for the impact that their vision and leadership for Rock Band has had on the social nature of the game.[55] A reality television show, Rock Band 2: The Stars, was created by VH1, featuring several players performing and being eliminated by judges Alice Cooper and Sebastian Bach.[56] The Pennsylvania-based band, the Jellybricks, released a viral video of their song "Ruin Us" which is overplayed on footage from Rock Band 2 using avatars resembling the band members.[57] Rock Band appeared briefly in the "Whale Whores" episode of South Park, where Cartman, along with Kyle and Kenny, sang to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face";[58] about 5 months after the airing, Harmonix announced a Lady Gaga pack, including "Poker Face" as well as the version of the song performed on South Park as downloadable content for the game.[59] The Los Angeles Times suggests that Rock Band, particularly The Beatles: Rock Band, has influenced many of the contestants in the preliminaries for the 9th season of American Idol to use songs that have appeared in these games for their auditions.[60]

In terms of sales, Rock Band trails the Guitar Hero series, selling only 4 million units in 2007 compared to Guitar Hero's 11.8 million.[12] In 2008, Rock Band was the third highest brand, trailing Guitar Hero and the Mario series, with $662M in total sales for the year.[61] Over 5.3 million copies of the games were sold in 2008, with 3.8 million of those in instrument-bundled packages.[62] Wedbush Securities gaming analyst Michael Pachter believes that both game series will sell another 3 million units each by early 2009.[12] Regardless, Rock Band has not generated profits for Viacom due to the cost of developing and selling the instrument peripherals. As a result, Viacom, MTV Games, and Harmonix are shifting the Rock Band series into one that focuses on selling songs through additional software discs and downloadable content, letting others, such as Activision, handle the creation of the game controllers.[63]

Sales of downloadable songs have been in favor of hard rock bands; Mötley Crüe's single "Saints of Los Angeles", debuting as a Rock Band track at the same time as the release of the album of the same name, saw 48,000 Rock Band downloads and 14,000 iTunes downloads during its first week of release.[64] The popularity of some tracks have also led to groups considering releasing more material for the game. Rush's alternate version of "Working Man" released only for Rock Band was met with so much praise from players of Rock Band that the group released the song for download through iTunes, as well as considered making full albums available[64], which they in turn did when they released their Moving Pictures album in full on the platform soon after. Guns N' Roses has delayed their long-awaited album Chinese Democracy so often, many doubted it would ever be released; however, the Rock Band 2 debut of the song "Shackler's Revenge" was thought to be the precursor to the release of Chinese Democracy; the album was indeed released in November 2008 and was later made available as a downloadable album for the Rock Band games.

Rock Band's downloadable content has been given away as part of promotions tied in with the game. Playable tracks from Disturbed and Pearl Jam were given to customers that had purchased new albums from the respective bands in certain stores.[65][66] During the summer of 2009, customers of specially-marked Pepsi products had a chance to win a token to select one downloadable track out of about 300 for Rock Band in addition to other Rock Band related-prizes.[67]

Rock Band and Guitar Hero have been stated to provide significant benefits for music labels and artists through exposure to new audiences.[68] However, not all record labels believe there are benefits; Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and chief executive for Warner Music Group, stated that "The amount being paid to the industry, even though their games are entirely dependent on the content that we own and control, is far too small."[69] While industry rumors stated that MTV Games was boycotting artists under the Warner Music label over the music company's stance on licensing[70] the issue has been stated by both MTV Games and Warner Music Group to be a present dispute over increased costs of licensed music as the two companies seek a new deal.[71] Since then, MTV Games and Warner Music Group have entered into licensing agreements allowing music from the label, such as the band Green Day, to be used within the game.[72]


Released Year Title Platform
360 PS3 PS2 Wii PSP NDS iPhone OS Mobile
Main Games
2007 Rock Band Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
2008 Rock Band 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
2010 Rock Band 3 Yes Yes 0TBA Yes 0TBA 0TBA 0TBA 0TBA
Band-Centric Games
2009 The Beatles: Rock Band Yes Yes No Yes No No No No
2010 Green Day: Rock Band Yes Yes No Yes No No No No
2009 Lego Rock Band Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No No
Portable Games
2009 Rock Band Unplugged No No No No Yes No No No
2009 Rock Band Mobile No No No No No No No Yes
2009 Rock Band (iPhone OS) No No No No No No Yes No
Rock Band Track Packs
2008 Vol. 1 No No Yes Yes No No No No
2008 AC/DC Live Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
2008 Vol. 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
2009 Classic Rock Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
2009 Country Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
2009 Metal Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No

See also


  1. ^ Magrino, Tom (2009-02-12). "Rock Band 2 sales near 2 million, franchise ships 10 million". Gamespot. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
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