Gut Reactions: The Beatles Game

The GameSpot staff reacts to the news that Harmonix is working on a fully licensed rhythm game featuring the Beatles.


Rock music is big business in the video game industry these days. Game companies are now doing battle for sonic supremacy with legions of licensed artists. But one group has been conspicuously absent from the festivities: the Beatles. As one of the biggest and best acts in modern history, they seem like an obvious choice for any game dedicated to rock and roll. There's just one problem: Acquiring a license to reproduce the Beatles' legendary hits has been impossible, at least until now. But Harmonix and MTV have done it. In a licensing coup, they have come to an agreement with Apple Corp. Ltd. to include a selection of 45 Beatles songs in their as-yet-untitled Beatles game, which is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2009. GameSpot editors react to this incredible news!

Andrew Park | Managing Editor

No Caption Provided
Behold the keytar in all its glory.
Behold the keytar in all its glory.

There are plenty of directions that this new Beatles game can go in, and with any luck, it'll result in at least one keytar peripheral making its way to the market. That's really my main hope, and if you take only one thing away from everything I've ever written, let it be that keytar video game peripherals need to become a reality. But I have to admit, I'm even more intrigued by the fact that the new game will be the first official debut of the Beatles' extensive library in official, digitally distributed form. Not on iTunes or on Amazon Music. In a video game.

If you keep up with the digital music scene, you'll know that digital distribution rights to the Beatles' library were a plum that was battled over for some years. So to some Beatles fans, having the music of this iconic rock group finally get out there in completely legal, official, digital form is a pretty huge deal, a cultural development among modern audiophiles for whom music means playlists, earbuds, and flipping through songs with their thumb on some kind of sleek handheld media player.

This is a positive development, right? Does this mean that a wall has been broken down and a new way has been paved for freedom in the battle between digital rights management and dastardly pirates who would rather download music for free than pay for it? I think it's too early to tell, and as the editors in a recent edition of The Hotspot speculated, you can't help but wonder whether the custom-tracks features of music games already on the market will draw the wrath of various music companies once industrious end users start uploading their own versions of copyrighted music. I'm hoping it doesn't, but industrious users make it hard to police infringements once you open up the floodgates to let users contribute their own content, even if that content should happen to be, oh, I don't know, let's say, a Beatles song. Most people considered last year's lawsuit between media giant Viacom and YouTube owner Google to be posturing by Viacom, rather than a serious threat to the search-engine giant, and it more or less resulted in YouTube launching an antipiracy alert on its site to let concerned users report offending content...if they feel like it. At least in the new MTV/Harmonix game, it'll be harder to pirate and distribute.

In conclusion, I think what I'm really trying to say here is that I need a keytar game peripheral. I've got a pastel-colored sportcoat with extra-thick shoulder pads, a pair of Bugle Boy cargo pants, and a piano key necktie all hanging in my closet, and I just need one more piece of the puzzle to make my ensemble complete.

Brendan Sinclair | News Editor

No Caption Provided
Cool retro hairdos probably not included.
Cool retro hairdos probably not included.

When I heard about the Beatles game, I was initially a little put off that it wasn't going to be a dedicated Rock Band game. However, I'm interested to see if Harmonix can take the same style of Rock Band gameplay and put a more appealing Beatles-themed veneer over it. Whatever it does, the song selection is going to be the most important part of the game. With only 45 songs included, a lot of great Beatles tunes will be left out.

If I had my druthers, the game would have a progressive focus on the later Beatles stuff. "Norwegian Wood" and "All My Life" from Rubber Soul would mark the earliest tracks in the game, and successive albums would be more robustly represented, with the exception of Yellow Submarine--that record would give up its songs so that The White Album could be better covered. Finally, the setlist has to be capped by the band's magnum opus, Abbey Road, in its entirety.

That would not only encapsulate the group's most enduring and relevant body of music, but would also leave more than enough material out there to produce another game. A full half of the group's number-one hits fall outside the time period I'm talking about here. So just as the group has two greatest-hits double-disc sets (the blue one covering its later catalog and the red set chronicling the earlier years), it would also have two comparably distinct games.

Jonathan Miller | Associate Editor

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The Beatles all had singing parts, but will these be in the game?
The Beatles all had singing parts, but will these be in the game?

