Source: A reader reporting on a recent focus group surrounding Rock Band packaging and pricing.
What we heard: A GameSpot reader tipped us off this week to a focus group held for Harmonix and MTV's upcoming Rock Band, and the tip contained a number of interesting scraps for those anticipating the game.
First and foremost, the focus group participant said that testers specifically said the game, already announced on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, would be coming to the Wii as well. On top of that, they were told that the game's set list will feature nothing but original artists, and that the drum peripheral (which Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos promised would be "a really impressive piece of hardware") will feature a drum with a kick pedal and real sticks.
There could be some interesting insight in the questions asked of participants during the focus group. The questions generally centered around packaging and pricing, with participants being asked what they thought of a number of prototype packaging designs, as well as different prices for downloadable songs. The reader said that at one point, the group was asked what it thought about a bundle including the game, a wireless guitar, a drum kit, and a microphone being priced at $200. The notion wasn't terribly popular, but it became slightly more appealing to the group when the price was lowered to $175. At $150, the reader said everyone in the group was on board.
It's no surprise that Harmonix is turning to focus-group testing to determine how best to sell Rock Band to the masses. The developer has already indicated that it will be an ambitious enterprise, and an expensive one at that. Guitar Hero showed that people are willing to pay substantially more than the norm for a game under certain circumstances, but Harmonix is still taking a risk. It is going into the same genre and trying to establish a new brand with an unproven game design that looks to hit the intersecting appeal of games like Taiko Drum Master, Karaoke Revolution, and Guitar Hero.
As for the veracity of the source, the reader in question has proven reliable in the past. However, focus groups aren't always run by people deeply involved with the game, and it's possible speculative information was presented to the participants as fact, either unintentionally or to judge the group's reaction to it.
Despite that, this tip seems legit. However, a full Wii version of Rock Band might not arrive alongside the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions of the game. Given the current lack of third-party online games for the Wii, it seems a stretch that Harmonix could have its robust online features in place for a Wii edition this year. Releasing a stripped-down version without online modes would be possible, although it would be curious, given the developer's emphasis on the feature for the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions.
The official story: "We are conducting consumer focus groups for Rock Band but have not finalized any pricing or packaging details. Any speculation at this point is just that--speculation."--Harmonix representative.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.