Reliable constants in the game industry are something of a rarity, and few of them have been more constant over the last five years than Rock Band's weekly downloadable content. For 275 straight weeks, Harmonix has been pumping out additional track downloads for whatever version of Rock Band (save for The Beatles Rock Band, for obvious reasons) you might own. Every week, a minimum of a track or two--or, in several cases, entire albums worth--would appear on the various online stores, and those who still played these plastic instrument games would eagerly await the chance to pay a few bucks for new songs. Of course, the numbers of those players have dwindled in recent years, as Harmonix and the game industry as a whole have shifted toward other trends, concepts, and projects. As a result, it wasn't difficult to see what was coming.
Yes, Harmonix has today announced that Rock Band DLC will be coming to an end. April 2nd will be the last official DLC release day for all Rock Band platforms. The studio hasn't yet announced what the final track(s) will be, but undoubtedly we will hear the Friday prior, as we regularly have for the last several years of our lives.
It's maybe slightly insane to think about a developer, largely of its own volition, braving the various labyrinthine content submission processes of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo on a weekly basis, just to keep players flush with new music, for all these years. But Harmonix has done it, week in and week out, since late 2007. Over the course of that time, the studio released over 4,000 songs for the larger Rock Band platform. Some of those, of course, came from the Rock Band Network crowd-sourcing initiative, and as it turns out, that particular platform will remain. However, it will only remain on the Xbox 360, where the XNA infrastructure has allowed would-be note trackers to license, build, and sell songs for the platform. On the PlayStation 3 and Wii, where Harmonix had manually added tracks from the 360 RBN store, RBN songs will no longer appear.
As we speed toward the next generation of consoles, this move was perhaps inevitable. There was never much hope that we'd see a new Rock Band sequel on a new platform any time soon, and with Harmonix finding success elsewhere with the Dance Central franchise, and presumably working on other, non-franchised products, Rock Band's DLC initiative felt more and more like a zombie of itself, something that continued to push on for reasons it seemed barely aware of any longer. While last year's Rock Band Blitz made for a potent reminder of just what a ludicrous amount of money many of us have spent on Rock Band DLC over the years, as well as how much fun said content could be, it wasn't an indicator of some forthcoming Rock Band resurgence. In reality, it turned out to be a kind of last hurrah for the series.
According to Harmonix's official posting on the matter, the last several weeks of DLC will see the last remaining Rock Band Blitz songs added to the official DLC library, along with several artists who have yet to appear in the Rock Band catalog. I wouldn't hold out hope for Led Zeppelin or anything, but maybe we can cross our fingers for some Electric Light Orchestra, at least. Or perhaps maybe a Hum song or two. That's not too much to ask for, is it?