Harmonix has confirmed that it is continuing its popular console-based rhythm game series Rock Band with the planned launch of Rock Band 4 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year.
Harmonix Music Systems shot to fame when it created Guitar Hero, published by RedOctane in 2005. Using a plastic guitar equipped with coloured fret buttons and a switch for strumming, players had to match the colours dropping rapidly down the screen in order to 'play' along with a selection of popular music tracks. The game was a hit, but when Activision acquired RedOctane Harmonix decided to move and abandoned its franchise to launch Rock Band under Electronic Arts. Where Guitar Hero had concentrated on guitars, Rock Band - as its name suggests - introduced a whole band: as well as lead and rhythm guitar parts, players could sing into a bundled microphone and even play a five-piece electronic drumkit - four drums and a kick-pedal.
Rock Band proved an even bigger success than Guitar Hero, despite the latter - now under Activision's control - adding its own multiple-instrument support in later editions. The last full entry in the series, Rock Band 3, was not so popular, however, with slow sales leading industry pundits to wonder whether the novelty of the franchise had finally worn thin - something Harmonix denied, committing to releasing new music for the game weekly.
Now, the question of whether Harmonix was throwing in the towel has been answered firmly in the negative: Rock Band 4 will launch on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year. The company has further confirmed that it has partnered with Mad Catz to produce the instruments, with the Band in a Box bundle featuring a wireless Fender Stratocaster controller, a wireless drum kit, and a microphone; a second guitar will need to be purchased separately for four-player action. The keytar accessory launched with Rock Band 3, however, is officially dead, as is the optional Pro Guitar.
Harmonix has indicated that it is 'working closely with Mad Catz, Sony and Microsoft
' to bring support for last-generation peripherals, allowing those who already have the Rock Band hardware on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 to buy the game solus for Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and use their existing hardware, but that it is 'a challenge on both the software side and hardware side
' and far from guaranteed. Better news for fans of the franchise is that any downloadable content or imported-from-disc song packs will be brought across to the new version at no cost, although only within console families - i.e. Xbox 360 to Xbox One and PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4.
Pricing and full launch details are not yet available, with scant more information available from the official blog post