Xbox World 360 recently grilled Harmonix design director Robert Kay on all things Rock Band; Pricing, additions to the UK version and oh yeah, pricing. The word battle follows...
Congratulations on the success of Rock Band. What's your reaction to its popularity?
Kay: It's amazing. It's awesome to work on a game that's loved by so many people.
How do you think Red Octane is doing with Guitar Hero?
Kay: We think, basically, best of luck to them. We're doing our thing now - the full band experience, so we're getting guitar and drums and singing too.
When you released Guitar Hero II the guitar had a port to plug in a pedal. What happened with that?
Kay: Back on that game it was an expansion possibility. That's now out of our hands. We did experiment with a pedal but the plus with the wireless guitar is that you can run around the room, so it's a pain to force people to come back to hit this pedal.
Rock Band will have been out for six months in the US by the time it's released here. Why?
Kay: Yeah - I get asked this a lot by my family. First of all, I just want to say a big sorry to everyone waiting that's it's taken so long. We wanted to make sure we got it right and ready for a good release. We wanted to make sure we got some quality British bands on there too, so there's Oasis, Blur and Muse. The UK launch should have a bit of a British bias, hence the new tracks.
Does Rock Band's DLC emphasis spell the end for annual updates?
Kay: That's the route we're heading for and we hope everyone buys into it. We've put a lot of effort into setting up the infrastructure and we're really excited about it. It's not just another game - it's a new music platform.
The American launch was plagued by failing instruments. Will we see the same kind of problem over here?
Kay: We had a few teething problems with our hardware and we've worked through all of those now and we're really confident that our hardware's going to be solid when it releases in the UK.
Let's talk pricing. How can you justify the price difference between the UK and US kits?
Kay: There are a few different things to say here I think. The reason why we're launching with slightly different plans to the US, where it was the game and three peripherals in one box, is that we want people to have a choice of how they play the game. So you get the copy of the game then choose whether you want to play guitar, or do you want to play drums, or do you want to buy the whole thing. So that's why we picked the packs that we did. We wanted to use this plan for the US but we couldn't get everything lined up to do that.
In terms of the pricing... I know what it's like for a British gamer to look over to the US prices. Things always seem to be more expensive in the UK and that kinda sucks. I feel the same way. One thing to point out is that the UK price includes VAT but it's not factored into the US price. All that said, I feel the same way about prices in the UK but we feel that people will think it's gonna be worth it. People will go out and buy the game and hopefully really enjoy it and get their money's worth.
Surely some gamers will want the whole pack, though. Aren't they getting screwed?
Kay: We wanted to give people options. If you want to buy all four instruments and the game you can do that but if you only wanted to play the drumming part that's all you need to get. It was important to give a choice.