Rock Band kick pedal sparks lawsuit

[UPDATE] Purveyors of genre-defining rhythm game slapped with court complaint over continued sale, and limited warranty, of defective drum kit; MTV Games responds.

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Hardware problems are hardly a new issue for Harmonix and its MTV Games-published Rock Band franchise. Thus far, the rhythm game makers have been able to duck any legal fallout stemming from product defects. That changed this week, however, as a class-action lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court of Northern California against Harmonix, MTV Networks, its parent company Viacom, and publishing partner Electronic Arts.

Shortly after the original launched for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in November 2007, irate gamers found themselves unable to make with the rock due to myriad faulty instruments issues. These problems ranged from wonky strum bars on the Fender Stratocaster guitar controller to fragile kick pedals on the genre-defining drum kit.

For their part, MTV Games and Harmonix stood by the quality of their products, saying in a statement from last November, "If you are experiencing a problem with your guitar or any of your other Rock Band instruments, simply visit the customer support website and we will send a replacement immediately." Naturally, the support only applied during the instruments' 60-day warranty.

In recognition of the large number of complaints, Harmonix and its publishing partners opted to continue offering the warranty to Rock Band purchasers during the first half of 2008, regardless of whether the game was still within its 60-day warranty period. However, in June, the gamemaker pulled an abrupt 180, saying that it would return to its original policy warranty policy as of October 1, which requires proof of purchase within a two-month period.

Harmonix's about-face is the primary cause of this week's suit. According to the complaint, filed by Monte Morgan on behalf of those in a similar predicament, "Due to a design defect, the bass drum foot pedal (which is an integral component of the Rock Band drum kit) fractures under ordinary and expected usage, thus rendering the pedal inoperative. Without a functioning bass drum foot pedal, consumers are unable to use the Rock Band drum kit or play the Rock Band game in the manner marketed and advertised by defendants."

As a result, the suit contends that the aforementioned parties are in violation of an implied warranty that all of the items sold with the Rock Band kit were of "merchantable quality and fit for the purpose for which defendants marketed, advertised, and sold such products to plaintiff and the proposed class." The suit also notes that despite MTV Games and Harmonix's awareness of the defect, they continue to sell the game. Evidencing this claim, the suit notes that the new Rock Band 2 kick pedal now includes a metal plate, where as the original drum kit still packs the plastic support piece.

Plaintiff Morgan and those he represents are seeking reimbursement of the purchase cost for the Rock Band kit, for MTV Games and EA to cease selling the defective product, and any other damages as deemed by the court.

[UPDATE] Today, MTV Games issued a statement regarding the suit to GameSpot, and unsurprisingly, the publisher doesn't plan on taking the complaint lying down.

"Harmonix and MTV Games are dedicated to consumers having an outstanding experience with our products. When used as directed, our drum pedals are designed to provide years of enjoyment," said an MTV Games spokesperson. "In addition, at the launch of Rock Band we offered consumers an extended opportunity [to] return defective or broken hardware for any reason whatsoever--no questions asked. This litigation is opportunistic and baseless."

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