Both MTV and Activision had their shot over the ultimate prize in rock and roll rhythm gaming, but it was Activision’s stubbornness that did them in.
As a wise Fall Out Boy once said, “This ain’t a scene, It’s a god damn arms race,” and no weapon is more powerful than that of the Beatles. Britain’s Fab Four represent the ultimate prize in the battle of the bands between Activision (Guitar Hero) and Harmonix (Rock Band).
It was a week ago that we learned that the owners of the Beatles catalogue — Apple Corps, Sony/ATV, and EMI — had struck a deal with MTV and Harmonix to bring the Beatles to the stage of Rock Band. While there are still quite a few details missing from the deal (particularly how much it cost.), we seem know more about why Activision didn’t come out on top, as opposed to the alternative.
According to Gamasutra, it was Activision’s inflexibility that ultimately drove Apple Corps into the arms of MTV. Activision CEO, Bobby Kotick, made some waves back in August when he insinuated that record labels weren’t “respectful” of just what games like Guitar Hero have been to the music industry. While one only needs to look at the record sales for artists announced for these games to make that argument for him, Kotick’s views on song royalties proved to be fatal for a deal.
On the other end of the table was MTV and Harmonix, who were apparently willing to do just about anything to get the Beatles to play on their stage. In a report filed by Reuters, they state that none of the songs featured in the Beatles game (which will be a stand-alone title) will be playable in existing entries of the Rock Band franchise. With the recently released AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack allowing users to transfer the songs from the disc to their hard drive for use in other Rock Band titles, the notion of the Beatles being trapped on a separate disc is a frightening concept for fans of the platform built by Harmonix.
With the Beatles game not scheduled for release until Holiday 2009, there’s still plenty of time for deals to be had and tunes to be changed.