First, let's talk instruments. EA has already announced that the Beatles game will not be a Rock Band game. So if it's not a Rock Band game, you have to assume you don't need Rock Band instruments to play it (though they will be compatible, thankfully.) So, that means the Beatles game will most likely come in two versions: one with a single disc for Rock Band owners, and another with a new set of instruments. But what would those be? Of course you need to have stylized drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and bass. What would set a Beatles game apart, however, would be multiple microphones. The Fab Four were defined by harmony, and everyone played a part, even Ringo. Look back at a Beatles classic like "Twist and Shout." You have John on lead vocals, Paul and George on backup, and even Ringo chipping in. Four microphones, three mic stands. One stand and mic for lead vocals and rhythm guitar, one stand and mic to be shared by lead guitar and bass, and one stand for the drummer. In a Beatles game, everyone sings along.

Second, let's talk game design. Harmonix has some tough decisions ahead if it wants to keep Beatlemaniacs happy. Would the game detail the chronology of the band? Would it focus on the studio albums in order? Would it focus on individual members and their own contributions to the song library? Personally, I'd like to see the game kick off from the band's humble beginnings in Liverpool. Your first task would be to master the songs from the early days to unlock Beatlemania, then you'd move on to the British Invasion, then to the movie era, then to the psychedelic era, and then finish it off with a "Let it Be" setlist and a "Hey Jude" encore. Include famous venues such as the Cavern Club in Liverpool, the Indra Club in Hamburg, and the set of The Ed Sullivan Show (in black and white, of course). In the later years, you could do an animated Yellow Submarine backdrop and even a kaleidoscope Strawberry Fields. Finally, include unlockable classic outfits and accessories to customize the Fab Four how you see fit and include Beatles interviews and live performances. Harmonix may run into some tricky inconsistencies with former drummer Pete Best and producer George Martin often chipping in at the studio, but a game like this should satisfy even the mildest of Beatles fans.

Finally, let's talk track list. There have been reports that the Beatles game will be limited to 45 songs. Keeping everyone happy is an impossible task. I compiled a list of must-have songs and couldn't get it below 60. There can be only two explanations for the limitation: The rights to the songs cost significantly more than the songs in Rock Band, or EA is planning to offer several downloadable music packs. I suspect both are true. That said, here are the songs I believe you should have in a Beatles game:

Please Please Me / I Saw Her Standing There / Twist and Shout / Love Me Do / She Loves You / I Want to Hold Your Hand (with unlockable German version!) / Please Mr. Postman / Roll Over Beethoven / All My Loving / A Hard Day's Night / I Should Have Known Better / Can't Buy Me Love / And I Love Her / No Reply / I'm a Loser / Eight Days a Week / I'll Follow the Sun / Help / Ticket to Ride / You've Got to Hide Your Love Away / You're Going to Lose That Girl / Yesterday / Norwegian Wood / Drive My Car / I'm Looking Through You / Girl / Nowhere Man / In My life / Eleanor Rigby / Tomorrow Never Knows / I'm Only Sleeping / Yellow Submarine / Got to Get You Into My Life / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band / With a Little Help From My Friends / We Can Work It Out / Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds / Strawberry Fields Forever / Getting Better / A day in the Life / Magical Mystery Tour / I Am the Walrus / All You Need Is Love / Back in the USSR / While My Guitar Gently Weeps / Blackbird / Happiness Is a Warm Gun / Revolution 1 / Come Together / Something / Oh Darling / Here Comes the Sun / Octopus's Garden / Lady Madonna / Hey Jude / Get Back / Let It Be / The Long and Winding Road

Joe Dodson | Associate Editor

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Can a Led Zeppelin game be far behind?
Can a Led Zeppelin game be far behind?

I wonder what Activision and Neversoft are thinking, now that Harmonix has secured one of the most important licenses in rock history? They probably feel a lot like 2K Sports did when EA scored the exclusive NFL license, though their outlook isn't nearly as grim. After all, there are lots of other great bands, even if there's only one Beatles.

Maybe they'll acquire an exclusive license of their own, like Led Zeppelin, and build a whole "new" game around that. Or maybe they'll grab whatever Beatles songs Harmonix doesn't license and rush a Beatles game of their own to market ("God Harmonix, why are you copying us?"). I kid, but my gut tells me that Activision probably isn't taking this well, and probably won't respond well, either.

I suspect both they and Neversoft are wondering "What are we going to do? How can we make people stop talking about Harmonix?" And I suspect the same logic that made them mimic Rock Band with Guitar Hero World Tour will lead them to some equally unimaginative conclusion. I hope my gut is wrong and that they'll strike forth in a bold new endeavor--a playable This Is Spinal Tap would be awesome. But when my gut calls me a fool and insists that "Re-Act-ivision" (my gut is so mean!) will go on playing the Monkees to Harmonix's Beatles, how can I argue? I'm a believer.

