"Rock Band 2" developers at Harmonix have been promising that all the songs on the first game's disc will be playable for owners of this fall's sequel. Until yesterday, the only theory I had heard about how this would work was Joystiq honcho Chris Grant's (hopefully joking) suggestion that owners of the first game send their game discs to Harmonix and get a new combo disc. How else, he wondered, would Harmonix and publisher MTV Games get around the licensing issues involved in moving songs from one game to the next?
Well, it's going to cost any gamer who wants to transport their "RB" 1 songs to "RB2" a little money and it will require two discs -- just once. Harmonix PR man John Drake broke it down for me on Tuesday:
Drake said that on the day "Rock Band 2" is released -- September 14 for the Xbox 360 version -- a patch will be issued for the original game. That title update will add an Export feature to the original "Rock Band" game's menu. Gamers who select that feature will be prompted to input a password, which will be included with copies of "Rock Band 2." Then you have to pay.
Harmonix/MTV can't simply move the songs from one game to the next without having to pay the rightsholders of those songs something. So when the export begins, the player will have to pay a fee. Drake said the fee will not exceed $5. I asked if MTV Games is losing money to make this feature available, but Drake said he didn't know. (I neglected to ask if all "RB" disc songs will be transferable, since previous comments from people at Harmonix have indicated that a small number may not. I'll try to get that answered in a follow-up.)
Once the gamer has paid their fee and the transfer is complete, the "RB" songs will be on the player's hard-drive and accessible when a gamer plays "Rock Band 2." Note that Drake was only talking about the 360 version of "Rock Band 2" yesterday. I'm speculating without any insider info, but it seems that this same system could work on the PS3, but not necessarily on the hard-drive-free Wii.
Another reporter attending the demo asked if "RB2" owners who rented a copy of the game would be able to perform this transfer. As long as they pay the fee, Drake noted, they probably could.
Drake sounded confident and proud of the song-transfer idea, but he also noted that it's something that hasn't been attempted by makers of previous music games. It's an experiment that seems like it should work. XBox 360 owners will see for themselves on September 14.