Why Has Rock Band Flopped In Europe?

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It’s a common argument in gaming culture of whether the Guitar Hero franchise is better of whether the Rock Band franchise is. Personally, I think Rock Band is the better franchise by far and many people would agree with me but may also disagree. Whatever your favourite is, everyone can agree that both franchises have become immensely popular, even comparable to the stupidly crazy popularity of Nintendo’s Wii and DS. However while this may be the case in America, it’s a very different story in the rest of the world. I don’t know what it’s like for Australia (bad I’d imagine) or Japan but here in Europe the Guitar Hero franchise has, to put it bluntly, kicked the Rock Band franchise in the balls. So why is this? Why is it that a franchise that is virtually the same as it’s rival do just as well in the USA but not in Europe?

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Now the obvious argument it would seem is that Guitar Hero is simply more well known. After all the franchise has been around since 2005 where as it’s rival has only been around since 2007, so when Rock Band came on the scene, it seemed like to an imitator to most unless they actually did their research. But this argument is invalid. Why? Well simply because it was like this throughout the world, yet if you look at the sales above before the latest main titles in each series on their lead platform (Xbox 360), you can clearly see that the sales in America for Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour are very close, with the former currently leading by just 0.01m. Now on the other hand, in Europe, there is a big difference in sales, with Guitar Hero World Tour having an easy time dealing with the threat of Rock Band 2. Unlike in America where Rock Band 2 is leading by just around 10,000, here in Europe Guitar Hero World Tour is leading by 310,000. That’s a big difference. So obviously brand name has nothing to do with this. I’d like to say America is more open-minded, but I’m a twat and just laugh when I think that.

What I have noticed is that Rock Band has had a severe lack of advertising here compared to our American friends and this applies to both titles in the series. Take Rock Band 2 for example. For months we had waited on baited breath for Harmonix to give us a release date for the game in Europe and then it seemed we had finally gotten one in November when various retailers started showing the same date. However you wouldn’t have known this unless you had done research as it wasn’t until about a week before the game came out that Harmonix and EA actually gave us a press release officially announcing the release date. It wasn’t just that though. The game never got it’s own advertisement here. Rock Band 2 did get mentioned on the adverts for Microsoft’s then advertising campaign for the NXE but it never actually got an advert of it’s own. Guitar Hero World Tour on the other hand had various adverts when it was released (in the same month) and adverts for the game are still running, nearly 5 months after the game came out. Rock Band 2 on the other hand, hasn’t been advertised since it’s release. How does EA and Harmonix seriously expect the Rock Band franchise to do well in Europe if they don’t even bother advertise it.  If you’re going to lose the battle at least put up a fight.

Of course the most obvious reason would be delays. This all started with Rock Band, which came out in America in November 2007. It would take just over half a year before Rock Band finally came out in Europe, during May 2008 but by this time most who had been eagerly anticipating the game had gotten impatient. Even worse was that this was an Xbox 360 limited exclusive. It would take 10 months before the game was finally released here on other platforms in September, this being just 2 months before Rock Band 2 was released in Europe. This wasn’t the end of this delay madness, as the Rock Band 2 instruments, both bundle and individual have yet to be released in Europe with no release date in sight and it took until last month before the PS2 and PS3 versions of the game were released. The Wii version doesn’t come out until next month. Now I know that there are other languages in Europe but even with that there is no excuse for delaying a game that much, especially when it’s being published by a behemoth like EA. With delays like this, it’s no wonder that Rock Band has never been able to catch on.

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In the end though, the tide could turn for Rock Band. After all on September 9th The Beatles edition of Rock Band comes out for all to enjoy and The Beatles are icons all the over the world, never mind Europe, so it’s bound to do well.  The “WTF?” game Lego Rock Band was also just announced and that is bound to do well given the success of the previous Lego games. I hope it gets the Rock Band franchise out to more people here in Europe because Harmonix deserve it for making such great games.

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