A year ago, Rock Band returned worldwide on PS4 and Xbox One, delighting long-time Harmonix and music-game fans. The game is great. But European players on PS4 have faced what seems like a never-ending series of problems and roadblocks that have prevented them from accessing all their old, paid-for songs. One year on, some of these problems still haven’t been solved.
Here's the issue: one of the great selling points of Rock Band 4 was the promise that all of the songs and peripherals that fans may have spent money on over the past decade would still work. But a lot of legacy songs, including both DLC and disc exports from Rock Bands 1-3 and the spin-offs, got caught up in purgatory and have been unavailable to download for PS4 players in Europe.
This is because of a complex thicket of issues with international music licensing, the PlayStation Store and Sony itself. Harmonix fans outside of the US are feeling increasingly neglected and angry, and have long since lost patience with Sony and Harmonix's failure to properly explain the issue. The ongoing Harmonix support forum thread on this issue is now 145 pages long.
We first reported on this back in November 2015, at which point the issues were all supposed to be fixed by December of last year. The majority of Rock Band's legacy song catalogue is now available in Europe. But a year since the game came out, there is still a significant number of unavailable songs, and players still can't export songs from Rock Band 2 or Lego Rock Band.
What's more, Rock Band 4 is getting an expansion, Rivals, that will be out worldwide on October 18th. But the digital pre-order is still not live on the EU PlayStation Store, so fans hoping to get the pre-order bonus tracks (or, indeed, buy the game at all) have been left hanging.
When I spoke to Harmonix about Rock Band Rivals at Gamescom back in August, the Rivals pre-order issue had yet to emerge – but Rock Band product manager Daniel Sussman was well aware of the ongoing issues with legacy songs in Europe on PS4.
"The sticky wicket, so to speak, has been exporting your legacy disc content – so if you exported Rock Band 1 content into 2, or 2 into 3, pulling that content from PS3 to PS4 has been challenging," he said. "We have solved this on Xbox and with Sony America, and we're still working with Sony Europe on Rock Band 2 and Lego Rock Band. Rock Band 1 and Rock Band 3 work, as do the vast majority of the DLC songs.
"The attach rate for the disc exports is relatively low, compared to sales, and yet they also represent some of our most ardent fans, the real hardcore. There's a lot that we can do on our end, and there's a lot that we rely on Sony Europe's co-operation for. We have a great relationship with Sony, they're still working on it. It's just really hard."
I ventured that it sounded like a nightmare to me. "Nightmare? Well... it's been work. We have a team of people who have been working on it every day for the last 18 months. It's not a nightmare. We pay these people. It is their job."
Sussman mentioned that there were also issues with individual, specific accounts that Harmonix could help solve. Anyone experiencing difficulties with content that should be available was advised to get in touch.
At this stage, though, after a year, it's looking like Rock Band 4 players might have to wave goodbye to the prospect of ever seeing every single owned song from the past decade in their back catalogue.
Rock Band has a long, long history of difficulties when it comes to global releases, stretching right back to 2008, when the original Rock Band was delayed by months and ended up massively more expensive in Europe than in America. It has historically been difficult to find Rock Band releases and peripherals in the UK. Rock Band 4 launched with Mad Catz as global publisher and distributor, which eliminated the biggest pricing discrepancies and ensured a worldwide simultaneous release, but Harmonix has since dropped that partnership in favour of PDP.
Rock Band Rivals, along with a suite of new drum and guitar peripherals, is still due out on October 18 in Europe.