The term "battle of the bands" has come to epitomize the competitive one-upmanship of Activision's Guitar Hero series and MTV Games' Rock Band franchise. While the first Harmonix-developed rhythm game under the MTV Games label won superior critical approbation thanks to the addition of drums and a karaoke element, the Guitar Hero brand name and a lower price point pushed the Neversoft-made Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock to the top of the billboard sales charts.
This year, the two franchises are again crossing axes with Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2, and the musical arms race is heating up. Earlier this year, Activision hit its first power chord, announcing it would hop on the musical quartet wagon, adding in a five-pad (plus kick pedal) drum kit and a karaoke mic, among other substantially new features.
Today, MTV Games and Harmonix have struck back. As revealed in the latest Game Informer, the new drum kit will have more than just squishy, velocity-sensitive pads. While the standard-issue new drum kit will retain the four-pad setup of its predecessor, drumming enthusiasts will be able to purchase an additional cymbal pack. The pack includes crash, ride, and high-hat add-ons that can be plugged into the new kit and will be associated with existing colors. Because the cymbal pack will plug into expansion slots, Rock Band's original drum set will remain compatible with the game's follow-up.
For those counting, that adds up to a possible eight drum inputs, two more than World Tour and topping even the kit in Konami's Rock Revolution. Konami has taken actions of its own to counter MTV Games and Harmonix's move into the rhythm game space, claiming patent infringement and filing suit against Harmonix in a Texas court this week.
In addition to the new cymbal pack, GI reports that Harmonix and MTV Games have commissioned limited-edition instruments from Fender and Ion that will be made compatible with their rhythm game. From Fender, real Stratocasters will reportedly be stripped and then outfitted with game-input parts. The special edition Ion drum kit will feature four pads, three cymbals, and a kick pedal and will double as a fully functional electronic drum kit. Pricing information for the limited-edition bundles was not revealed.
Rock Band 2 is expected to be released this September on the Xbox 360 and will roll to other, as-yet-unannounced platforms later this year.