Aaron Thomas | Associate Editor

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We can't wait to live on a Yellow Submarine.
We can't wait to live on a Yellow Submarine.

Narrowing down the Beatles' greatest hits to less than 50 songs isn't easy, but I've gone ahead and done the dirty work for Harmonix. Good thing I'm here to help out! A few of these are lesser-known tunes, but all of the songs would be fun to play, which is all that matters. How confident am I that this will be the setlist? I guarantee 90 percent accuracy or your money back.

One After 909 / I Saw Her Standing There / Love Me Do / How Do You Do It / Please Please Me / From Me to You / She Loves You (live version from The Ed Sullivan Show) / All My Loving (live version from The Ed Sullivan Show) / Twist And Shout / I Want to Hold Your Hand / Can't Buy Me Love / A Hard Day's Night / I Feel Fine / Eight Days a Week / Ticket to Ride / Help! / Drive My Car / Norwegian Wood / Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da / Yesterday / Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band / While My Guitar Gently Weeps / Back in the USSR / I Am the Walrus / Revolution / Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out / Paperback Writer / Yellow Submarine / Octopus's Garden / Here Comes the Sun / Penny Lane / All You Need Is Love / Hello Goodbye / Lady Madonna (if there is some sort of keyboard peripheral) / Hey Jude (if there is some sort of keyboard peripheral) / Get Back / The Ballad of John & Yoko / Something / Come Together / Let It Be (if there is some sort of keyboard peripheral) / Mean Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam / She Came in Through the Bathroom Window / The End / Her Majesty / Free As A Bird

Laura Parker | Staff Writer, GameSpot AU

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On second thought, maybe he does need the money.
On second thought, maybe he does need the money.

I love the Beatles. But the big question for me when reading this news was "Why?" It seems that the Beatles have been fighting to keep their music as guarded as possible for a very long time. Their refusal to offer their music for sale digitally via any venue is well publicized. Their sudden embrace of all things modern is startling, and it makes one wonder: Do the Beatles need rhythm games or do rhythm games need the Beatles?

It's true that rhythm games make billions of dollars, have massive worldwide appeal, and help artists sell records. But why would the Beatles care about any of that? Paul McCartney has been steadily, and successfully, working on his own music for a long time, so it's not like he needs the fame or the money. Ringo Starr has begged, time and time again, to be left out of the public spotlight. It makes little sense to imagine them both in a room together saying, "Hey, dude, we need to find a way to reinvent the Beatles." Perhaps they did it because they want to reach a whole new generation of listeners. Perhaps they think today's music is all tripe, and they wanted to inject some good old-fashioned rock and roll back into contemporary listening. Whatever the cause, it's clear that the Beatles don't need rhythm games.

So that leaves rhythm games needing the Beatles. A Beatles rhythm game is more than good news for fans of the band and game alike--it's good news for publishers, developers, record companies, and artists. If the Beatles are jumping on the rhythm-game bandwagon, then the games must be doing something right. I think we'll start to see more and more artists license their songs to rhythm games from now on, and perhaps a little more recognition of rhythm games as a serious platform where artists can successfully promote themselves.

Can't wait to regale friends with your "Mean Mr. Mustard"? Think you know what the next big licensed band will be? Or are you just excited about keytars? Come together right now and let us know!

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Avatar image for thk123

Everyone seems to assume that because the Beatles songs are not crazy fast like Dragon Force, that their songs are easy. I would assume these people have not listened to the Beatles. The difference is, their songs can be easily adapted for lower difficulties as some of the more subtle notes don't need to be played by the user (assuming it is going to play like GH) whilst the user still thinking they are playing all the notes.

Avatar image for MarcusOfLycea

A lot of Beatles music is fairly simple, so I'm interested in seeing how they can pull of a challenging and entertaining game with it. Not that I don't love a lot of the music... its just not overall something as technically challenging as is in a lot of other rhythm games. I look forward to seeing how they do it.

Avatar image for peterson21128

Something tells me this wont sell that well, not because its not well made, but because the band hasnt be around in a very long time

Avatar image for ghettofunk05

I think this is going to cheapen Beatles songs. If you were around any of the guitar hero games; those songs were overplayed. How many times did you hear a song you used to like be referred to as, a "guitar hero song"? I suppose really most people who get this game will like the Beatles though so it won't really stop me from getting it.

Avatar image for Little_Socrates

Everything about this game is going to be undeniably sweet. I trust Harmonix, and I'm glad that they've decided to expand it out of Rock Band. This means that they have unlimited possibilities, with the exclusion of not making regular Rock Band gameplay possible. I seriously can't wait.

