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Joystiq visits Harmonix to talk Rock Band DLC and incidentals


Yesterday we spent some time at Harmonix playing Rock Band and tried to get those lingering questions answered a week before launch. We also got some clarification on certain issues about the game and an explanation of the Canadian delay.

If there is anything you walk away with after spending a day at Harmonix and talking about Rock Band, it's the knowledge that downloadable content (DLC) will be a vital element. It was something Rock Band producer Helen McWilliams had mentioned at E3 to us as being "the big thing," but when you actually see the scope of it ... seriously, it's the big thing.

Although Harmonix PR coordinator John Drake wouldn't share the pricing of the downloadable songs, he did offer, "It'll take your breath away -- in a good way." Gamers should be pleased to hear that they'll be able to purchase songs in packs or as singles. The various members of the team we spoke to during our time at their offices know that DLC is where their financial bread will be smothered in Ben Franklin butter. During one interview, a member of the hardware development team wouldn't discuss whether they're actually taking a loss on the pricing of Rock Band with the expectation of making it up in the long run. Whatever money they may -- or may not -- be losing on selling the "music platform" (as they call Rock Band) in the short term, it appears the weekly DLC will be the thing bringing longevity to the product as opposed to yearly sequels.

As far as the DLC goes, there's already plenty that's been announced. Harmonix has a small team that continually works on content -- and has been for quite some time. Rock Band Senior Producer Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom explained there will be weekly DLC content for Rock Band, much like you'd expect new XBLA or PSN content on their respective days. Although MTV owns Harmonix, Rosenthal-Newsom says that the media giant has been hands-off creatively. Of course, it's provided a synergistic blessing when it comes to dealing with the licensing issues for the songs Harmonix wants. We also confirmed with Eric Brosius, senior sound designer, that the Harmonix staff songs from Guitar Hero I & II can become DLC content in the future for Rock Band.

You might recall the powered USB hub, bundled with the Xbox 360 version of Rock Band, as being a point of contention. Harmonix notes that the powered USB hub is actually a Microsoft regulation, and that it's not particularly looking forward to receiving the wrath of 40GB PS3 owners when they find no USB hub in the PS3 Rock Band package. Remember the guitars are wireless, but still use a dongle. The developer points out that by the time Sony's new PS3 came about, it was too late to change the Rock Band package. Those who purchase or receive a 40GB PS3 and want to play Rock Band properly are forewarned to buy a separate USB hub now.

As for the Wii version of Rock Band, we didn't see any prototypes. And although we definitely looked, we didn't see any Wiimote-embedded Rock Band guitars strewn about the place. On the subject of peripherals, Harmonix mentioned that it's keeping an open platform philosophy to the game, meaning you'll likely be able to use your Guitar Hero guitar with Rock Band (in case you didn't already know).

Finally, Harmonix reps responded to Canada's "delay" -- it seems the original release announcement was for the United States only and not for North America (although we're sure that comes as little comfort to Canadian gamers who will have to wait until Dec. 17).

We'll have more info about the Rock Band store later on, as well as details on Rock Band's World Tour Mode, where the RPG meets the rhythm game.

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