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For Whom the Bell Tolls: Is the sky really falling for the Rock Band community?

Nearly two years ago, I wrote a basic state-of-the-genre post that discussed Harmonix's sale to Columbus Nova and the shuttering of the Guitar Hero franchise.

Over the last year or so, we've seen DLC through the official Harmonix Channel slow down drastically, dropping to a rough median of three songs a week (an average not seen since Year 1), with Pro Guitar support no longer a weekly guarantee. The one bright spot on the release calendar was the love-it-or-hate-it Rock Band Blitz, which was $15 for 25 songs ranging from Kelly Clarkson to Living Colour to Maroon 5 to A7X. The songs were released at the end of August in lieu of standard DLC. Which was fine, since it was immediately exportable and as such fulfilled most people's definitions of "new DLC every week."

Tomorrow, the announced DLC is three songs from Rock Band Blitz, and nothing but three songs from Rock Band Blitz. Two if you're a Wii player, since one of the songs was already available at the end of August in lieu of the game proper.

The first thought to race to my mind was that Harmonix has finally broken their DLC release streak. This is the first week in which brand new content isn't released for the Rock Band platform through official channels (because the Rock Band Network still has stuff published; as a matter of fact, though it doesn't "officially" release until Thursday, Jerry Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire"--as in Charlie and Maverick cruising on a motorbike "Great Balls of Fire"--is available on RBN, which counts in my book as a significant win), and at 1790 songs over five-plus years (267 weeks of non-stop DLC!) through its official downloadable channel, that's one hell of a streak.

Others are treating it as doom and gloom for the Rock Band franchise, which, who knows, it may very well be. The official party line on this appears to be "look, a lot of people asked for Blitz as singles, and the Wii never got these songs in the first place, and let's be honest, business ain't doing so hot." This is one of those things anyone who ever really followed the plastic instrument genre will hear and go, "well DUH." Blitz was a Hail Mary pass designed to give all your DLC extra mileage, and to encourage you to purchase more of it (consider the coin bonuses when playing songs you haven't played before, for example). The sale on all legacy content was also meant to, surprise!, encourage you to purchase more DLC. I can tell you that I definitely leapt at the chance to pick up some songs I hadn't before, and my Twitter feed was abuzz with tons of people who were spending every last penny they could on legacy DLC. There's no doubt in my mind that DLC sales were starting to flag, as instruments become rarer and the fatigue of the casual player worsened.

But the question remains: Is this really the end? Aside from the fact that the Rock Band Network folks are still lining up--if not prime acts--former legends (again, I repeat: JERRY. LEE. LEWIS.) and import acts (Dir en Grey, for all you J-Rock fans) alongside their standard big-in-the-scene metal bands, Harmonix is still pointing out that they have DLC scheduled for the upcoming three months (because they've had to plan around alternate Rock Band Blitz single release weeks), and still more to come. But how much more?

I don't know, personally. I've spent somewhere in the quadruple digits on this game, and do not regret it for a second. If they'll allow me the opportunity, I will spend even more. Still, even if I hope to be griping-slash-cracking-wise about how it's 2051 and Harmonix STILL hasn't released any Muse, I think, even if it does end by March, that it's been a wonderful run. I won't say my thank yous, though, until the fat lady avatar sings.
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About LoopyChewone of us since 3:31 AM on 06.15.2010

I'm just this guy, you know? A thirty-something and probably the quintessential Sino-American geekster, with the only significant difference being I live nine hours ahead of Los Angeles.

My preferred game genres are music/rhythm games and the occasional FPS/action RPG (Bethsoft RPGs, Mass Effect, etc.). Rock Band 3 and variants of Rock Band probably inhabit 90+% of my gaming time, with the rest mostly devoted to things like the latest Bethsoft release or whatever game du jour happens to be out there. Before Rock Band, there was Guitar Hero and DDR. Less so nowadays, although I'm still happy to play HVAM on singles expert since apparently I don't quite have the muster for HVAM doubles anymore.

I currently don't buy Activision games because I don't like the publisher, even if I like the games or developers. I actually enjoyed what I've played of Guitar Hero 5 and DJ Hero, but I'm adamant about not purchasing their games. Possibly used. Maybe next time I'm in the States, I'll go to a GameStop or something, I dunno.

But enough about me. How are you doing?