In a significant evolution for Harmonix's music game franchise, Rock Band 3
will add a fully-functional 25-key keyboard, as well as optional compatibility for a guitar controller based on a standalone, stringed electric guitar.
With the addition of the vocal harmonies introduced in The Beatles: Rock Band
, the new keyboard track will bring the total potential number of simultaneous Rock Band
players in a single song to seven: drums, guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards, and two harmony vocals.
The additions were reported in a USA Today blog post
that provides initial details about the new keyboard and guitar peripherals as well as some of the licensed tracks to be featured in the game, including The Doors' "Break on Through" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," both of which make considerable use of keyboard or piano.
Publisher MTV Games expects to ship the game this fall for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii.
Key to the incorporation of the new instruments, which continue to narrow the gap between gameplay and actual musical performance, is "pro mode." Without pro mode enabled, the keyboard uses the standard five-button system that has served as the backbone for all Guitar Hero
and Rock Band
games. But in pro mode, instrument tracks expand to fill the whole 25-key range of the keyboard peripheral, and the full fretboard of the optional (and likely pricey) Squier guitar.
The keyboard will also output to standard MIDI, and the guitar is a Squier Stratocaster, meaning both can be used as standalone instruments outside of the game. Standard Rock Band
guitars will remain compatible with the game, and Harmonix is also partnering with accessory maker Mad Catz to provide an intermediary optional instrument, one that ups the number of available buttons but is still a game-only plastic peripheral.
The music game genre has experienced a slowdown since its early Guitar Hero
heyday, and Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos says the studio's considerable additions to Rock Band 3
are an attempt to combat that trend.
"Our ambition for Rock Band 3
was really to re-energize and reinvigorate the [music game] category and advance it and move it forward," he said.