Rock Band plays nice with Fender

Upcoming Harmonix rhythm game to feature controller modeled after iconic Stratocaster, support for Guitar Hero peripherals.

The real Stratocaster: too pretty for one preview thumb to contain.
The real Stratocaster: too pretty for one preview thumb to contain.

From Merle Haggard to Buddy Guy to Yngwie Malmsteen, the list of guitar players whose instrument of choice is a Fender Stratocaster spans eras as well as genres. Considering MTV Games, Harmonix, and marketing partner Electronic Arts are promising that their upcoming music game Rock Band will boast a diverse set list scouring all corners of the rock globe, it's fitting that gamers should explore that lineup with mock Stratocasters in their hands.

Harmonix has confirmed to GameSpot that it has signed an exclusive deal with Fender Musical Instruments to feature its guitars exclusively in Rock Band, as well as to base the upcoming guitar peripheral for the game upon the company's most famous model, the Stratocaster.

"Our approach to the design of the Rock Band peripherals has been driven by a desire to give players as authentic a musical experience as possible," Harmonix president and cofounder Alex Rigopulos told GameSpot. "The Stratocaster is arguably the most recognizable and iconic model of guitar in all of rock and roll, so it seemed like the natural choice. It's also just a gorgeous instrument. Additionally, the folks at Fender immediately understood what we're trying to accomplish with this game and were enthusiastic about partnering with us in the service of that vision."

Harmonix also said the game will feature the Roland Corporation and Boss brands, known for their synthesizers and guitar-effects pedals. However, Rigopulos would not say whether those companies would have their names grace Rock Band peripherals, or if the licensing deals were exclusive.

Rigopulos was a little more forthcoming about some other questions gamers have had regarding Rock Band. First and foremost, he confirmed one piece of news previously hinted at by administrators on the Rock Band forums.

"The team at Harmonix feels that interoperability between various music games and peripherals is in the best interest of the gamers, so yes, we do intend to support the existing Guitar Hero guitar controllers, as well as other third-party guitar controllers, to the greatest degree possible in Rock Band," Rigopulos said. "Having said that, there will be some cool new features of the official Rock Band Fender Stratocaster Controller that aren't present in the existing Guitar Hero controllers."

As for whether official Rock Band controllers will work with Guitar Hero games, Rigopulos was less certain.

"We hope so, because as I said before, we think this kind of interoperability is what gamers really want," he said. "We're designing the Rock Band controller to conform to each console's open standards, so from a technical standpoint, it should work fine with Guitar Hero or other music games that may appear. However, this is ultimately a question that only Activision can answer, because it's entirely up to them which hardware they choose to support. Certainly, if Activision wishes to support the Rock Band guitar controller in Guitar Hero, we'd be happy to work with them to make it easy for them to do so."

Finally, Rigopulos gave some vague answers about other aspects of the game, reassuring solitary gamers who might have been put off by the initial Rock Band announcement's focus on multiplayer gaming. According to the Harmonix head, Rock Band will feature a "deep, complete solo experience" for the different instruments.

And for those wondering how the developers would tackle the issue of online lag impacting a game that demands precise timing, Rigopulos said it's a problem "for which we have a unique solution...and it's a heck of a lot of fun in action."

Rock Band is set for release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this holiday season.

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