The Solution for Rock Band DLC

I have an idea that could solve the DLC upgrade problem surrounding Rock Band 3. Before I discuss that though, I must disclaim that throughout this message, I will be using the “Microsoft Points” system in US Dollars, which I will denote by this character: ℗.

Some quick conversions for those without knowledge of Microsoft Points

40℗ = $0.50 = 50 Wii Points
80℗ = $1 = 100 Wii Points
160℗ = $2 = 200 Wii Points (Current Price of one full DLC track)
400℗= $5 = 500 Wii Points
800℗= $10 = 1000 Wii Points
1600℗= $20 = 2000 Wii Points

Raw Numbers

Alright, now down to business. Let’s look at some numbers first, to see what we’re really dealing with…

So you’ve already bought a DLC track while playing the current Rock Band games. Inside those big DLC files, there are a lot of different little things. There are:
· Up to 6 different sound tracks: Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Drums, Crowd, and Other Instruments.
· 4 Guitar charts, 4 Bass charts, 4 Drum charts, and a single vocal chart (lower difficulties simply enlarge the Expert hitbox).
· Character animations, camera placement, lip syncing data, and data to make the Rock Band Stagekit work.
· Song tags, which include the various song information, including Artist, Album, any Album Art, song pack, relations to challenges and Battle of the Bands data, and probably various other small things, including Loading Screen FunFacts.

You’ve paid 160℗ for most of the songs you’ve downloaded. I’d assume that about half of that goes to Harmonix (who perhaps pays a little to the console manufacturer [Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo] for store use fees). The other half goes to the label, which will split it with the artists. Harmonix isn’t getting paid THAT much for DLC as it is, but they’ve been fine with leaving it at the current price.

Now, fast-forward to Rock Band 3. In a Rock Band 3 DLC file, I’d assume that there are:
· Up to 7 different sound tracks: Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Drums, Keyboards, Crowd, and Other Instruments.
· 4 Guitar Charts, 4 Bass Charts, 4 Drum charts, 4 Keyboard charts and up to 3 vocal charts.
· 4 Pro Guitar Tab Charts, 4 Pro Bass Tab Charts, 4 Pro Keys Charts (Drum Pro charts are no different than regular charts- cymbal charts have been included in all current DLC)
· Character animations, camera placement, lip syncing data, and Stagekit data.
· Song tags, which include the various song information, including Artist, Album, any Album Art, song pack, relations to challenges and Battle of the Bands data, and probably various other small things, including Loading Screen FunFacts.

Here, we added a bullet point. ONE BIG bullet point- Pro mode… AND a new instrument! That’s a lot more work added to the supposed average of about 7 songs a week Harmonix is pumping now.

Now, we know that Harmonix has announced that all current DLC will be forward-compatible with Rock Band 3 as-is. There will be no changes other than the addition of cymbal notes to the Pro drum chart. But that’s the problem- fans of the series will probably buy Rock Band 3 for the new features, including keyboards, pro mode, and vocal harmonies, and if you have a accumulated a lot of DLC over the years, then all of those purchases will feel somewhat pointless.

Harmonix has expressed interest in updating old DLC to work with new Rock Band 3 technologies, but hasn’t found a reasonable way to go about this yet.

Here is my suggestion:

Dear Harmonix,

Slow down on DLC for several weeks before and after the release of Rock Band 3. You didn’t start pumping two song packs a week when Rock Band 1 was first released, and I’d equate this to the stress of releasing Rock Band 1. So calm down, and give yourself time to go back and add these features to the old DLC. We won’t dislike you for slowing down, and doing fan service for stuff we’ve already purchased. You’ve done more than your competitors already by even offering this much DLC…
While you’re working on pumping up old DLC with Rock Band 3 features, feel free to release very little new DLC for a little while. Three songs a week + RBN is fine for all players.

About pricing: We would hope that you could ask labels to allow you to update tracks for free. If labels\artists are this generous, then it’s up to you to determine your greed. You could update the tracks and release the new features as a downloadable file for free to those who originally purchased it. Or, you could play the role of “the man”, and take something for it (I’d say 20-40℗ tops for this…)
If labels want money to update the tracks, then you could ask to charge a smaller fee if they’ve already purchased the track. I’d say you could take 40℗ to perhaps pay off the label… and if you’d like to get paid, then you could maybe take 80℗ and split it.

Once you get pricing worked out with the labels over old DLC, you could probably get creative with incentive for people to upgrade. Offer bulk upgrade packages for a flat rate, for those who’ve bought WAY more than a few songs. 15 songs upgraded for 800℗, perhaps? 35 songs for 1600℗? (Remember: in packages like these, you are ONLY paying for the upgrade. You MUST own the original DLC file to be eligible for the upgrade track.)

But what if you have too many songs, even for that? I suggest that Harmonix offer a subscription based service. $75-$100 a year for unlimited upgrade track access (as long as the service is paid for, as well as one free track to keep forever per month from the Rock Band Original Music Store, seems reasonable, right?

I think, however, that some upgrades should be available near launch. I’d focus on the disc based content first. Relicense tracks from RB1, RB2, L:RB, and create the upgrade tracks for them. They can be placed into the store for flat fee upgrades.
(When charting the old DLC with new features, I’d choose to tackle the hardest ones first. Create upgrade tracks for songs that include all of the new features, including keyboards, harmonies, and pro [ex: see “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence])

Let me recap that, in basic chart form.

Condition                                                                     Cost of Upgrade Track
If the label allows the track to be relicensed for free:        Free OR 40℗ for Harmonix
If the label requires a fee for relicensing:                         40℗ OR 80℗ split w/ HMX
Flat Rate 15 Song Upgrade Pack                                     800℗
Flat Rate 35 Song Upgrade Pack                                     1600℗
Rock Band 1 Song Export Upgrade Pack                         800℗
Rock Band 2 Song Export Upgrade Pack                         1200℗
LEGO: Rock Band Song Export Upgrade Pack                  800℗
Rock Band Track Pack Disc Export Upgrade Pack             400℗
Subscription Model                                                       $75-$100 yearly

As for any DLC released AFTER Rock Band 3- the price should remain 160℗. It is the standard for music game pricing, and should continue to be. Feel free to discount older, outdated DLC files to 120℗. This would probably allow more people to get new features for the great old songs on the store, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to leave them at 160℗.

NO NEW DLC WOULD BE BACKWARDS-COMPATIBLE.

I’d also revamp the store, and separate it into categories for easier navigation.
Rock Band Originals
-Music Store
-Download Upgrade Tracks
Rock Band 3 Music Store
Family Friendly Tracks
-Rock Band Originals
-Rock Band 3 Selection
Rock Band Network

DLC is a big issue for most serious Rock Band players. We want to see our purchased DLC be upgraded to work with Rock Band 3, and most of us would be willing to pay a small fee (don’t overdo it) to download the features.

Best of luck to everyone at Harmonix. I hope you get this issue sorted out, so that we can all keep rockin’! We believe in you, which is why we’ve continued to play Rock Band over Guitar Hero. You guys rock!

(I was going to post this directly onto the Rock Band Forums, but they’re screwed up. So, I’m posting it everywhere public I can think of!)

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    • September 12th, 2010

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