Sorry metal-heads, sometimes you just can’t go home again.
I can honestly say that I sometimes miss the days of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band craze. I call it a craze, because its popularity got pretty crazy there for a while. Thinking back, I can remember a time not so long ago when every inch of store shelves were chock-full of large plastic guitar or drum-kit boxes. Plus it was one of those great periods in gaming we sometimes experience. Everyone was into it, from hardcore gamers to crazy Uncles alike (you know, that one you only see at Thanksgiving who hasn’t picked up a controller since the days of the Atari 2600).
But at the time, we didn’t realize we were living in a bubble that was soon to burst. After a strong few years, an oversaturation led to a very ET-esque death of this sub-genre (one that left us with a ton of plastic toy instruments doomed to collect dust).
So you can only imagine the intensity of the nerdgasm felt by the collective gaming community, after rumors circulated at this year’s PAX East in Boston regarding Harmonix’s beloved franchise. Comments made during their keynote speech suggested they’d be breathing new life into the series (as well as everyone’s favorite ass-shakin’ hit Dance Central) on the next-gen consoles. It was all anyone could do to contain their excitement, as blogs and online forums filled with speculation that the game would be going into full-on development mode ASAP. However, it was not to be, as Harmonix’s John Drake (Director of Publishing and PR) tweeted the following soon after the news broke: “People writing that "HARMONIX IS BRINGING ROCK BAND BACK" as a takeaway from this talk are pretty willfully misrepresenting what was said.”
So as the collective wave of excitement begins to recede, allow us to take a moment to reflect. Cleary Harmonix was just attempting to throw fans of the rhythm games a bone, by teasing that at SOME point we’d see a resurgence (it’s just not going to happen tomorrow). While many are focusing their energy on the misinterpretations of what Harmonix meant, they should actually be thanking their lucky stars. Why? Because frankly you don’t want a rehash of Rock Band, Guitar Hero or Dance Central on the next-gen consoles.
And here’s why…
You remember the bubble I talked about before? That bubble was essentially created by flooding the market with too much of a good thing. Some may say there’s no such thing, but to them I ask, "Oh really"? Then why has the rhythm genre died a slow death over the last few years and ultimately disappeared? A next-gen version would just be more of the same that killed it in the first place. What does the next-gen really mean to a game whose primary component is pressing colored plastic buttons in sync with a pre-recorded track? A title like this has never been about the visuals, multiplayer mechanics or in-game physics. Even the latest gimmicks of integrating real-world guitars weren’t enough to recapture interest. So then, where can the Xbox One or PS4 be expected to take it that it hasn’t already been? The nostalgic factor would provide for a quick, short-lived rise, followed by a steep (and even faster) fall.
I know I’ve harped on this before, but I’ll say it again: The future of VR and changing the nature of how we interact with our games is what will truly take us into the “next generation.” If you really want to see the stellar return of a game like Rock Band, don’t just tread old ground; forge new frontiers. With the use of motion-sensing devices like the Kinect 2.0 or the Morpheus/Oculus technology, we can truly step onto a new stage...in this case literally.
Trust me, you don’t want another Rock Band in its previous form. Finding the patience to wait is key. The future may hold so much more for the concept, if we can just manage not to kill it off completely before then.