When I wandered into Toys ‘R’ Us on Monday evening this week I had no idea what kind of controversy I would eventually find. I thought it was just going to be a normal leisure stroll through the giant toy store. Of course, I was sorely mistaken and it ended up being a lot more upsetting than it should have been.

If you are at all familiar with the Guitar Hero / Rock Band rivalry, you will know that when Rock Band came out, people were concerned about whether they would need to get the whole set or if their guitar from Guitar Hero would be compatible. The guitar that came with Guitar Hero on the PS2 could be used to play Rock Band on the PS2, but not the PS3. I thought surely they would have gotten to the point where all of their hardware would be compatible with both sets of software – but this has not been the case.

When I went to Toys ‘R’ Us, I found that they were having a tremendous summer sale and that Guitar Hero : World Tour was now half off, bringing the price to $99.99. Seeing as Rock Band 2 was $150 with the hardware, this meant that if the games could use either set of instruments, I could get just the Rock Band 2 software and save about $130 – not small change.

The thing about these games is that the hardware is not small by any means. It’s not like a Karaoke game where you can actually use pretty much any USB driven microphone. The drum set is enormous by game playing standards. The guitars aren’t exactly small, either.

Fundamentally, the games are identical. In both games, you can have between one and four people playing four simulated instruments – the guitar, bass guitar, drums, and microphone. In both games you have to time the pressing of buttons or hitting of drums to symbols that appear on the screen – as well as singing in tune with the song. When you are done playing all of the songs that come with the games, you can purchase more from an online store. I understand that the equipment that is meant for the Wii is not going to be compatible with that of the PS3 or the XBOX360 because the machines are set up in completely different manners. Not having the drums from Guitar Hero World Tour work with Rock Band 2, on the other hand, seems ridiculous since the games are almost identical.

I believe that the equipment is not cross-compatible because one of the companies (or possibly both companies) is interested in their business being the only one you support. I’m not sure about the exact quotation but I believe someone once said, “It’s not enough for me to win – you must lose.” That is to say, selling a lot of games is great, but pushing the other game company out would be even greater. I could be completely wrong but there seems to be little behind the lack of cross-compatibility other than pettiness from the companies.

Now imagine taking a big set of hardware and multiplying it by two for no other reason than you have a pair of companies that won’t stick to a set of standards so that their fans can use the hardware with both games. The money these companies are making is not coming from the hardware, by the way. Most of the money that they make come from sales of songs from online stores for both companies – a dollar or two per song adds up to more than forty million songs sold by the company that makes Rock Band – significantly more money than they are making on the hardware.

At the end of the day the fans of these types of games have a choice. They either have to buy both sets of hardware, which is ridiculous because of the amount of space that it occupies – space that comes at a tremendous premium in New York, or choose which of the two games they are going to buy. I have already made my choice and it sadly will not be the game that is on clearance right now.

It makes me a bit sad that I was forced to make this difficult decision, and that I couldn’t just have one set of hardware that would support both games.


  1. I love the detail in this article, Gordon, and it is certainly too bad you can’t spend once for the hardware and then play it with both games.
    I have never played Rock Band. I have played Guitar Hero a bit. Am I missing anything by only using one game?

  2. Not too much, David – though the downloadable content for Rock Band is significantly larger and diverse than that for Guitar Hero, and grows every week.

  3. Well, that’s good to know, Gordon. The Beatles version will be a huge, backbreaking, happening, though. I hope Guitar Hero can sustain the shot.

  4. Yes, I sought it out this morning after reading your article, Gordon! It is so juicy and delightful!
    Is there a Led Zeppelin Rock Band or Guitar Hero?

  5. I think I understand why Jimmy doesn’t want to video game his hard work —
    — why pretend to play guitar when you can just pick up a guitar and start playing it?
    I think playing Guitar Hero a bit is what propelled me back into real guitars: I couldn’t do a hammer on or a pull-off on the toy guitar, but doing it on a real one is super natural and easy. It was my frustration with the toy game that put me back into the real music world.

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