Avatar image for johnnyauau

I'd say this is the most interesting case I have ever heard. It seems like stars and musicians are treading into the gaming world with the rise of not just dancing rhythm games but guitar and rock games and a singing game. All these categories (maybe it's fair that action heroes and celebrities have their fair share in video game world) opened to allow their uniqueness to come into play and allow the players a chance to try it out. Anyway, if The Beatles don't want to be remembered as an old-fashion rock band, the digital world will definitely show their true colours.

Avatar image for majere613

Hey, why not just make a totally out-there 2D platformer based on Yellow Submarine? That film seriously messed with my head during childhood :)

Avatar image for finaleve

If they focus the game as what it sounds (A look at the Beatles history), then perhaps its something anyone who cares enough to learn would enjoy. Personally, I think they should make it so you can rip the songs onto the hard drive like they did with Rock Band 1. This way everyone who has the game can enjoy it and be able to play the songs on Rock Band.

Avatar image for TehPickle

hommytoffman has a fair point, which I mentioned earlier...But perhaps there's something to be said for getting "fun" out of songs you really enjoy rather than just sheer challenge. That does kind of goes against what I said earlier to an extent, but thinking about it; I bought The Pixies "Doolittle" (love that band) and while their material is technically "easy" the songs are still entertaining to play, but that's more down to me knowing them inside-out. Obviously this would only work with *real* fans of any said band. The question is: Is there a market for Rock Band playing Beatles fans to make a full retail product financially worthwhile for the developers? I wouldn't have thought so personally, but I can only imagine Harmonix have done some market research to find out...

Avatar image for TehPickle

As far as I know Brumley, Michael Jackson sold off the rights when his debt problems began (I will say no more about that) so that may not be the case anymore. Don't know if he sold all of them or just the songs he felt he couldn't cover while throwing a few "shamone"s, "ooowww"s and "eeee-heeee"s in there! :P As to who owns the rights now, I have no idea! Maybe he sold them back to Apple?

Avatar image for brumley53

if im right which i might not be michael jackson owns the rights to most of their songs so mcartney and ringo might not have anything to do with this game and if they dont we should beat michael jackson with rusty swords infected with aids. and some beatles songs did have cool solos like hard days night. one thing i dont get is why do they have the keytar it looks really gay

Avatar image for hommytoffman

There is absolutely no way this game can be good. Harmonix had kind of missed the point on some songs in Rock Band 2, and this game will have that same problem in spades. The point of a good rythm game like this is a set list of fun, challenging songs. I wouldn't even come close to calling myself a Beatles fan, but I know enough to know that the Beatles were much better songwriters than musicians. What I mean by that is the Beatles talent was to make fun sounding catchy songs for years and years, not impress us with technical skill or revolutionary arrangements. A major part of the fun of games like this is shredding huge solos or beating your drums to death on challenging beats. The Beatles are not known for either. This seems like an idea that would be much better suited to be a downloadable album or two for Rock Band, that way they could cash in on all the die hard Beatles fans and not have to invest in a full game. I will not even consider buying this game EVER.

Avatar image for FireAndIce12435

Fav Band and the keytar looks beast EEK so excitin cannot wait cannot wait and in the words of ACDC for those about to rock... we salute you!!!

Avatar image for eagles_band

most overrated band ever

Avatar image for NoseWeed619

I don't think that this game is going to be very challenging at all. They can't make it challenging either, without modding the songs in some way, and if they do that people will be mad, and they will probaly ruin the songs. So, a tip, just don't mod the songs for challenge wise.

Avatar image for NoseWeed619

I think that this could be a very popular game is they take it the right way. If they don't then it will just be another game. The Beatles are a great band, with a bunch of good songs, and everybody should have some respect for the Beatles. It dosen't surprise me though that Harmonix is coming up with this game. I mean, I know that a lot of people that liked The Beatles when they were around don't usually play Rock Band, but it could be good for the young of America.

Avatar image for TheGovernator

There needs to be some Doors tracks on these games. Whats up with that? At least some Led Zep.

Avatar image for mastetofthedark

The Beatles own!

Avatar image for osmifura

good deal!!

Avatar image for TehPickle

I must admit, I'm wary of how the majority of the Beatles work would translate into a fun (and by that I mean challenging) game experience. They weren't a band that really dabbled in guitar wankery (solos) and someone repetitive drumming so large amounts of their catalogue would consist of a few repeating chords. I can't see myself getting a great deal of joy from that. A Keytar would be a hoot though. As one of the editors mentioned, the vocals are another matter but I can't see a huge audience getting on board with this *just* to warble to Hard Days Night etc etc. Maybe my fears will be unfounded - Harmonix generally have a knack of impressing me with whatever they do.

