Rock Band Developer Interview

Interview: Harmonix talks money

Ever since the UK release date and prices for Rock Band were confirmed earlier in the week, it seems like the entire internet has been in uproar over the admittedly high cost of the game.

In the days after the announcement, we got in touch with Rob Kay, the design director at Rock Band developer Harmonix, and asked him about the UK specifics of Rock Band and why it costs so much.

It was nice to hear the announcement. Why has it taken so long?

Rob Kay: First off, sorry for the wait, because it's been a while. We wanted to make sure we got everything lined up to have the release of Rock Band to be as awesome as possible. So we wanted to make sure we got more UK tracks on the disc, which are exclusive UK tracks.


We also wanted to make sure we had enough hardware out there so there wasn't a stalled release where there was no stock available.

Were the UK exclusive tracks something you wanted to do from the start?

Kay: Well, music is such a bridge and can be universal, but it's also cultural. People like things from where they're from, and we're trying to accommodate that as much as possible, especially the UK market.

We're also doing some French and German songs, and we thought why don't we give those to everyone too, so you get all of the exclusive European content as well.

When will the US get the UK exclusive tracks as Downloadable Content?

Kay: A few days after the release in the UK, they'll get access to that as well, so everybody can access the same music. That's generally what we're trying to move when moving forward.

We're really trying to grow this as a music platform, so everybody can get access to the same type of music at the same time.

Why is there no downloadable content on the Wii?

Kay: Come on Nintendo, we need a hard drive! That's what we want. The whole problem is there's nowhere to store it.

If the platform could do it, we jump on it. But it's something that we championed to Nintendo, we'd like to do it. Who knows what will happen down the line, I don't know what's coming down the line, but that's the reason there's no DLC in Wii Rock Band.

Downloadable tracks currently cost 160 Microsoft Points each. Apple has recently talked about a subscription-based model for iTunes. Have you any interest in moving towards this model?

Kay: That's not something we're talking about at the moment, but we won't rule it out in the future. The model we've been going after with the cheap downloads seems to be working pretty well, so I see us staying with that.


One of the things that we've learned is that people don't like buying packs of songs just to get one song. So one of the things we've done with downloadable content is that songs are available individually.

The pricing and packages in the UK is very different to the US? Why split up the peripherals and the game, and do you think the cost is justified?

Kay: We wanted to do that in the US, but we weren't able to. People can just buy the actual game, because you can use any USB microphone or the Xbox 360 headset to sing.

Or you might just want to buy the guitar, so you'll buy the game and just the guitar and it will cost you just seventy quid. Or you can do the same with the drums.

As for the cost issue, we think it's less of an issue when it gets released. There's no precedent for this kind of game. Most games are just a disc.

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