Monday, March 16, 2009

The Beatles Will Soon be Playable

The Beatles officially join the video game world. Why?

By Clarence Yu
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The band that John Lennon once described as more famous than Jesus Christ will soon be available as a video game as The Beatles: Rock Band.

According to this article from the Rolling Stone website, the game will be available for play on Xbox, Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 and will be released on September 9, 2009.

Developed by Harmonix Music Systems and published by MTV Games, Rock Band is a popular music video game that allows players to play as a band unit — guitars, bass and drums, unlike the rival Guitar Hero game series by Activision (until the recent release of Guitar Hero World Tour) only allowed players to interface with the game as a guitar player.

This will be the first Rock Band video game devoted solely to a band, and will reportedly cover material from the Beatles' first album, Please Please Me, to their final album, Abbey Road.

This development continues the trend of artists who are diversifying their channels of distribution through the gaming industry. Previous artists who have done so include Aerosmith and Metallica (through the Guitar Hero franchise).

One can have mixed feelings about this kind of medium being used by artists to enhance their popularity and sales. For one thing, it certainly is proven to work well for big-name artists. With Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, the band garnered more sales from the game than from any individual album they recorded. It also worked to boost their catalog sales by giving gamers an increased awareness of the band's past music.

While this is a great way to learn about an artist's music, it might not be the best way to learn an instrument. For example, given the big differences between the game guitar controller and an actual guitar, it might be easier for a gamer just to play the video game. But as a form of expression and creativity, the game might be utterly useless. The only good thing that can be seen at the moment about this from a musical standpoint is that it might spark the interest of gamers into picking up an actual instrument.

The Beatles certainly do not need the money or the added popularity. Hopefully, one can only imagine that they are getting into this project to incite more interest in the art of writing and creating music, which would then lead to a boost in more bands and more recorded music. Just like the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which launched thousands of bands and inspired even more kids at the time to pick up an instrument, one can only hope that a similar revolution will occur with the game's release.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to see the kind of reaction this game will elicit from hard-core Beatles fans, gamers, and music industry insiders, and how much Apple Corps Ltd. (the Beatles-owned record label) would stand to gain from a business standpoint, and how other legendary bands would react. Rock Band: The Rolling Stones, anyone?

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