The Case For A Backwards Compatible Rock Band Keyboard

By Jordan Douglas on August 5, 2010, 8:37PM EDT

There's been a great deal of buzz surrounding Rock Band 3 as of late, and for good reason - the project is incredibly ambitious, hoping to attract musicians and those eager to learn music skills through the use of real instruments. One opportunity that has been somewhat overlooked amongst the hype is the potential to revisit tracks in previous Rock Band games with the new keyboard peripheral. In particular, The Beatles: Rock Band would benefit greatly from the enhanced functionality, as a large portion of Beatles songs feature prominent keyboard arrangements. It's an idea Harmonix should seriously consider going forward.

Introducing keyboards into The Beatles: Rock Band, the rest of the Rock Band catalogue notwithstanding, would be well worth the effort. Imagine playing along to Paul and John's piano compositions on Back In The U.S.S.R., Hey Bulldog and A Little Help From My Friends, or Billy Preston's touches on Get Back, I've Got A Feeling, and Don't Let Me Down - to name just a handful of examples. These songs all feature prominent keyboard parts that are currently played using the guitar controller, which works well enough, but could be so much better on a real MIDI keyboard. In fact, Harmonix should consider updating The Beatles with full Pro Mode support, but for now I'd settle with keyboard support.

Unfortunately, adding keyboards to past Rock Band installments may not be an easy task. Harmonix would have to update the game's engine, which could be quite expensive and time consuming. It would be difficult for a publisher to justify the additional cost, without some form of revenue coming in. If this requires a one time charge to include keyboards across all songs so be it, that could be the only workable solution that gives the developers a financial incentive and satisfies fans.

Whatever the solution, it's clear there needs to be one. Rock Band was pitched in its conceptual stages as a music platform, which for me includes bringing previous iterations up to speed with the latest improvements. One potential solution would be importing old songs into Rock Band 3, with a patch to add keyboard support. However, for those who already own a MIDI keyboard and a copy of Rock Band 1 or 2, an option should be available to bring this added functionality without requiring Rock Band 3. Especially considering Beatles songs can not be imported into Rock Band 3, a backwards compatible solution is crucial.

Rock Band 3's keyboard peripheral could be put to great use in previous Rock Band installments. In my mind, it would be a mistake to leave so many classics, including the entire Beatles catalogue, without keyboard support. I'd imagine many consumers are willing to pay for the ability, so make it happen Harmonix.

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