When Guitar Hero 5 first hit store shelves, it came with the capability to import select tracks from previous Guitar Hero titles. Owners of Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Smash Hits (Guitar Hero Greatest Hits in Europe) would be able to take some of those tracks and import them into Guitar Hero 5. Astute gamers quickly noticed a caveat to this offer. In order to import those tracks, a unique code from the back of the games’ instruction manuals was required. Those that bought the titles used from Gamestop, purchased it second-hand, or even those that simply lost their manuals were out of luck. Many gamers quickly became outraged and pointed out that Harmonix imposed no such restrictions with the Rock Band franchise. Players could take any copy of the original Rock Band and import those tracks into Rock Band 2. No manual required.
As of Lego Rock Band, this will no longer be the case.
In addition to confirming the full set list, various websites and blogs are now reporting that exporting Lego Rock Band tracks to Rock Band 2 will require a unique code from the game’s instruction manual. Purchasing the game second-hand or renting it from Gamefly will no longer pay dividends for frugal gamers. Harmonix has decided to employ the strategy currently exercised by Activision for the Guitar Hero franchise. But why the sudden change in strategy? Why would Harmonix risk turning off a percentage of their fans and potential audience?
As it turns out, hindsight could be 20/20. What gamers should realize is that Harmonix is in the business of making games, but they are primarily in the business of making money. By allowing anyone to rip tracks off of the first Rock Band game without limits, Harmonix, EA, and MTV Games lost a large chunk of potential revenue. Why buy Rock Band for $30-$60 to import tracks when anyone could just rent it from Gamefly or Hollywood Video? These lost sales add up significantly. Like it or not, restricting the importing process will increase Lego Rock Band’s sales figures. And after scoring a victory with The Beatles: Rock Band outselling Guitar Hero 5 by nearly 2-to-1, Harmonix would like to continue their momentum. Forcing players to purchase Lego Rock Band for its tracks will increase that game’s sales numbers in the end, which is in Harmonix’s best interests since they are about to compete with Band Hero for precious holiday sales.
This will pay off, so it is hardly fair to refer to this strategy as a gamble. Harmonix has one of the most loyal fan bases in the gaming world. True fans will buy Lego Rock Band and their loyalty was never in doubt, even before this news hit. For them, the double standard is always in play. When Activision asks players to hold on to their instruction manuals, they’re an evil corporation only in the game to pick every penny out of their customers’ pockets. When Harmonix asks the same thing, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. And while others will still seethe with rage over the idea of needing the instruction manual, their complaints will largely go ignored.
After all, they just need to hang on to their instruction manuals. It’s not a difficult task.