Avatar image for Gabez_R

Beatles.....YEAH GREAT IDEA! I think the beatles are one of the best bands of all time

Avatar image for TehPickle

I'd much prefer a similar stand alone game for The Smiths personally, but ho-hum.

Avatar image for Incetardis

45 songs is mega weak. If you're gonna go through the trouble of acquiring a license, go all out and include a full 70-80 setlist. btw. if you wanna say beatles suck, that's your opinion and all. just know that you're musical taste sucks way more. Lawl

Avatar image for danopix

I can imagine it was fan service. These guys probably still love all the folks that love them and when it seemed a good product could be made that their fans would enjoy, they said go ahead. As was mentioned... they hardly need the money.

Avatar image for Thorpe89

Things just got my complicated! :D

Avatar image for jsmoke03

i hope they include everything from abby road...

Avatar image for THEREALTHOMAS

I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS GAME. i can't contain my erection.

Avatar image for Pete5506

It might be cool, I'm a big beatles fan so I should like it

Avatar image for darkSIDEechoes

COOL GUYS! Thumbs down my comment! COOL!

Avatar image for SWfreak16

I like a few Beatles songs. This might not be bad. I'll have to check it out.

Avatar image for doctorwang12

thank you Saije...very well put i totally agree with u...beatles suck...end of story

Avatar image for missonrs

I honestly think A beatles game is awesome. But if this has only 45 songs I hope they don't make it like guitar hero did with aerosmith.

Avatar image for Sanguis_Malus

This game is of no interest to me. Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is one truly amazing album. However, this news does not excite me, its interesting though.

Avatar image for 5011704dc

looks kind of coll but i hope you can us guitar hero instruments with it because i don't want to have to go and buy new instruments for a beatles game

Avatar image for nf1994

i am really looking forward to this. Though i hope that the stand alone instruments will be compatible with rock band or guitar hero or something, it will be expensive otherwise.

Avatar image for wilyry

It's only a matter of time before we see "best selling" music acts with their own dedicated Rock Band. Mark my words, it's going to happen. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of bands and solo acts that I'd purchase. The cash cow has left the building...

Avatar image for Saije

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Avatar image for chego720

I know it's a Beatles game and all, which is great, I'm a huge fan, but it would also be cool if there were some of their solo career songs on there too, or maybe downloadable. But that probably won't happen XD

Avatar image for tidyspidey

Beatles have never interested me, but I do enjoy The Kinks... still though, good news for the fans. I just hope for the fans sake it doesn't turn into a massively screwed up opportunity at the expense of making it a cash-cow

Avatar image for mattv888

One of my favorite bands of all time. This is definitely on my wishlist =)

Avatar image for IXIWhistIXI

I have that same exact keytar at home. Sadly I don't have my piano skills anymore so it does a whole lotta nothing.

Avatar image for wiiplay1

Oh, and I just hope that I don't have to buy even more instruments for what may be Rock Band Track Pack: The Beatles. :)

Avatar image for wiiplay1

It's a good thing I took off with the Rock Band series. Now Activision will have a rough time to follow through with this without again being called a "copycat."

Avatar image for gbrading

rsylvester is correct, this game has only come about because Michael Jackson has agreed to it. A seal of approval from McCartney or Starr is just for publicity, but isn't strickly needed. The rights to the majority of the back catalogue are owned by Jackson, and McCartney only owns a few of the early songs from "Please Please Me". I've got to agree with both Jonathan Miller's and Aaron Thomas' lists, although I'd personally love to see everything there!

Avatar image for mspranav

hope this is good... and doesn't disappoint us .................

Avatar image for jazilla

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is crucial for this. The medley off of Abbey Road is another must. Ringo's solo in that is a classic. The End, Yer Blues, Helter Skelter, I Me Mine....Blackbird could be insanely difficult to play on the hardest settings as well. I love The Beatles, and really you could release all of their albums as stand alone products and I would buy 4 or 5 of them without hesitating.

Avatar image for The_Weekend

Hahaha, my friend will love this ... just toying in my mind what if this was a musical RPG game with the beatles? :D

Avatar image for xtiansk8

i know man.

Avatar image for YoBrandino

Only 45 songs.... that is more than dissapointing. Nonetheless, I will have to see how this game turns out. I am willing ot pass if it doesn't do justice, and if it misses out on too many of my favorite songs of all time.

Avatar image for lcr12

i don't really like the beattles , and i think this game will not be very famous , it would be too easy ... and just not plenty of fun ... bad idea EA !!!