ESPORTS DISCOVERY

Rock Band 4 won’t get any more DLC because we’re living in Fortnite’s world now

Rock Band 4 never made it to PC. Developer Harmonix said in 2015 that it was uncertain whether there was a sufficient audience for the game on PC, and then in 2016 it proved that worry valid by launching a crowdfunding campaign for a PC version that barely achieved half of its $1.5 million goal. But none of that matters now anyway, because Harmonix announced today that January 25 will be the end of the road for Rock Band 4 DLC releases.

Harmonix put out a lot of music for Rock Band 4 over the years: Nearly 3,000 songs, and more than 3,000 if you include game soundtracks. And to be clear, those songs won’t be going away: Product manager Daniel Sussman said live services for Rock Band 4 will continue as usual, and “you can play the songs you own within Rock Band 4 for as long as you like.”

But Harmonix was acquired by Epic Games in November 2021 with the idea that the studio would “work with Epic to create musical journeys and gameplay for Fortnite,” and that’s apparently where the focus is these days.

“The Harmonix team has been hard at work over the last two years to develop Fortnite Festival, which brings rhythm action gaming (and more) to the Fortnite ecosystem,” Sussman wrote. “It’s free to play, we have a rotating selection of songs that you can play (for free) anytime. If you are a fan of the rhythm game category, Fortnite Festival is the place to be; and with support for RB4 instruments coming, this is not the time to hang up your guitars just yet.”

So there you have it: Rock Band 4 is (partly) dead and Fortnite is (partly) to blame. At the same time, eight years is a hell of a run: We’ve seen an awful lot of games get put out to pasture a whole lot quicker than that. Fortnite Festival or not, it’s understandable that Harmonix might want to move on to something else.

Fortnite Festival “leans heavily on the Rock Band formula,” in the words of features producer Mollie Taylor, who spent some time with it in 2023, but at this point it lacks the magic of the original. 

“It’s a great introduction to rhythm games for casual players who would have never tried one otherwise—especially those who missed out on the Rock Band/Guitar Hero era—but for a Harmonix endeavour it’s awfully barebones,” she wrote. “A little more polish and it would be a little easier to look past the classic F2P monetisation of it all and maybe even splurge a little. Until then, I think I’ll be default dancing my way out of the lobbies for a while.”

One of her chief complaints was the lack of support for pretend-instrument controllers: It’s really just not as much fun to rock out with your mouse and keyboard out, after all. With upcoming instrument controller support confirmed, maybe Fortnite Festival will become the proper Rock Band replacement Epic and Harmonix intend it to be. And if not, well, we never had Rock Band 4 anyway, so on that front, things really haven’t changed at all.

This isn’t the first time Epic has turned a genre-focused developer toward Fortnite: It also recently had Rocket League developer Psyonix, which it purchased a few years ago, produce a racing mode for Fortnite rather than make a standalone new game. It clearly still sees Fortnite as the center of its “metaverse” dreams.

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