Apple Corps (Not to be confused with Pretentious Hipster Apple Computers) and MTV, announced today they are teaming up to create an all new music game featuring the Beatles. The Beatles have long been viewed as a gold standard of music, both because their music is awesome, and because their licensing situation is complicated, therefore making awesome music more desirable due to lack of availability.
Unfortunately, by creating a whole new game to accommodate a single band, the announcement has a sellout tinge to me. The whole point of building a phenomenally successful platform like Rock Band is to bring content to it and sell the hell out of it, while leveraging the core platform, guaranteeing huge margins – a model that has worked phenomenally well for Harmonix to date.
But when it comes to a band like the Beatles, selling even 20 million tracks at $2 per is far outshadowed by selling 2 million games at $60 per, especially after licensing fees. My guess is the only way Harmonix could get in on the deal was to accept that they’d be building a new platform to guarantee Apple Corps more money.
This is an economically sound decision, don’t get me wrong. However, whatever “new game” they make will inevitably leverage the hell out of the RB2 engine, making the “new game” concept a joke. I can’t help but notice that Harmonix is starting to trend into becoming a big huge company more interested in commercializing everything they can at the expense of their vision — similar to Activision (which is working on 378 Guitar Hero games over the next three years).
Keep in mind that this is the second deal Harmonix has made like this. I gave them a pass on AC/DC because you can export the tracks and they are clearly using the RB2 engine. This is how it starts: a company makes an exception to their business model for the “right deal,” makes a killing, and then starts compromising on the next deal, and the one after that, and before long they’re on to Dynasty Warriors XXV: PF Changs Delivery Challenge.
All I can hope is that RB2 secured the rights to release Beatles DLC after a period of exclusivity with the “new” game. That would make sense, allow me to give them a grudging pass for selling out, and accept this move as a necessary evil for bringing one of the greatest bands ever (and to be honest, I actually don’t like the Beatles, but I understand that you plebes do) into music game content. But if this ends up being the beginning of the end of Harmonix as a scrappy innovator and the start of sell-out studios, it’ll be a shame.