RIP ‘Rock Band’ And Its Plastic Instrument Empire, 2007-2013

Posted by on April 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm
Harmonix brought in their whole studio to play farewell.

Harmonix brought in their whole studio to play farewell.

It’s been five and a half years since Harmonix brought us their first full-band plastic instrument parade Rock Band. No longer confined to mere guitar controllers, the game introduced drumset and microphone components that allowed people to get in on the action who weren’t necessarily hot for just mashing buttons and strumming. Today marked the end of Harmonix’s ongoing downloadable content for the game with the release of Don McLean’s “American Pie”, a fitting finale to a long-running empire.

But today isn’t just the end of Rock Band reign, it marks the end of the plastic instrument sensation that rolled into town in the mid-aughts; the birth of the American rhythm game genre that replaced (and ultimately far surpassed) the country’s infatuation with Dance Dance Revolution. Red Octane and Mad Catz made plenty of money producing dancepad accessories when the former partnered with Harmonix to bring Guitar Hero to the world in 2005. As a retail guy, watching crowds gather around the demo station with the fake guitar was cute to see until the stupid kids began to squat the area en masse.

The releases came and became increasingly popular, especially as they branched into next-generation platforms. Our shelves filled with instruments of all shapes and sizes, official, knockoff, and pro and the offerings became more complex as Activision and EA annualized (or faster) their installments. In breaking with Red Octane, Harmonix wanted Rock Band to be a platform and as such, created in-game DLC stores for each platform that carried over as each new version of the game released. Sure, some songs didn’t carry over, but you were free to go for the most part, even when the games themselves went downloadable.

The world eventually got over Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Activision tuckered out first, lacking Harmonix’s foresight. Well, today is the day the music died.

Bring out those axes and drumkits. It’s time to pour one out with love.

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