_April 2nd will be a day of conflicting emotions for me. On the one hand, it will be my sister’s birthday. I love my siblings, and I love any excuse to spend time with them, even more so an excuse to celebrate their existence in this world. On the other hand, April 2nd will harken the end of a 5 and a half year odyssey of weekly DLC for Rock Band.
_Since the first time I played Parappa the Rapper, I’ve considered myself a rhythm game fan. I played the piss out of Parappa, Um Jammer Lammy and Bust-a-Groove on the PS1. I soon found myself an avid DDR player, which gateway’d me into IIDX and drummania. There was a week where I found myself competing with my friends for high scores in Britney’s Dance Beat at Game Crazy. I own and adore Evangelion: 3nd Impact. Yup…I luv me sum rhythm gamz.
_It was around August of 2005…I was attending a local anime con here in Las Vegas, appropriately named Anime Vegas, where I came across a booth belonging to Red Octane, whom I was familiar with due to owning one of their home DDR pads. They had a demo for this new game coming out in a couple months called Guitar Hero. I played it, was terrible at it, but fell in love pretty quickly. The guy there told me they partnered up with Harmonix, whom I was familiar with from Amplitude and Karaoke Revolution. I knew they made good stuff, I knew RedOctane made good stuff, I’d had hands on time and was totally sold on the game. It’s now almost 8 years later, and while the rhythm game craze came and went, I’m still playing my fake controller instruments with reckless abandon.
Not to go into a whole history lesson, Harmonix eventually released Rock Band for all modern consoles on November 20th, 2007, and on the same day, there were 15 extra songs which one could also download and play. Every week since then, there’s been at least 1 new song a week added to the library of Rock Band songs. There were times when I went for months without playing any RB or without downloading any songs, but it was nice knowing that every week, there was a chance of something fucking awesome being DLC. There would be weeks where you go “You know, I don’t think I needed Daughtry,” but then the next week it’d be all “Holy crap, that’s a lot of Queen!” or “OMG they put that one song from Dumb and Dumber in LEGO Rock Band, this is fucking awesome!”
_It was always the surprises that had me coming back for more. When Activision ran the Guitar Hero franchise into the ground and made an official statement in early 2011 on them shelving the series indefinitely, lots of people said “About time!” Then they wondered how long Harmonix would keep supporting Rock Band now that the genre was “dead.” I’ll admit…I thought that the DLC would soon stop. Activision’s announcement basically sold everybody on rhythm games being finished, and with the image of rhythm games being done in the eye of the public, what artist would want to bother licensing songs for one? Thankfully, Harmonix came through big time, coming out with some of their best DLC tracks in the 2 years since. Total Eclipse of the Heart, Paradise By the Dashboard Light, Party Hard, Lightning Crashes, Closer, Blood and Thunder, Footloose, Dog Days Are Over, a fucking Bush pack from Sixteen Stone…expectations equaled surpassed.
_More than anybody, I’m fully aware that the end of weekly DLC does not mean “No more DLC for Rock Band ever.” But the announcement of no more weekly DLC does indicate that there might not be any new official songs released for Rock Band. It’s almost like the WiiU or PS4 announcement…it’s not that announcing a new console means that the current consoles are now dead and will no longer receive support, but it does signify that the end is coming. It’s inevitable, after all.
_Somehow, it seems fitting that in thinking back on all of the good times and on the 200+ strong songlist available to download, one can’t help but think about the songs or bands we didn’t get. Brand New had one song in the Guitar Hero franchise, but never appeared in Rock Band. Nobody ever did manage to snag any Zep. My favorite guilty pleasure 80’s ballad I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes) never appeared to brutalize vocalists with that wail. They had Incubus DLC, but Stellar never came back from Guitar Hero 1 with a master track. No Skid Row. No Poe. Put keyboards in RB3, but no House of the Rising Sun. Nothing from Pearl Jam’s catalog between Ten and Backspacer. RB3 introduced me to a bunch of awesome indie bands, like Rilo Kiley or Metric, but never gave us any more from them. Hell, RB3 gave us a ton of bands that hadn’t appeared in the franchise before, but no DLC afterwards. Primus, INXS, At the Drive-in [or any Mars Volta for that matter], Rammstien, Beach Boys, Dire Straits…I weep. I weep for all of the things we never got while simultaneously smiling for all the thing we got.
_I’ve been sending off the game in true fashion the past week or so, with some heavy play. Just…playing. One console ago, I was able to get my rhythm kicks thanks to DDR and IIDX. IIDX had gotten 4 arcade installments, but hasn’t appeared on modern consoles, and I never got a modern DDR pad. Rock Band managed to fill in as my modern console rhythm game, having played it throughout the majority of the entire console life cycle. With new consoles out and looming, I wonder to myself if we’ll see another rhythm game series come out and be supported in such a way with new songs on a regular basis for years on end like those series were. Lots of people seem to be acknowledging and lamenting this end of a era for Hamonix, but does that mean any developers or publishers out there will think that there will be a big enough market to release new music games on a new console? The future of rhythm games might lie on mobile devices and tablets, with Konami actually releasing home versions of two of their more recent rhythm game franchises Jubeat and Reflec Beat on the iOS platform. Not to sound grim, but Rock Band might end up being the last major console rhythm game…
…but Harmonix has already said they’re working on something new. Given their track record, I think it’s safe to assume that while it might not be on the same scale as what Rock Band became, music game enthusiasts won’t be left out in the cold.
_Thanks for all of the years of blood, sweat and exploding note disks~